The five lean manufacturing principles can help manufacturing companies operate more efficiently. Putting lean concepts into practice can be beneficial for your bottom line since greater efficiency results in improved productivity. Moreover, it aids in creating a positive customer experience which improves customer satisfaction and enhances your brand’s reputation. Before we get into what the five lean manufacturing principles are, let’s first get into what lean manufacturing is. 

What is Lean Manufacturing?

First implemented in the Toyota Production System (TPS), lean manufacturing is a production strategy that focuses on eliminating waste, creating value for customers, and seeking continuous improvement. This is done by applying lean manufacturing principles, techniques, and tools.  

The Five Lean Manufacturing Principles

The Five Lean Manufacturing Principles
1. Define value

Defining value is the first and one of the most fundamental lean manufacturing principles. This is because the remaining principles are built upon this first principle. Value is what the customer is willing to pay for. In essence, it involves determining what exactly the customer finds valuable about your product, or service, from their point of view. What you determine is the reason why they will buy from you. So, it’s important that you identify the value correctly.

It’s also important to note that what your company thinks is valuable is different than what your customers actually value. Consequently, this is why it’s necessary to do the research and ask them instead of guessing. To ensure that you accurately define value, you need to understand their pain points, requirements, and expectations. 

2. Map the value stream

Once the value has been defined, the next step is to map the value stream. Essentially, the value stream refers to the complete product or service lifecycle. So, this includes all the steps and processes involved in gathering the raw materials and everything in between until delivering the product to the customer. Mapping the value stream is the most common stage where waste is identified and improvement opportunities are suggested. 

An integral lean concept is the elimination of waste and streamlining of processes. Therefore, by mapping your value stream, you can easily identify where to remove wasteful activities and optimize the work in process. Some things will be essential to create value, while others will be inescapable due to technological limitations. However, there will also be areas where things are completely unnecessary and thus, can be eliminated to improve overall efficiency.

3. Create flow

The third lean manufacturing principle is to create flow. After waste has been removed from the value stream, the next step is to ensure the remaining steps flow smoothly without any interruptions, delays, or bottlenecks. This is because any type of waiting is a waste. So, when creating a flow of value, your goal is to make sure that you have a smooth delivery from the moment you receive an order to the moment you deliver it to the customer.

Your managers should keep a close eye on how activities progress throughout your workflow. They should especially keep a close eye on activities that get stuck so that you can get a better understanding on why that happens. Moreover, a strategy to ensure that value-adding activities flow smoothly is to create cross-functional departments and train your employees to be multi-skilled and adaptive. As a result, this creates greater productivity.

4. Establish pull

After you have created a flow of work, the fourth lean manufacturing principle involves establishing a pull system. Traditionally, manufacturing focused on producing items based on forecasts — also known as a push system. The sales team is asked to predict how much of a product they can sell ahead of time. Raw materials are then ordered and manufacturing production schedules are created based on these predictions so that future orders can be fulfilled. However, when sales exceed forecasts, it can be difficult for production to keep up. Conversely, when demand doesn’t match up with supply, profitability gets negatively impacted. 

A pull system completely avoids this problem. It helps maintain flow by making sure that nothing is made prior to being ordered. That is to say, every item is manufactured to order based on the quantified demand from customers. This lean manufacturing principle ensures that supply doesn’t exceed demand. What’s more, this approach minimizes waste and is an integral part of lean operations.

5. Seek perfection (continuous improvement)

Seeking perfection is one of the lean manufacturing principles that takes people by surprise. Manufacturing companies that implement lean aren’t satisfied once they’ve completed the first four lean manufacturing principles. In other words, they are always looking for ways to improve and implement ideas that facilitate further innovation. As manufacturing companies continuously improve, more waste is eliminated, and greater value is created. Consequently, this leads to greater efficiency, profitability, and customer satisfaction.

Seeking perfection, or continuous improvement, can be achieved with the help of methods like the PDCA cycle. But, it is more of mindset that you have to inspire in your team. In short, to help them achieve continuous improvement, you have to consider how you lead them. Continuous improvement can only thrive if every single person on your team takes ownership of their tasks. So, place more trust in their expertise and increase their independence based on their performance.

Think Lean with TheLeanSuite

TheLeanSuite is a lean manufacturing software that can help you effectively implement the five lean manufacturing principles within your operations. With various built-in apps like the Continuous Improvement System and its own built-in PDCA process, this helps guide your team on the exact steps to follow to execute their own ideas, after management approval. Essentially, it allows them to capture the entire process, from identifying a problem to taking action and implementing a solution. Interested in learning more about TheLeanSuite and its Continuous Improvement System? Click learn more.