Seminars &


Lean Graphic 1200w lo

I was asked to educate a group of small business owners on lean manufacturing.  I included this as part of their takeaways.  As a side point, they were Afghan business women with existing production facilities in their home country.  Hard to find a place on the planet where doing business is more challenging (a.k.a. dangerous). 

‘Lean manufacturing’ views manufacturing as a dynamic system - a set of interrelated processes beginning with your suppliers and continuing through customer fulfillment.  ‘Lean’ was coined in the early 90’s, yet its roots go back a few decades to key contributors like Deming (quality) and Toyota (process optimization).  Today the ‘lean’ umbrella encompasses quality systems, shop floor planning, just-in-time delivery, production floor layout and worker education and more.

Perhaps the most important paradigm of ‘lean’ is its view of manufacturing as a system and the interrelationship between the steps of a production process.  It could be said that, prior to seeing the light of ‘lean’, manufacturing sought to optimize individual processes.  ‘Lean’ optimizes a system.


The high spots…

Traditional View...

A Lean View...

'Traditional' approach

A lean view

Decision to launch production based on product orders, MRP tools, forecasts, history, hands-on experience.  Once released, product is ‘pushed’ through the manufacturing process
Demand is “pulled” through production.  As orders are launched, each operation, beginning from the last, ‘pulls’ or demands components from the preceding work center.
The manufacturing process ends at the shipping dock
The manufacturing process continues through the customer’s operations
Machines are optimized for throughput
The system is optimized to minimize bottlenecks and assure product can be pulled through the process to meet demand and delivery timing (Just-in-time).
Operations are monitored to assure quality on a part by part basis.  Inspection seeks to identify defective material after completion of processing
Operations are characterized and improved so that output quality can be statistically predicted and known to meet the requirements of downstream operations (SPC, Six-Sigma)
Each operation acts as work center performing its operational task whenever it can without regard for downstream process demand.
Each operation waits for downstream demand before performing its task.  Not triggered by a need to ‘keep busy’
Individual process focus leads to unbalanced production line and to underutilized machinery and technicians.  Work-in-progress (WIP) inventory built up in front of bottlenecks serves little value
Focus on balanced production leads to strategically placed work-in-progress inventories (kanbans), cross-trained staff that can move to address bottlenecks, and revised factory layout to control work flow through plant
Quality personnel serve as policing force; focus is on inspection and disposition discrepant of materials.  Quite reactive
Factory technicians view the next operations in line as their customers and are required to provide product that meets their requirements.  Similarly, they are responsible for the quality of the product coming into their operation. (Quality systems, ISO-9000)





Steve Lawrence
Palm Desert, California 92260