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.

30 years since Machine came out – Part 1

INTERVIEW – In the fall of 1990, a book was published that would kickstart a revolution in business. This week we are catching up with the authors to understand where we are and where we are headed. First up, Daniel Jones.

Smooth as silk

CASE STUDY – An Esquel factory in GuiLin, China injected lean principles and practices into its processes to become more efficient and environmentally-friendly.

Changing our minds to change our business

NOTES FROM THE GEMBA – It can take time to challenge our misconceptions and set off on a lean journey. Once we get it, however, it’s hard to stop the improvements, as this French company found out.

Facing the crisis with an appetite for improvement

NOTES FROM THE VIRTUAL GEMBA – Despite a 40% drop in sales and the looming prospect of having to furlough part of its staff, this French company is finding in lean manufacturing an ally to fight the current crisis.

Learning fast in the crisis

NOTES FROM THE (VIRTUAL) GEMBA – This small manufacturer is relying on Lean Thinking to keep the business running during the Covid-19 crisis, overcome the disruption in its supply chain, and even innovate.

Facing the emergency

NOTES FROM THE (VIRTUAL) GEMBA – In this new series - one new article every week during the Covid-19 crisis) - the author asks companies how they are reacting to this health emergency. First up, Proditec.

Immunity

CASE STUDY – This Italian manufacturer has found in lean a way to ensure business continuity and provide support to a distraught workforce in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

Half the bad, double the good

CASE STUDY – The story of this Norwegian window and door manufacturer shows how a deep and ongoing commitment to a lean transformation can help a company thrive against all odds.

Bringing lean to the people

CASE STUDY – This article briefly outlines the different stages of the lean transformation at Mercedes Benz Brazil, as the company looked for the best approach to engage everyone in continuous improvement.

The gateway to success

NOTES FROM THE GEMBA – By introducing flow in its processes and transforming its approach to managing the business, this French manufacturer of fences and gates is building a competitive advantage.

A journey of mind-blowing improvement

CASE STUDY – Seven years ago, this Italian manufacturer ran an experiment to reduce inventory in its warehouse. Today, lean thinking permeates every aspect of life at FPZ.

Leadership development at Volvo Cars

CASE STUDY – What is the approach to people development used at Volvo Cars? The authors explain how the organization has created a production system fully owned by operators and managers.

A sense of heritage in an uncertain world

FEATURE – In a market where products become obsolete very fast, this Toyota supplier has learned the importance of staying true to its heritage and developing know-how and people’s capabilities.

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.