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Why you should consider lean manufacturing.

Lean manufacturing is a philosophy of increased production with less waste in human effort, space, tools, and time to develop a quality product-simply put, doing more with less.This concept has been linked to six sigma process improvement systems, Toyota Production Systems (TPS) and other resources and has proven to reduce costly waste as well as improve overall customer value and satisfaction.The basic concept of reducing unnecessary waste was evident as far back as Benjamin Franklin where he discussed the issues with carrying unnecessary inventory.

The waste involved in unnecessary inventory for example include material handling costs, loss of money tied up in inventory, lost space or increased storage and space requirements.One not-so obvious issue with high inventory is possible product defects.If a product batch sits in inventory for long periods of time, a defect could take more time to surface and require more research costs.But this is only one small example of costly waste, lean manufacturing can benefit many areas and end up saving an organizational substantial amounts of money.

Some benefits to lean manufacturing include:
- Reduced inventory costs
- Better vendor support and quality
- Longer equipment life
- Less space requirements
- Higher labor efficiency and quality
- Lower costs, overall
There are many more benefits to lean manufacturing and some depend on the nature of the organization and level of production.One way lean manufacturing is different than the traditional marketing view is that it operates on the theory of efficiently producing high quality products based on real customer demand rather than what we hope the customers will want, eliminating unnecessary production, manpower and inventory.

If it's such a great concept, why isn't everyone using it?There are some who feel there are negative impacts to implementing a lean transformation, and believe the failure of the organization to succeed lies mostly on poor or incomplete strategy rather than production costs and waste.It is also believed that by cross-training personnel to do several jobs eliminates employees who specialize in certain areas and this may compromise quality in the long run.

The fact is no concept will ever please everyone and there will be benefits and costs to any new concept of philosophy.An organization considering options to cut costs, increase effectiveness and customer service and reduce waste in any way should consider the benefits of lean manufacturing because they far outweigh the costs.Lean manufacturing could be seen as a marketing strategy as well, providing the quality products that ARE in demand rather than stocking a ridiculous inventory of products that may or may not be in demand.On that note, many products have a relatively short life span in the world of demand since consumers tend to be fickle so if a hot product is carried in large quantities due to popularity at the time and the interest in that product drops to almost nothing, the company is stuck with an unnecessary inventory to manage, handle, and find ways to get rid of.

Studies indicate a growing interest and participation in the "super-factory" or lean manufacturing concept but many organizations who adopt it are struggling to adapt their existing processes in the transition. One crucial step is to educate each individual employee and department to convince them to change their old ways of doing things.If everyone isn't participating then the process is only half-implemented and will suffer.It is also important to consult with the "specialists" before bringing in new high performance / low cost machinery and processes to get a broader opinion, therefore making a more educated decision before making any changes.

If this transition is to be successful and perform the way it is intended, a great deal of thought and planning must happen first, and the rewards will be great. The concept of lean manufacturing has revolutionized the industry and economy for many organizations, proving to cut costs, reduce waste in all departments, and provide improved customer satisfaction and higher quality products.

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