By: Dean Marsman
Modern manufacturing has evolved drastically over the years. From developing new ways to use materials to improving tools to figuring out how employees can be most productive, there are a lot of different elements in manufacturing, all of which can continuously change. But for small businesses, it’s important to find a manufacturing process the truly works. And could taking a look into the past be the key to a successful future in manufacturing?
Let’s explore a well-known production process called lean manufacturing that could be just what your company needs.
Lean Manufacturing: What Is it?
Lean manufacturing is a production process that was invented by Toyota following WWII. This method not only increases productivity, but it makes the overall process more efficient and helps minimize errors along the way. While lean manufacturing was originally developed to compete with Western productions, it quickly took off all around the world.
Unlike other manufacturing processes, lean manufacturing focuses on the process as a whole. After all, if one part of the process isn’t running efficiently, how can the other parts? So instead of focusing on the productivity and efficiency of individual aspects, lean manufacturing streamlines the entire process, looking for complete efficiency.
Another key element of this manufacturing process is reducing and eliminating waste. Whether it’s time, defects, or excess inventory, this lean manufacturing aims to focus on finding processes to eliminate waste within small batches of product.
What Are the Benefits?
All manufacturing processes have advantages, and lean manufacturing is no different. Let’s take a look at three ways manufacturing companies can benefit from adopting this method.
As previously mentioned, a crucial aspect of lean manufacturing is reducing waste. A few types of waste this process focuses on eliminating include:
- Overproduction and inventory excess
- Repetitive motions among employees
- Defective products
- Waiting for suppliers
- Moving products and materials
So as you can see, this process does not focus only on physical waste, but all types of waste. Focusing on eliminating all waste, whether it’s employees waiting for shipments or overproducing a product, is essential to the overall productivity of the company. If the company itself wastes time and material, this then wastes the customers’ time.
It’s no secret that manufacturing costs can quickly rise when the process is inefficient and mistakes are continuously made. If a company has a poor production process, they may end up spending more money than they’re making. This is why lean manufacturing is so great — the cost of manufacturing can be drastically decreased. When employees are more efficient, less material is wasted, and unnecessary components are eliminated, companies can benefit from lowered manufacturing expenses. They can ensure they’re only purchasing the materials needed, hiring the employees required for the job, and getting the products to the customer on time. All of this can help bring in both recurring and new business as well.
In any business, the ultimate goal is to have satisfied customers. Unfortunately, manufacturing businesses often have unhappy customers due to unsatisfactory products or late deliveries. With lean manufacturing, customers will be happy for a variety of reasons — they’ll have better products, less wasted material, and they’ll get their products on time. From start to finish, customers will feel like their job is in good hands and will be satisfied with the outcome.
Lean principles can be applied to all types of manufacturing. From eliminating waste to improving customer satisfaction, there are endless benefits to investing in this process. So if your company is looking for a great way to improve efficiency and productivity within your manufacturing methods, consider lean manufacturing.
Dean Marsman is the Vice President or Sales and Marketing for Prince Manufacturing. He joined the team in 1999 after working with Prince Automotive (Johnson Controls, Inc.) for more than 16 years. Dean received a BA in Economics and Business Administration from Hope College and a Masters in Business Administration from Grand Valley State University.