Lean Manufacturing Techniques and Tips

Lucy Bell-Young

by Lucy Bell-Young

21st October 2020

Lean manufacturing is a culture that’s embedded into ReAgent. It’s not a one-off event or project, but the constant dedication to ongoing improvement in all aspects of the company. We’ve compiled 11 of the best lean manufacturing techniques and tips from experts in the field of lean. Whether you’re looking for tips on how to kickstart a leaner culture at your workplace, or you just need some advice for further improvement, this post should cover everything you’re looking for.

For ongoing, regular updates in the field of lean, you can follow these lean manufacturing podcasts.

Lean manufacturing graphic

What Is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing, or lean production is dedicated to reducing waste in manufacturing operations whilst also improving productivity. By employing lean practices, such as value stream mapping or analysing production flow, you can reduce lead times, save money on operating costs, improve product quality, and ultimately streamline your entire production method.

To get started with lean manufacturing, you must first be aware of the 7 types of waste in supply chains:

  • System complexity
  • Lead time
  • Transport
  • Space
  • Inventory
  • Human effort
  • Packaging

These areas are where most inefficiencies in production lines originate, so when you’re implementing leaner practices, make sure to remember these 7 elements. This will allow you to think strategically about how you can trim off waste in these areas to improve productivity and efficiency. With that in mind, here are 11 techniques and tips that you can use when practicing lean manufacturing.

Lean Manufacturing Techniques

An article on pddnet.com covers tips for implementing lean manufacturing practices for companies that have taken the decision to focus more on lean. The following tips offer some of the first steps that should be taken when you’re assessing your current manufacturing facility.

When You’re Beginning To Implement Lean Thinking At Your Company…

1.      You may think that you have an extensive understanding of your manufacturing processes, but taking the time to assess the needs of your facility in depth and cutting down on waste is the first step in implementing lean manufacturing practices.

2.      Assess everything in your production warehouse, and get rid of everything that isn’t currently being used…Excess stock takes up valuable space in your production facility, slows down manufacturing and can hide production issues.

All Employees Should Contribute To Lean…

Lean should be practised by employees at all levels and in all departments at your company. The following four lean manufacturing tips cover how you can encourage all staff to get on board with lean thinking and the benefits you will see thanks to this movement.

GreenBiz examined why Toyota’s lean process is so successful and describes how other companies can follow their direction. With that in mind, all employees can contribute to lean manufacturing:

3.      By engaging people in the process of problem-solving, it reduces resistance to the recommended solutions. Rather, participants want to see their ideas implemented and be successful because they are their ideas.

Creative Safety Supply, author of books on lean including ‘Getting to Lean – Transformational Change Management’ agrees that the responsibility of lean practices rests on the shoulders of everyone at the company:

4.      Lean culture and management requires the destruction of divisions. There is no division of thinkers/deciders and doers/order takers.

The following two lean manufacturing tips emphasise the importance of thorough lean training throughout the entire organisation. Tip 5 is taken from Lean Manufacturing Global and tip 6 is provided by Kjell van Zoen – a serial entrepreneur that teaches classes in lean operations and sustainable business practices:

5.      The training should be widely shared within the organisation and not to just one individual. The more staff trained in lean practice, the better the results will be.

6.      To get the biggest benefit out of lean, a company should adopt it in all departments, to all levels (from owners to line-workers) and promote and extend its influence to that of its suppliers as well.

Bear in mind that, although lean originally was applied to manufacturing, you can also use it in sales, marketing, customer services and administration.

Close-up Shot of a Busy Glass Conference Table and Coworkers Leaning on it in Collective Leap to Find Problem Solutions

Engaging employees in discussions about lean means they will be more willing to get involved and want to see their ideas implemented

How You Can Optimise What You Have…

When you’re beginning to see the benefits that a lean culture can yield, you’ll notice that you have some freed-up labour time. Industry Week tells us how to make the most of these extra hours:

7.      There are several ways to use freed-up labour. Some examples include insourcing work that is currently being done by a supplier or temporarily assigning people to improvement teams until positions open up in other parts of the plant. The home run scenario would be to grow the business and use the extra labour to help grow capacity, if possible, to meet future demand.

Niklaus Stucki is a business consultant. He holds a Masters of Management in Organisation Development & Management, and has over 12 years’ experience in the manufacturing sector. He explains why you shouldn’t let inventory grow when you don’t need it:

8.      Unless you’re doing business in the wine or liquor industry, get rid of inventory. Neither raw materials nor finished products and for sure not defective products will gain in value over time.

Change The Way You Do Things…

The way you handle stock in terms of storage and replenishment can have a big impact on waste and productivity. PDD advises on the best locations to store your products:

9.      Items that see the highest use traffic should be stored where they are used, while lower-traffic items and those that are bulky and in the way of production should be stored farther away.

Kjell van Zoen adds a further lean manufacturing tip by discussing how you should approach your buying tactic and provides a simple solution:

10.      Standard thinking often dictates that buying in bulk will save money. Lean defies this thinking and says that the savings of buying in bulk are actually lost in the extra money spent on moving, counting, organising, storing and (often) borrowing of cash to purchase inventory in bulk.

“Kanban Cards” are a simple solution. This is how it works for individual inventory items:

·Figure out your turnaround time on replenishing an inventory item.

·Figure out how much inventory you need in order to avoid running out while you order and wait for your replenishment order to arrive. This is your “Kanban Minimum”.

·Attach a physical “Kanban Card” to your minimum to alert workers that you have reached your minimum.

Empty warehouse full of cargo. 3d illustration

Something as simple as optimising the way products are stored can have huge impacts on productivity and waste reduction

Always Think Of Long-Term Goals…

I’ve come across a number of lean manufacturing experts that have expressed the need to involve suppliers in your lean goals. Martichenko, Chief Executive Officer of LeanCor, says you should focus on building good, long-term relationships with suppliers rather than thinking only about immediate benefits:

11.       The strategy of beating up transportation providers to get lower rates doesn’t work long-term. Instead, Lean values solid, long-term partnerships with providers, including carriers.

We hope you’ve found these lean manufacturing tips helpful and are looking forward to making some improvements at your company.

Which lean manufacturing tips does your organisation follow? Share your tips in the comments section below.


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