Can Your Supply Chain Benefit from Lean Thinking?

Many principles and approaches to manufacturing have formed throughout the years and are still used today. There are many ways to go about the manufacturing process, but for this blog post, we will be focusing on lean thinking and how it may benefit your business.

What is lean thinking?

For starters, lets talk about what lean thinking is. Lean thinking is a mindset, meaning there is no concrete definition for it. At its core, it includes about focus, reducing waste and increasing customer value. Essentially, doing more with less.

The idea of lean thinking comes from Taiichi Ohno of Toyota. He is credited with the creation of this approach as he implemented it into early  manufacturing and production of Toyota cars. As one of the production engineers of the company, Ohno was tasked with matching the same level of productivity as the American plants within a 3 year timeline. It is during this period where he helped develop the Toyota Production System (TPS). Noticing that the manufacturing plant was stockpiling large quantities of parts for production, he found the current practices to be wasteful. From the zero-waste mindset of the TPS, he also helped curate the basic framework for the Just-In-Time (JIT) method. Both TPS and JIT are still used today and continue to remain a strong part of Toyota’s values.

Principles

In a broader sense, you can remember the basis of lean thinking through the 3 Vs; visibility, velocity and value:

  • Visibility: Allowing for transparency and looking at the bigger picture. It is important for businesses to see their progress and identify steps to success.
  • Velocity: Striving to be more productive and efficient in order to reach goals faster. Likewise, being responsive to customers and optimizing relations.
  • Value: Keeping customers in mind and conducting activity that align with their needs, as well as acting upon the key principles.

Lean thinking can be thought of through 8 principles:

  • Increase completions per hour
  • Remove needless process steps
  • Reduce movement of material and personnel
  • Reduce process/product complexities
  • Minimize errors that require rework
  • Optimizing process
  • Reduce waiting
  • Reduce work-in-process

These are the base values of lean thinking, however, implementation can vary from business to business.

Lean thinking today

Lean thinking is no longer exclusive to the automotive assembly line and has spread throughout various industries. For example, these ideals are used widely in healthcare to optimize the supply chain of medication and reduce waste where possible. As well, many large corporations from all over such as Nike, Intel and Kimberley-Clark have successfully implemented lean manufacturing into their supply chain. They were able to improve manufacturing by reducing waste and energy usage. In addition, they were even able to boost staff morale and save money.

It is clear that there are many benefits that lean can provide to your business. It is certainly something to think about and if you aren’t already implementing it into your manufacturing, you should consider it.

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