Introduction to Lean Manufacturing

by Andrew Guytingco on March 02, 2017

Across all industries, Lean Manufacturing is the proven path to improved quality, lower costs and shorter delivery times.

At IPS Material Handling Inc, we use our industry experience and expertise, along with our Ecoflex line of products to provide companies in all industries the ideal tools required to implement the idea of lean in every manufacturing environment.

Throughout this series of educational articles, discover Lean Manufacturing and how IPS can help your company reduce mudas and implement kaizen and the lean spirit in your facility through the use of Ecoflex.

What is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing, lean production, or simply, "Lean," is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. Working from the perspective of the customer who consumes a product or service, "value" is defined as any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for.

Essentially, lean is centered on preserving value with less work. Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS). TPS is renowned for its focus on reduction of the original seven mudas, or wastes to improve overall customer value. The steady growth of Toyota, from a small company to the world's largest automaker, has focused attention on how it has achieved this.

The goal of Lean then becomes the creation and maintenance of a production system which runs repetitively, day after day, week after week, consistently. According to its Japanese founders, 80% of lean manufacturing consists in creating an attitude that eliminates waste and maximizes added value.

History of Lean

At the end of the 1890's, Frederick W Taylor, the father of scientific management became the first to introduce what are now known as standardization and best practices. His work led to the development of time and motion studies and error-proofing and poka-yoke by Shigeo Shingo, who used Taylor's work as inspiration.

Frank Gilbreth later introduced the concept of breaking work down into elementary time blocks. It was around this time that the first notions of eliminating waste and studying movement began to emerge. In 1910, Henry Ford invented the assembly line for his standardized Ford Model T while focusing on the concept of waste while developing his mass assembly manufacturing system. Alfred P. Sloan later improved on Ford’s system when he introduced the concept of assembly line diversity at GM.

After the Second World War, Kiichiro Toyoda, founder of Toyota, developed the idea of "Kaizen", or continous improvement when he decided he must stop the repairing of poor quality by intensely studying each stage of the process. Inspired by the supermarkets he has visited in the USA and given the financial situation during the period, over-production had to be avoided, and the notion of Pull (building to order rather), rather than Push (target driven) was developed.

It was with Taiichi Ohno that these themes of lean came together and with Shingeo Shingo, created the “Just In Time”, “Waste Reduction” and “Pull System” concepts for Toyota, which, together with other flow management techniques, resulted in the Toyota Production System (TPS). The TPS has been continuously evolving since. In 1990, James Womack summarized these concepts to create Lean Manufacturing at a time when Japanese expertise was spreading to America and the success achieved by companies applying these principles and techniques became relevant undeniable.

IPS Material Handling Inc was established in 2006 and specializes in custom material handling solutions for Lean Manufacturing. Our Ecoflex products, a modular pipe and joint system, are used to create custom flow racks, material handling carts, work stations and more.

For more information, to request a quote or to set up an in-house assessment, please contact us.