For several decades, the popular car manufacturing company Toyota would use a specialized method in its production process. That would eliminate the use of wasteful resources and improve efficiency in their assembly line. Two Japanese engineers, Shigeo Shingo and TaiichiOhno came up with the Toyota Production System when visiting an American supermarket and observing how shelves are filled only after running out of display products. Inspired by the Toyota Production System, the term “Lean” was developed by the CEO of Waymo, John Krafcik, in 1988. This article delves into the five pillars of lean manufacturing.
The Five Pillars of Lean Manufacturing
1. Specifying Value by Specific Product
To define customer value, we must first understand how customers define what value is. Customers often do not know what they want or need. Especially when it comes to the latest inventions, tech gadgets, or products that are new to them. A business can use interviews, surveys, polls, web analytics, demographic information, data analysis and other market research methods to determine what customers want and what they are willing to pay for it. Using these techniques, a business can identify what customers view as a valuable product and set parameters based on that information.
For example, this allows a business to determine the price point of the product, and the period of production, packaging, and shipping. Using this information can help a business to better understand the value of a product, and have a clearer picture of what a customer wants and how he or she wants it.
2. Identifying the Value Stream for Each Product
Once the value of the good or service to be produced is identified, it is then important to map the value stream of the product. Put simply, value streams refer to how a customer or a stakeholder value a particular product produced by the business. In the process of identifying the value stream of each product. The customer’s definition of value is used as a baseline to identify activities in the production process that can help attain those values. This helps to locate areas that are of value to the customers and improvise on areas that are considered ‘not valuable’.
The idea behind this step is to eliminate the need for steps or procedures that do not add any value to the customers. This forms the basis of the lean manufacturing process: the minimization of waste. The waste can be of two types: non-value added but necessary, and non-value added and unnecessary.
Necessary wastage such as electricity, water, or raw materials will exist in the production process, no matter how much marginal. However, any wastage that does not add value and is not necessary will need to be eliminated to improve the production process of the company.
3. Making Value Flow without Interruptions
Once the wastage in the production process has been identified and eliminated. It is important to ensure that the production process is now as smooth and seamless as possible. This requires the minimization of delays and interruptions.
This step also includes the prevention of bottlenecks, which occur when the production process stops unexpectedly without any seeming possible explanation. Bottlenecks often occur due to overworking employees or as a result of multitasking.
To prevent bottlenecking and ensure a continuous workflow, a company can break down work into steps, renovate the production process and distribute the workload amongst the employees to minimize losses and therefore, create a more efficient production line.
4. Letting Customer Pull Value from the Producer
Once the workflow has been managed, it is time to take a look at the inventory. Usually one of the biggest wastes in the production system, the losses in inventory occur from overstocking raw materials without having the proportionate customer demand. Thus it is important to let the customer decide on the production of a good.
The idea behind it is that goods or products should only be produced only when a customer makes an order. When there is spare capacity in the production line. In other words, goods are manufactured and delivered only when necessary, and just in time to meet the customer’s requirements.
This prevents overproduction within the company. With fewer inventories, the cost of storage is less. And also eliminates costs of labor, utility, travel and other expenses that are otherwise wasted due to overstocking.
5. Pursuing Perfection
The last but not the least step in achieving a lean manufacturing process is the continual attempt to pursue perfection. Whilst the first four steps deal with customer demands and the minimization of wastage. The fifth step is a bit more abstract. However, this does not undermine its significance.
The idea of pursuing perception tells us that lean thinking and manufacturing is not a one-time procedure. But a long-term continuous process that should become a core part of the company and should be integrated within every employee in the company.
Only when every employee in the team is responsible for their job. And strives towards improvement that would perfect their tasks, Can all wastage is fully erased from the company’s culture. The company itself should continue to improve every day in all forms. In terms of space, organization, finances, and productivity.
In short, lean manufacturing focuses on the customers to attain maximum value from a product whilst at the same time, waste is reduced. It focuses on economizing the production process and using fewer resources to produce a better quality of products. By synchronizing all sections of a company, and optimizing the workflow of the assembly line. Lean manufacturing techniques allow products to become more valuable to customers and contribute to the efficiency of the company.