Lean Manufacturing

Manufacturing is where the lean movement originated from. For their MIT research in the late 1980s (which resulted in the 1990 seminal book The Machine the Changed the World), Jim Womack and Dan Jones identified a set of principles and techniques that made Japanese carmakers far more productive than their Western competitors.

The superiority of the Toyota Production System is now a recognized fact (Toyota has been profitable every year but one, for half a century), which means that today most manufacturing organizations around the world practice lean manufacturing thinking to some extent. The prevalence of this alternative way of thinking and managing in the manufacturing sector often generates confusion in other industries, in which people’s first reaction to improvement attempts is the now proverbial “We don’t make cars. Lean is a manufacturing thing.”

When applied to manufacturing, lean tools like heijunka, SMED or Kanban cards allow for the optimization of production processes and the systematic elimination of waste (in its three incarnations of muda, muri and mura – respectively, non-value-adding work, overburden and unevenness). These happen by implementing the fundamental lean principles of pull and flow. However, it has now been proved that the principles characterizing lean manufacturing are universally applicable. They work in any sector and they apply to any kind of work – even though at times they require some adjustment.

Cancelling the distance

CASE STUDY – What to do when you operate in a competitive market and are located in a remote corner of Europe, thousands of miles from your customer? One word: lean.

Industry 4.0 or Lean 4.0?

INTERVIEW – Atlantis Foundries was able to achieve zero defects for three months in a row thanks to machine learning. Here’s why the human component can’t be discounted.

The energy to get things done

FEATURE – When people become enthusiastic about improvement work, there's no limit to what can be achieved. Join the author on a visit to a Finland-based manufacturer, whose lean efforts range from production to customer service.

Detecting improvement opportunities

NOTES FROM THE GEMBA – A culture in which problems are tackled as soon as they appear and the production and product development teams work closely together is helping this French healthcare technology company to thrive.

Quality by kaikaku

CASE STUDY – This Turkish producer of sanitaryware has boosted its quality so dramatically it’s now a player in the German market. It did so by bringing drastic change to its production system.

Pulling it off

CASE STUDY – A Turkish producer of gas valves for kitchen appliances has discovered the power of the lean principles of pull and flow, reaching results beyond its imagination.

Collaborating more closely with our suppliers

FEATURE – This Dutch company decided to start its lean journey by involving its suppliers in the improvement work. We hear from both customer and supplier.
Learn about the lean transformation of French playground maker Proludic

A playground for lean teamwork and collaboration

FEATURE – Enabling its people to think autonomously about problems and fostering collaboration among departments is allowing a French company that makes and installs playgrounds to thrive.

Keeping the spirit of care alive

CASE STUDY – The author looks back at the impressive lean transformation of the Hungarian plant of Coloplast, a Danish company offering medical devices and services.
Juan Antonio on 365 growth

How we grew using less resources than ever before

THE LEAN BAKERY – In the fourth episode in our video series, the CEO of 365 explains how lean showed him that his business could grow (exponentially) without using any extra resources.
furniture lean manufacturing

A single experiment changed how we produce furniture

FEATURE – Sometimes all you need to change minds is a successful experiment. This is how a Norwegian furniture manufacturer managed to transform the way it thinks about its sofa production.
kaizen karakuri lean work

Here is the proof that kaizen leads to real innovation

NOTES FROM THE GEMBA – If you need proof that kaizen leads to real innovation, look no further than AIO. This French Tech company that reinvented itself as a karakuri kaizen coach.
MAS Holdings creating a lean culture

Supporting Sri Lankan society by transforming our company

INTERVIEW – Prior to his talk at this year’s Lean Transformation Summit, the CEO of a large apparel manufacturer tells us about the company’s lean journey, and its impact on Sri Lankan society.
WCM interview lean thinking

Automation and lean supply chain at FIAT Chrysler

INTERVIEW – At the recent European Lean Summit, we sat down with a senior executive from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to learn more about the company’s World Class Manufacturing approach.
Sisma Italy lean management

The lean journey of Sisma towards continuous innovation

INTERVIEW – Italy-based precision machinery manufacturer Sisma has changed skin many times over the years. We sat down with its general manager to learn how the firm has been able to continuously innovate over the years.
levelled production eliminate the blues

Eliminate complexity in raw and packaging materials

FEATURE – There is a form of waste – complexity in raw and packaging materials – that adds costs to manufacturing without creating value, but it is often overlooked. The author explains what it is and how to banish it.
levelled production low sale products

To be leaner discontinue high-volume low-sale products

FEATURE – We often think that making every product customers might want – no matter how little they sell or how much complexity they add to our schedule – is inherently lean. As Toyota understands quite well, however, it is quite the opposite.
Terex Cranes obeya

The story of the lean transformation of a crane manufacturer

NOTES FROM THE GEMBA – In the past 15 months Terex Cranes has successfully initiated a lean transformation. Follow Catherine Chabiron on her gemba walk to see what this large company is doing to put learning at the heart of its activities.