Lean Manufacturing: Exceeding goals & expectations

Lean Manufacturing: Exceeding goals & expectations

“I don’t care how you are going to do it, just make sure that the order is delivered on time”


“I don’t care what you do, just make sure that the target is achieved & the customer is happy”

These are the common statements that we listen on gemba (shop floor or real place where goods are manufactured or service is delivered). Things are becoming more and more difficult in manufacturing or service environment. Managers are under deep stress & finding better ways to do their job.

On the other side of the coin there are professional people working with organizations where the process, procedures are well defined and employees work as a team & March together toward one goal/ vision. Such organization always looks for continual improvement and tries to seek perfection in whatever they do. Customer service performance up from 63% to 97%… on time deliveries up from 76% to 96%…inventory turnover up from 1.6 to 6.7…company growth up from an annual rate of 16% to 65%… and most important, after tax profits up from 3% to 17% are few examples of their success stories. All these gains are impressive but none was more welcomed than the dramatic change in the day-to-day operating environment or the processes to a sense of excitement.

Leaders of such organization are able to deliver such impressive results because they have embraced Lean MANUFACTURING or KAIZEN™ and pulled together a team of people that eventually became self-directed & achieved the results far greater than what was originally achieved by close competitors.

Each and every company can make such a difference by implementing Lean manufacturing practices. But, the question is – what is Lean manufacturing? How to implement? Where to implement? And so on……. 

What is Lean Manufacturing?

Source: Strategos, Inc.

“Lean,” is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. Working from the perspective of the customer who consumes a product or service, “value” is defined as any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for.

It is a management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS) (hence the term Toyotism is also prevalent) and identified as “Lean” only in the 1990s.

How does Lean Manufacturing work?

Lean Manufacturing works mainly by focusing on reducing cost by improving manpower productivity, decreasing inventories, reducing manufacturing order to shipment cycle time, and by increasing capacities without substantial capital inputs. 

It also helps firms produce more with the same resources. This is made possible by eliminating non-value added activities, by applying simple techniques to identify/ eliminate waste and streamline systems, by focusing on improving the entire process flow and by emphasizing worker empowerment throughout [“Decent Work”].

Given below are indicative generic steps suggested by Masaaki Imai. In reality, every organization is unique & will need to customize its’ own roadmap. It is, however, highly desirable to seek the guidance of an experienced sensei in this journey so that the speed of implementation is accelerated & chances of failure are minimized.

Masaaki Imai’s Roadmap to World-class

Kaizen Institute’s model for Lean Implementation

It consists of 4 modules:

I.  Ensure Basic Reliability (Stability)

Preparing a relatively stable work environment is necessary in order to get any real improvement. Stability is sought in all the four resources (M’s) of manufacturing viz. men, material, machine & methods. Unless input is stable, output cannot be stabilized. Typically, the following tools help in the stabilization phase:

Five S, Autonomous & Planned Maintenance, Standardized Work


II. Create Flow in Production
III. Create Flow in Internal Logistics
IV. Extend Flow into the inbound & outbound Supply Chain

The set of tools that are typically used in implementing modules II to IV are shown in the model above.

Continually improve

A continual improvement (kaizen) mindset is essential to reach organizational goals. The term “continual improvement” applies to products, processes, or services over time, with the goal of reducing waste to improve safety, quality and delivery & simultaneously reduce costs.

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