Lean manufacturing is a management model that focuses on minimizing losses from manufacturing systems while maximizing value creation for the end customer. For this, it uses the minimum amount of resources, which is, those strictly necessary for growth. Eliminating waste improves quality and reduces production time and cost. Crucially, most costs are calculated at the design stage of a product. Often an engineer will specify known and safe materials and processes at the expense of cheap and efficient ones. This reduces the risks of the project, or what is the same, the cost according to the engineer, but by increasing financial risks and decreasing profits. Good organizations develop and review checklists to validate product design. The key principles of lean manufacturing are:
- Perfect quality the first time: search for zero defects, detection and solution of problems at their source.
- Minimization of waste: elimination of all non-value-added activities and safety nets, optimization of the use of scarce resources (capital, people and space).
- Continuous improvement: cost reduction, quality improvement, increased productivity and information sharing.
- Pull processes: the products are thrown away (in the sense of requested) by the end customer, not pushed by the end of production.
- Flexibility: quickly produce different mixtures of a wide variety of products, without sacrificing efficiency due to lower production volumes.
- Building and maintaining a long-term relationship with suppliers by making agreements to share risk, costs and information.
In short, lean manufacturing is basically everything about getting the right things in the right place, at the right time, in the right quantity, minimizing waste, being flexible and being open to change.
In its early days, lean production was often associated with rationalization measures. This misinterpretation resulted in a loss of trust within the workforce. It quickly became clear that the methods of lean production systems can only lead to sustainable success if the overall system is consistently focused on customer benefit.
The avoidance of waste is the fundamental goal of holistic production systems. This design principle aims to eliminate all non-value-added activities within the production system. Value-adding activities are activities that increase the value of the product for the customer. Non-value-added activities are therefore to be regarded as waste. However, it must be taken into account that there are non-value-adding activities that are necessary for the product development process, such as research and development activities, production planning or other indirect areas. Finding and eliminating waste is a central component of lean thinking. In the Japanese approach, the consistency in the implementation of waste minimization is particularly emphasized. Waste is anything that does not directly contribute to value creation.
The avoidance or minimization of waste through lean production leads to more efficient processes and thus to less use of resources. The use of resources combines lean production with green management and supports the sustainable development of a company. A particularly lean company is also more resource-efficient and therefore green.
The goal of a holistic production system is the pursuit of perfection. This requires a continuous urge to improve existing processes and systems (continuous improvement process). A prerequisite for this is the involvement of all employees in the improvement process. The personnel of a company should always question all methods, processes and tools and, if necessary, improve them. In this context, the design of an in-house idea management is useful. With each improvement, errors, problems and waste are uncovered and eliminated.