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LEAN production

Lean, Lean Production or Lean Manufacturing describes a methodology aimed at reducing waste in the form of overproduction, lead time or product defects.

Lean is thus about doing more with less: less time, inventory, space people and money.

The term was born out of the production systems established by Toyota in Japan in the 1950s and was to a large extent inspired by Kaizen - the Japanese strategy of continuous improvement. Lean production is characterised by operations with low inventories, small batch runs and just-in-time delivery of supplies. It is supported by a quality management regime based on prevention, and by team-based working. The final element is a set of close relationships with suppliers. Though the concept arose in the manufacturing sector, it has since spread and has been applied successfully to other sectors.

Thinking lean involves:

  • Identifying and eliminating waste, or activities that add no value through continuous improvement efforts
  • Focusing on continuous improvement of processes - rather than results - throughout the entire value chain
  • Achieving continuous product flow through physical rearrangement and revision of system structure & control mechanisms
  • Single-piece flow / small lot production: achieved through reducing equipment set up time; attention to machine maintenance; and maintaining an orderly, clean work place
  • Pull production / Just-in-Time inventory control.

Pull production is based on orders rather than forecasts; production planning is driven by customer demand or pull; its aim is not to suit machine loading or inflexible work flows on the shop floor. See Build-to-Order.

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