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Lean Manufacturing Principles
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Contributor: Bill Whittier, Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)

Lean Manufacturing Principles have evolved as companies have sought to fully engage all of their available resources to improve their customer responsiveness in order to stay ahead of their competition.

What is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean Manufacturing is a robust Continuous Improvement Model that involves never-ending efforts to eliminate or reduce waste in design, manufacturing, distribution and customer service processes.

The most notable focus is on preserving cash flow and fully engaging the human resource, but Lean Principles can be applied anywhere that a process exists. Lean teachings involve simple, straight-forward concepts along with tried-and-true models that produce results quickly. Lean differs from more complicated models like Six Sigma because everyone in the company can understand and participate.

Adopting Lean Manufacturing Principles at your company is a journey, not a project. The important thing to do is to begin as soon as possible. When you begin, you will start pulling ahead of your competition. The essence of Lean is that a series of small efforts adds up to large improvements. Start your journey today.

How do I begin?

1. Begin with the internet. Use your search engine to familiarize yourself at a deeper level.

2. Attend a presentation, class, webinar, or workshop.

3. Read a book.

Here's some recommendations:

  • Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
  • The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer, Jeffrey Liker
  • The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox

4. Reach out to others who are living it.  An important principle of Lean Manufacturing is to share what you learn. Your suppliers, coworkers and friends are probably connected to Lean companies who would welcome you at their site for a visit and some coaching.

5. Get technical assistance from professionals. There are many for-profit and non-profit consulting groups ready to assist you.  Don’t get caught up in the cost of the effort, good implementations can save seven to ten times the investment.

6. Contact your state’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) center.  Each state has their own MEP, contact your local chapter at www.nist.gov/mep.

Click here to read the complete Kettle Talk article on Lean Manufacturing Principles and how they can help boost productivity and profitability in your business. Members must be logged in to site.