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How Lean Manufacturing Can Help Your Company Succeed

By Mauriah Lamia
Published: June 14, 2017
Presented by Accuform
Key Takeaways

The 5S lean manufacturing method can help eliminate your company's costly and inefficient waste.

Source: Ivonne Wierink /

Every company, whether large or small, is after the same thing: improved efficiency, effectiveness, and profitability. These key components are designed to motivate success. Without success, your products will be of no value from your customer’s perspective.

Now, let’s take a step back and define success. Google defines it as, “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose; the attainment of popularity or profit; a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.” To be sure, these describe the cornerstones of any successful company. But they don’t answer the real question: how do we get there? What creates success? Most businesses probably have their own theory, but, whatever it is, I’m sure organization is on the top of their list!

This article will describe the process wastes that prevent your company from being organized and successful, and show you how you can eliminate these wastes with lean manufacturing.


The Seven Deadly Wastes

To be productive and eliminate anything and everything that doesn’t add value to your company, you need to better manage your time. The only effective way to do this is to eliminate waste, especially in the areas that experts refer to as the Seven Deadly Wastes.

Every activity in a business either includes Value Added (VA) or Non-Value Added (NVA). VA activities are all those that physically transform a product or service in the eyes of the customer—activities that add value. NVA activities are all those that don’t add value and were a created from one of the Seven Deadly Wastes.

Understanding the Seven Deadly Wastes will allow you to identify process waste in your manufacturing or service plant. Acknowledging waste is the first step to eliminating it and implementing a lean process.

The Seven Deadly Wastes are:

  • Transport – The unnecessary movement of raw materials, works in progress, or finished goods—the longer a product moves around, the less time is spent adding value to it.
  • Inventory – Too much inventory that hasn’t sold is a heavy burden on your cash flow.
  • Movement – The (wasted) time an operator spends moving the equipment around or searching for the things they need to get the job done.
  • Waiting and delays – Halting production while waiting on something, like component parts needed to complete the job, results in unnecessary costs to the company.
  • Over-production – Inefficient processes are not efficient and sinking valuable time and energy into producing something the customer hasn’t bought.
  • Over-processing – More processing than is needed to produce what the customer needs.
  • Defects – Needing to remake a product you’ve already completed due to a redo, scrap material, or replacement parts.

How Can I Use Lean Manufacturing to Help My Company Succeed?

Implementing lean manufacturing principles is the best way to eliminate wasted time and high production cost. Lean manufacturing’s most vital principle is continuous improvement, commonly referred to by the Japanese word “Kaizen.”

Continuous improvement promotes consistent, positive change in your working environment, ultimately helping you achieve your targeted goal. The key to creating these improvements is establishing the right kind of culture in your organization.

Start by getting your greatest assets—your employees—involved. Breaking bad habits is challenging but if you promote lean principles and create a positive culture in your workplace, changes will happen. Most people want to excel in their job and derive a sense of self-worth from doing so. Employees need motivation and direction, and they find this in positive work environments.

You should also consider adopting a Lean Manufacturing or Quality Control system. There are many different systems that take customer focused approaches to quality and improvement, such as, 6S, 6 Sigma, 5S, KPI Board, Big Y’s, The Toyota Production System (TPS), and Black Belts. These names and acronyms denote different principles that are all aimed at improving the quality of production and are all extremely successful when used correctly. And it’s no surprise that they are. Just think of the 80/20 rule: 20 percent of the defects cause 80 percent of the problems. If you could eliminate 20 percent of defects, you’d successfully eliminate 80 percent of your problems.

That’s not rocket science; it’s common sense. But how can we actually make it happen?


The most fundamental part of implementing any lean principle is safety. When you create safe environments, you set the tone for what matters most: the safety of your employees.

Management is always looking for ways to change their company’s work culture in positive ways. When your workers feel safe, they feel valued, have better attitudes, and are more likely to welcome change. The positive culture you will encourage by this simple step will also improve communication and make them feel empowered to make decisions that improve the workplace.

Research has proven time and time again that lean principles significantly reduce safety hazards and shave costs from work processes and inventory.

For instance, in 2002, Virginia Mason Medical Center was the Leapfrog Group’s first hospital to utilize lean manufacturing to improve patient safety and quality of care. They analyzed and solution tested ways to eliminate defects in their system by empowering staff to “stop the line” whenever they detected a problem with safety or quality. Within six years, this reportedly saved the institution 12 to 15 million dollars and launched them into being one of two top hospitals of the decade in 2010.

And it doesn’t stop with big issues like patient safety. As Art Byrne, author of The Lean Turnaround, writes, “Whatever type of company you run, lean can be used to improve virtually every aspect of operations, from training and leading employees to accounting and payroll issues.”

What Products Will Help Me Accomplish Each Step?

The lean manufacturing of 5S is more than a methodology; it’s a culture made up of Kaizen and elements of Kanban, the original lean management process. When adopting 5S lean management, consider these five steps and related products that will effectively help you meet your company goals:

Step 1 – Sort: Clear out, clean up, and identify what is needed for the immediate work space. Look around your environment and remove any unnecessary items. Only items that are used every day to complete a job should be kept within arm’s reach.

Any tool or equipment that is used once a week should be kept within the work area. Anything that’s used less frequently should be stored in a distant location.

Display visuals of what needs to be in the area to encourage continued employee engagement. Highlight holding areas with floor marking tape or safety signs and ensure employees can easily locate their tools and equipment with 5S Lean Manufacturing Products.

Step 2 – Systematize or Set in Order: Put every necessary item in good order and focus on efficient and effective storage methods. Organize all items, designate storage locations, and define procedures.

At this point, workers should look around their work station and decide what they need in order to do their job. They should be able to quickly and efficiently locate appropriate tools in order to eliminate time wasted by searching for what they need.

Ensure all cabinets, drawers, shelves, and other types of storage are labeled so employees can easily recognize the location of what they need and know exactly where to put the tools or equipment after they’ve used them. Using a tool like the Custom Store-Boards™ 5S Shadow Boards and the Custom Cabinet Store-Boards™ makes organizing work spaces easy and convenient.

Step 3 – Sweep or Shine: Clean and maintain the area’s appearance and establish preventative maintenance. Clean everything and keep it clean daily. By putting aside just 10 or 15 minutes each day for cleaning, you will ensure that you and your employees quickly develop the habit.

Inspect and check the work space after the area is thoroughly swept, dusted, and tidied. Keep a log of all the areas that need improvement and actively look for ways to implement upgrades.

Ensure inspection logs are displayed in conspicuous areas for all to see. Build the 5S essentials of employee ownership and accountability for sweeping, shining, and looking for improvements.

Find ways to prevent dirt and contamination build-up by keeping track of any spills, leaks, dust, and other potential hazards in the work space.

You can encourage cleanliness by making the work space more attractive using Custom Shadow-Wrap Wall Grapics or Printed Pegboards.

Step 4 – Standardize: Involves creating visual controls to sustain your work values and beliefs associated with good housekeeping, safety, quality, communication, teamwork, and production efficiency.

At this step, ensure that the first three steps you’ve implemented are being used and are cultivated in your workplace. By using products such as the Custom Site-Boards™ and Custom Spinfo Site-Boards™ to provide visual updates of your team’s activity, you will be establishing routines and standardizing practices.

The idea is to effectively communicate to your team the way things should be done in your workplace. Routines and standards need to be established and posted throughout your workplace. Create a cleaning schedule and provide instructions to help workers standardize procedures.

Step 5 – Self-Discipline or Sustain: Once you’ve reached this point, the first four steps of 5S are actively implemented and the expectations are clearly communicated to everyone within the workplace. Visual communications, such as scoreboards, Store-Boards,™ Store-Boards™ Carts, Custom Cabinet Store-Boards,™ Spinfo Site-Boards,™ Store-drawers,™ Custom Shadow-Wrap Wall Graphics, and Printed Pegboards will collectively contribute to the success of your 5S practices.

A Culture of 5S

When the culture of 5S resonates within the workplace, cohesion, efficiency, and dedication are created. Workers begin to recognize their responsibility in sustaining continuous improvement and will use the 5S principles to achieve safety, quality, and cleanliness.

Contact Accuform for more information on 5S products.


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Written by Mauriah Lamia | Content and Social Media Manager

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Mauriah Lamia, Content Marketing at Accuform
Mauriah performs industry research to educate others about products, markets, and standards/regulations. She writes content that’s topical and solves problems, while engaging reader with unique perspectives. Her goal is to create safety experts in the industry of signage and facility identification.

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