What Is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing, also known as lean production or just “lean,” is a systematic method for waste minimization within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity. The concept originated from the Toyota Production System and is considered a part of the broader Lean movement, which includes Lean construction, Lean services, Lean IT, etc.

Lean manufacturing primarily focuses on eliminating seven types of wastes (or ‘muda’ in Japanese) in the production process:

  1. Transport: Unnecessary movements of products and materials.
  2. Inventory: Excess stock and other resources.
  3. Motion: Unnecessary movements by people.
  4. Waiting: Waiting for the next step in the process.
  5. Overproduction: Making more than is immediately required.
  6. Over-processing: Doing more work than necessary.
  7. Defects: Effort involved in inspecting and fixing defects.
  8. Skills: Wasting the potential skills of staff. (BONUS)

The goal is to create more value for customers with fewer resources. This is achieved by optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams that flow horizontally across technologies, assets, and departments to customers.

Apart from waste reduction, Lean manufacturing also emphasizes continuous improvement (‘kaizen’) and respect for people. It’s not just about cutting costs but about creating a culture where everyone in the organization is involved in the process of improving efficiency and effectiveness.


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