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Quality, Automotive industry, Lean manufacturing

How to implement key lean manufacturing methods?

25 November 2021

Lean manufacturing is one of the most effective and up-to-date methods of managing production. Learn about the 5S principle, which is the basis of this methodology, as well as other aspects important for the operation of companies using this approach.

What is lean manufacturing?

What is lean manufacturing? Understanding the definition of lean manufacturing is increasingly important for today's companies. To stay in business and gain an edge over their competitors, companies need to reduce costs while increasing production volume. This is by no means an easy task – these two things can rarely go hand in hand. However, the concept of lean manufacturing allows you to streamline your company's performance and take its operations to the next level simply by following a few relatively simple, but extremely important principles.

Definition of lean manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is a management system that seeks primarily to optimise the production through the elimination of unnecessary processes and any wasted resources. These principles also assume that production methods are adapted to the number of orders and the current stock of products.

Successful implementation of lean manufacturing principles results in the creation of a comprehensive system that makes it possible both to influence direct indicators describing the company's performance and to create an appropriate work culture. As a result, at each stage of the company's operation, there are people involved in reducing production costs and increasing the quality of manufactured components. Lean manufacturing is perfectly suited to the modern realities of business, which require a considerable amount of flexibility from entrepreneurs.

See more: QMS – Quality systems certification for 0 defects 

A brief history of lean manufacturing

Although the term lean manufacturing started to be used relatively recently, the idea as such dates back to the mid-20th century. The origin of the concept can be found in the Far East, in the operations of one of the largest automotive corporations in the world. The inspiration, in turn, came from American car factories – Toyota's long-time president, Eiji Toyoda, planned to implement elements of Ford's production system. On their basis the principles of methodology were developed, which became a precursor of lean manufacturing called Toyota Production Systems.

Therefore, the Japanese brand Toyota can be considered as the pioneers of this approach. Lean manufacturing evolved directly from the operations of the concern located in the Land of the Rising Sun. Lean manufacturing is closely related to the management of production processes in the automotive industry – what is the value of lean manufacturing for this sector? First of all, it is a way of adapting to a very competitive market, which is undergoing constant change. In addition, by eliminating unnecessary elements of the process, you can reduce the risk of defects, which can bring considerable losses when it comes to advanced, complex and expensive parts.

See more: Quality control and continuous improvement in the production of plastic parts for the automotive industry 

What is the 5S principle in lean manufacturing?

One of the fundamentals of lean manufacturing is the 5S principle, consisting of five activities to create a safe, organised workplace. The important part is that this methodology and its implementation involves basically everyone in the company. So what are the 5 principles of lean manufacturing?

  • Sort – introduction of lean manufacturing should start with value identification. The company should determine precisely what customers require, and then remove what is not necessary to meet their needs.
  • Set in order – everything should have a specific place and purpose. This way, any unnecessary effort of workers can be reduced. Every item needed in production must be well described and easily accessible.
  • Shine – this is a principle that includes not only the cleanliness of the workplace, but also responsibility for its maintenance, i.e. determining what needs to be cleaned, when to do it, how to do it and who should do it. At the same time, it's a good idea to keep track of malfunctions and potential problems with machines. There are many benefits to such an approach – employees can feel safer and at the same time more responsible for their workplace.
  • Standardise – preparation and implementation of specific, simple, usually visually described rules (standards) for the above-mentioned points.
  • Self-discipline – this is a principle concerning both the preservation of the above principles and the continuous development of the company culture. The key here is to involve all employees in the 5S processes.

The benefits of lean manufacturing

Lean manufacturing techniques make it possible not only to increase performance, but also to increase machine utilisation, as well as to reduce the number of unnecessary items, thus freeing up storage space. Additionally, the management of the company becomes much simpler, especially when methods and tools adapted to lean manufacturing are used simultaneously. These include the kaizen principle – continuous introduction of small changes, which gradually improve the operation of the company. It is also worth paying attention to the production control method, also called kanban, which involves storing resources in such a way that deliveries of new components can take place practically immediately after the demand for a given product arises.

It is also important to determine the waste of lean manufacturing – these are unnecessary items that should be eliminated when we introduce the approach. The basis for the successful application of this step is the appropriate classification of unnecessary items or parts of the process.

How to implement lean manufacturing? Follow the lead of innovators from the manufacturing industry, such as Knauf Industries Automotive

It is worth observing examples of lean production in practice – the precursor of these techniques is the aforementioned Toyota. Today, more and more companies use the opportunities created by lean manufacturing. Incorporating the principles of lean production into the operations of an enterprise seems simple, however, it requires continuous development and improvement of both products and the organisation of a company. 

This is why it is worth following the example of companies that have been successfully using such techniques for a long time. Knauf Industries is one of the companies on the automotive market that perfectly understands the requirements and principles of lean manufacturing. As a result, it is possible to improve work at every stage – from manufacturing, through logistics, to distribution.

See more: Knauf Automotive offer of automotive components

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