Six Lean Manufacturing Tools You Should Be Using

Lean manufacturing technology concept

Lean manufacturing is being increasingly implemented by businesses today, primarily due to its focus on eliminating waste, streamlining production processes, and creating a culture of continuous improvement.

However, the road to becoming a lean manufacturer isn’t easy. If you want to improve profitability and increase your competitive advantage in the marketplace, you need to consider using these six lean manufacturing tools. 

1. Bottleneck Analysis

One of the most important tools in a lean manufacturer’s toolkit is bottleneck analysis. This tool allows you to identify and measure where work processes are slowing down or ‘bottlenecking’ production, allowing you to make adjustments to improve efficiency.

A bottleneck analysis begins with a comprehensive analysis of your existing processes to identify the root cause of significant bottlenecks. Once the root cause has been identified, you can develop solutions to minimize or eliminate these bottlenecks, test and refine each solution, and then monitor, measure, and adjust based on performance. 

2. Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is another critical lean manufacturing tool; it’s used to measure how much planned productive time is actually productive. In other words, OEE measures the loss of productivity for any given manufacturing process.

This metric provides a benchmark for you to track your progress and identify opportunities for improvement, reducing waste in the process. By tracking availability (downtime), performance (slow cycles), and quality (rejects), production can be compared to a standard benchmark level to identify if it is lower or higher than anticipated.

Companies that employ OEE as part of their lean manufacturing processes are far more likely to achieve their productivity goals and reduce costs over time.

3. Value Stream Mapping

Next, Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is an additional lean manufacturing tool that helps identify and eliminate waste in any manufacturing process by visually mapping out and illustrating production flows. VSM is used to document the current state of a production process and to produce a more straightforward and efficient process in the future.

By visualizing information such as product flow, resources needed, material requirements, and production times, VSM can help identify potential areas for improvement. 

VSM is used in many applications, including reducing lead times, improving product quality, and simplifying material handling processes. It can also be used to improve communication and collaboration between departments and identify areas for cost savings.

4. Just-in-Time (JIT)

Just-in-Time (JIT) is designed to reduce waste and optimize the efficiency of the production process. This technique removes steps that do not add value, including over-processing and overstocking inventory, from the production process. 

The primary focus of JIT is to pull parts through production based on consumer demand rather than future projected demand. JIT also improves quality, reduces lead times, and achieves a balance between supply and demand. By utilizing JIT, manufacturers can reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction, and increase competitiveness.

5. Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) focuses on maximizing the availability of equipment for production through proactive maintenance, which helps identify potential issues before they become major problems. By utilizing TPM tools, companies can reduce production losses, increase asset utilization, and improve the overall quality of their products.

Primary benefits of TPM include improved machine reliability, less downtime, reduced maintenance costs, and improved product quality.

6. 6S Lean

Lastly, 6S is an upgrade to the original 5S lean manufacturing process. Since its founding in Japan, the 5S approach has always included five primary elements: Sort (Seiri), Set In Order (Seiton), Shine (Seiso), Standardize (Seiketsu), and Sustain (Shitsuke).

6S takes the 5S approach and adds the sixth “S,” or Safety. This modification was created to incorporate safety into daily operations and place special emphasis on the work environment, allowing manufacturing organizations to significantly improve their productivity and develop a long-lasting culture of safety among workers.

Implement Lean Manufacturing Tools With Help From DSI

If you have questions about lean manufacturing and how these tools can help your organization, don’t hesitate to contact DSI for assistance. Founded in 1983, we’re an award-winning engineering and consulting firm that helps manufacturers in all industries. Our goal is to help you find the techniques, tools, and practices you need to grow your business, increase profitability, and achieve your organizational goals. 

Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our experts.