Lean Production

The term “lean production” refers to the set of tools and techniques used to streamline and improve a company’s production system. With its roots in the Toyota Production System, lean production aims to boost productivity while reducing waste. Companies that successfully embrace lean production methods can achieve impressive improvements in their performance. The superiority of a lean production system was first identified by Womack and Jones during their research on Japanese carmakers. Initially, it was believed that lean was only applicable to production, whereas today we know those principles can be applied in any sector.

With more and more organizations (not just manufacturing firms) turning to automation to try and solve every-day problems, lean production offers an approach that gives the operators and their work the dignity they deserve. This idea is best expressed by the concept of the andon, a cord hanging above lean production lines that operators can pull whenever they encounter a problem they can’t solve right way (this is the base of the fundamental lean principles of jidoka, “automation with a human touch”). Lean is clearly an alternative to reckless management that considers people as mere capital.

The main characteristics of a lean production system are the fact the different stages of production happen in a sequence without interruptions (known as flow) and that the pace of production is set by the customers (pull).

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.
measuring demand variability

Why we must use percentages to analyze demand variability

FEATURE – In the latest article in his series on how to effectively level production, Ian Glenday discusses why the perceived high variability of our demand is actually the result of a misconception… think about it in percentage terms!
Starting levelled production

Ian Glenday’s guide to starting levelled production

FEATURE – In the latest article of his series for Planet Lean, Ian Glenday explains the practical steps an organization can take to properly introduce levelled production in its operations.
Glenday economies of repetition

Why implementing fixed production cycles is the answer

FEATURE – Repeating the same patterns of work over six to eight cycles of production generates improvements - based on people, not machines - and facilitates the adoption of lean principles and tools.

Toyota considered heijunka critical to improve. Do you?

FEATURE - The original TPS "house" had levelled production at its foundation because Toyota understood that establishing and sustaining continuous improvement is impossible without creating stability in production first. What about your transformation?
ERP instability Glenday

Is ERP at odds with lean management? Ian Glenday wonders

FEATURE – It might be widely used as a planning system, but ERP – Ian Glenday argues – is not conducive to an environment where lean thinking can thrive: because it is based on a batch logic, it always creates a different plan and, with it, instability.
UCC obeya

Making RFS possible – the lean implementation at UCC Coffee

FEATURE – Repetitive flexible supply is a very effective method to level production scheduling, but as a FMCG company in the Netherlands found out, sometimes a number of conditions must be met before the approach becomes viable.
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?
changing lean production system

Rethinking an entire production system

ARTICLE - It took a Spanish clinical diagnostics instruments manufacturer the introduction of a new product to realize how an old-fashioned system and management style were preventing the company from thriving.
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