Why Bother with Lean Manufacturing?

When a machine breaks down in a typical manufacturing company, temporary fixes are expected. The operation must keep moving production forward, so quick fixes are a business reality.

However, the bigger problem is when band-aid fixes become the norm, where band-aids are on top of other band-aids. When this becomes your company’s modus operandi, it might be time to consider a better way.

One key component of the Lean manufacturing methodology is breaking a problem down to completely understand it, gathering all the facts, and looking for patterns to identify a point of occurrence. Sometimes called the “five whys,” the methodology boils down to asking “why” enough times to reach a problem’s root cause. Solve a problem at the root and, bingo, a host of ancillary problems are solved simultaneously.

Lean manufacturing can be a win-win for everyone involved.

Customers win by consistently getting access to the highest quality products on the market. Manufacturers win by optimizing their operations, running more efficiently, producing less waste, and earning more profits. Employees win by learning and applying a problem-solving method that enables their company to compete at the highest levels, creating job security and employment longevity.

3 Core Goals of Lean Manufacturing

At the center of Lean manufacturing are process and production-monitoring techniques designed to identify, solve, and remove issues down to the machine level. Reducing waste via Lean manufacturing techniques opens up more time to develop, launch, and produce new products.

Lean manufacturing is also a proven shock absorber for any manufacturing business, enabling continued operation during fluctuations in market conditions. The three core strategic goals that often drive manufacturing success and provide a solid competitive edge include:

  • Investing in real-time process and production monitoring to produce the necessary data to solve problems
  • Reordering the flow of information to reduce lag time and lost productivity
  • Creating visibility based on real-time intelligence and knowledge

Resources, Time, Margins

Combining these three strengths helps lessen the effects of manufacturing disruptions and sets a solid foundation for removing the several types of waste defined below:

1)     Defective Products – Scrap, rework, customer returns, customer dissatisfaction

2)     Overproduction – Producing more or sooner than internal or external customer needs

3)     Waiting – People and machinery waiting for tooling, maintenance, or raw materials

4)     Non-utilized Talent – Not providing skilled workers with enough challenging work to keep them engaged and growing in their jobs

5)     Transportation – Moving materials or people over long distances

6)     Work-In-Process (WIP) Inventory – Process inventory causes extra handling, extra space, and extra cost

7)     Excess Motions – Any motion of people or machines that do not add value to the product or service

8)     Unneeded Processing – Unnecessary (non-value added) or inefficient processing

Being More Competitive

A Lean manufacturing strategy serves as a blueprint for process and quality improvements. It guides the defining, deploying, managing, and optimizing of Lean manufacturing goals, putting the customers and their needs at the heart of all improvement efforts.

Making customers and their needs the catalyst that drives the intensity to improve is the defining trait of all successful Lean manufacturing strategies. Manufacturers that dominate their industries ingrain quality into every step of the production process.

To remain competitive on price, quality, and customer service, manufacturers must continue to standardize Lean manufacturing initiatives. Lean manufacturing has become common practice across most manufacturing sectors because it removes inefficiencies from daily operations to deliver reliable results.

To learn more about Lean manufacturing and how technology, such as DELMIA / Works, can help you control costs and increase quality, contact your local reseller. You can also learn more on all SOLIDWORKS solutions for manufacturing and production by visiting this page.


Michael Buchli
Michael Buchli has 20 years of design and manufacturing experience throughout the Midwest ranging from Aerospace to recycling systems. A number of those years were spent learning and understanding workflows and processes to improve efficiency and productivity. From running CNC equipment to welding and painting Michael has been hands-on in all aspects of bringing products to market. Michael is also certified in many areas of mfg and a CSWP. He has also written the CAMWorks Handbook.