How Lean Manufacturing Can Help Your Company Succeed

By Mauriah Lamia
Last updated: June 13, 2017
Presented by Accuform
Key Takeaways

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

Every company is after the same thing: improved efficiency, effectiveness, and profitability. These are the key components to any successful operation.


Now, let's take a step back and ask a crucial question: how can your company achieve those desirable qualities? What creates success? How do you get there?

Every business will have its own theory for how to succeed. But no matter what it is, organization is likely to be near the top of the list.


This article will describe the process wastes that prevent your company from being organized and achieving a greater level of success. It will also cover strategies for eliminating these wastes through lean manufacturing.

The Seven Deadly Wastes

To improve productivity, you have to first eliminate anything that doesn't add value. By getting rid of these wastes, you'll be better able to make better use of your space and better manage your time.

Every activity in a business falls into one of two categories: Value Added (VA) or Non-Value Added (NVA). VA activities are those that transform a product, improve work processes, or provide service to the customer. NVA activities are those that either do none of those things, or actively impede activities that add value.

One really helpful way to classify the activities in your workplace is to compare them to the list of Seven Deadly Wastes, first identified by Taiichi Ohno for the Toyota Production System:

  • Transport – 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 – Excess inventory that does not help you meet customer demand or keep your processes running without interruption
  • Movement – 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 materials or assistance from a supervisor or another employee
  • Over-production – Producing more product than is needed
  • Over-processing – Activities or processes that don't make the product better or help meet the customer's needs
  • Defects – Needing to remake an already-completed product

If an activity falls under this list and can be eliminated, it's an NVA. Acknowledging it and taking steps to remove it is an important part of implementing a lean process.


How to Use Lean Manufacturing to Help Your 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.”

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 solutions and tested ways to eliminate defects in their system by empowering staff to “stop the line” whenever they detected a problem with either 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.”

Here are a few ways you can implement lean manufacturing principles in your facility.

Strive for Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement promotes consistent, positive change in your working environment. These changes will ultimately help you achieve your targeted goal. The key to creating these improvements is establishing the right kind of culture in your organization, which brings us to the next step.

Get 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 at 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.

Adopt a Lean Manufacturing System

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:

  • 5S
  • 6S
  • Six Sigma
  • KPI Board
  • Big Y’s
  • The Toyota Production System (TPS)
  • Black Belts

These names and acronyms denote different principles that have the shared goal of improving the quality of production, with extreme success when used correctly. And it’s no surprise that they are so effective. Just think of the 80/20 rule: if 20 percent of your issues cause 80 percent of your problems, eliminating those key issues will solve a majority of your problems.

Create a Safe Work Environment

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.

Foster a Positive Work Culture

Management is always looking for ways to change their company’s work culture in positive ways. When your workers feel safe and valued, they develop better attitudes and welcome change instead of resisting it. 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.

(Learn more about Creating a Lean Safety Culture)

Steps to Implementing a 5S Lean Methodology

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 will effectively help you meet your company goals.

Step 1 – Sort

  • Organize the work space by clearing it out, cleaning it up, and identifying which items are needed
  • Only items and tools that are used every day should be kept within arm's reach
  • Equipment that is used weekly should be kept within the work area
  • Anything used less frequently should be stored elsewhere

Step 2 – Systematize or Set in Order

  • Organize all items, designate storage locations, and define procedures
  • Ask each employee to look around their work station and decide what they need in order to do their job
  • Label every cabinet, drawer, shelf, or other storage area so employees can quickly and easily recognize the location of every item they need – and know exactly where to put it back once they're done

Step 3 – Sweep or Shine

  • Clean and maintain the area’s appearance and establish a preventative maintenance schedule
  • Set aside 10 to 15 minutes each day for cleaning – this allows cleaning and organizing to become a habit
  • Inspect the work space after the area is thoroughly cleaned, and keep a log of all areas that need improvement or upgrades
  • Display inspection logs in a conspicuous areas for all to see to build ownership and accountability for sweeping and shining
  • Find ways to prevent dirt and contamination build-up by keeping track of any spills, leaks, dust, and other potential hazards

Step 4 – Standardize

  • Create visual controls to sustain good housekeeping, safety, quality, communication, teamwork, and efficient production
  • Ensure that the first three steps you’ve implemented are being used and are cultivated in your workplace – use signs and visuals to ensure consistency
  • Establish routines, standards, and schedules
  • Provide instructions or brief training sessions so every employee understands the new procedures

Step 5 – Self-Discipline or Sustain

  • This step is the culmination of implementing the first four steps
  • Schedule regular audits of your lean processes in case some areas are slacking and need to be revisited

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.

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Written by Mauriah Lamia | Content and Social Media Manager

Mauriah Lamia

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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