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.

general motors lean journey interview

Lean thinking at General Motors do Brasil

INTERVIEW – We speak with Sérgio Caracciolo of General Motors do Brasil about the carmaker’s approach to lean, its struggles, and its lessons learned.

Change your production leveling strategy to achieve flow

ARTICLE – Effectively applying just-in-time and achieving flow is impossible without leveling production first. Yet, most companies seem to think this is impossible because demand is so variable… but is it really?

How lean thinking changed an automotive supplier in Brazil

INTERVIEW - Lean manufacturing principles, successful training programs and the involvement of management in daily continuous improvement are transforming Brazilian automotive supplier ZEN.

Employees: the most important part of a lean transformation

CASE STUDY - Through the involvement of front line staff, Hartmann’s production plant near Barcelona is paving the way for an expansion into different markets and inspiring the adoption of lean across the multinational.

Interview: Delphi Connection Systems

INTERVIEW - The General Manager of a Delphi plant in Hungary talks about the lean transformation the site went through and the challenges automotive suppliers face in this day and age.
lean manufacturing lego factory

Lean thinking and modular layout: LEGO’s model factory

INTERVIEW – Planet Lean meets LEGO’s Ilona Takács to learn how the toy manufacturer looked at its corporate values to built a new, super-lean factory in eastern Hungary.
lean thinking italy laverda

The lean journey of a manufacturer of combine harvesters

CASE STUDY - An approach based on Lean Daily Management System and experiments in a model area led an Italian manufacturer of combine-harvesters to become one of the leanest organizations in the Veneto region.
yesim textiles turkey lean

How a Turkish textiles firm thrived using lean manufacturing

CASE STUDY - Faced with high costs, low demand and growing competition from China, Turkish textile manufacturer Yesim managed to develop a competitive advantage by transforming its ways with lean thinking and increasing its focus on the customer