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Lean manufacturing is a concept that encompasses many things other than the manufacturing aspects. Lean manufacturing is a philosophy that enterprises embrace and implement by developing strategies for achieving organizational excellence. The strategies aim at creating value by stepping into the customer’s shoes while developing a culture of continuous improvement through the elimination of wastage of resources and time in every organizational aspect.

The practice of lean manufacturing involves developing stable processes, creating high quality, and developing respect for people throughout the organization.

Stress on continuous improvement
The lean manufacturing concept thrives on continuous improvement, and the methodology has five underlying principles that act like pillars for developing appropriate strategies that help realize the goals of organizational excellence.

Value- Create value by keeping in mind the customer’s perspective.
Value-Stream– Create a map to define the steps in the value stream.
Flow– Create smooth workflows.
Pull- Bring to the table the right amount at the right time which means exacting the quantities and leaving no room for any wastage.
Perfection– To attain perfection, it is necessary to eliminate all waste from the value stream.

Therefore, it is safe to conclude that Lean Manufacturing is a manufacturing process consisting of a set of processes and methods that helps identify and eliminate waste from the manufacturing processes that maximize productivity. For proper implementation of the concept, it is necessary to optimize the production process, reduce cost, boost innovation, and shrink lead times.

Focus on improving efficiency and waste reduction
The principles of Lean manufacturing give maximum emphasis on improving efficiency and waste reduction. The concept, first introduced by Toyota to gain a competitive edge among automakers is a universally practiced methodology today. However, it is important to note that while achieving efficiency and waste reduction, continuous quality improvement and customer satisfaction are non-negotiable to ensure an overall improvement that drives organizations toward achieving excellence.

Differences between Traditional Manufacturing and Lean Manufacturing
Not only are the approaches completely different between Traditional Manufacturing and Lean Manufacturing, but the mindset required for implementing the two is entirely different, too. The most visible differences between the two manufacturing methods are

  • Traditional manufacturing Sales forecast forms the basis of production plans whereas, in lean manufacturing, customer demand data helps to create production plans. As the accuracy of sales forecasts can vary, the build-up of finished goods inventory is unavoidable in traditional manufacturing. In Lean manufacturing, goods are produced against customer orders only. Hence, there is no chance of carrying finished goods inventory.
  • Work-in-progress (WIP) is acceptable in traditional manufacturing, but in lean manufacturing, WIP is a waste that needs reduction.
  • In traditional manufacturing, problems are hindrances, whereas organizations practicing lean manufacturing look for opportunities in problems by unearthing the root cause of the problem.
  • Traditional manufacturing relies on a stable and tested process that gives results and follows it repeatedly without reviewing it anytime later. Lean manufacturing is about continuous improvement, and there are attempts to improve the process further at any stage.

Although both manufacturing methods focus on system improvement, lean manufacturing improves the current processes, but with a special focus on waste reduction.