Many successful companies worldwide, such as 3M, DELL, Embraer, among others, have changed the way they think about production, optimizing their entire process. But then you ask me: "How did they do that?"
Well, the answer is only two words: Lean Manufacturing! That's right, this management philosophy coupled with its tools have changed the production process all over the world.
But what is this thing called Lean Manufacturing? I know you are reading this article looking for this information. So, relax! I will tell you all about this philosophy, from its first appearance to how to apply it in practice.
So first of all, in order for you to really understand what this philosophy is about, how it works, and how you can implement it in your company, you need to understand the motivation of its emergence.
We have to go back to the past to understand, prepare to acquire a huge amount of knowledge. So, let’s learn about the history.
Where did this famous term come from?
The emergence of this term came about through a book called "The Machine That Changed the World," published in 1990 by the American authors: James Womack, Daniel Jones, and Daniel Ross.
But what does this work bring? It brings the concepts and methods of work applied to the Toyota Production System (TPS), which underpinned this new production system. But I will speak more about it later.
And this book is widely used even today in schools and colleges. This is to help train new leaders and managers and show them how they can, in the not so distant future, improve your company's production system.
So this management philosophy came up in the US, right? Wrong! It appeared in an automobile company in Japan, called Toyota Motor Corporation, long before the publication of the book.
Obviously, they did not know “Lean Manufacturing”. So how did they refer to this philosophy? They used the term Toyota Production System (TPS).
But then what was the motivation for its emergence?
The motivation was the need! Only that? Yes! Now you will understand the reason for this need.
You have certainly heard it in your life about World War II, haven’t you? So, it was responsible for the emergence of this philosophy.
Japan was simply devastated in this period, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the ones that suffered the greatest consequences. But the whole country was social, politically and economically devastated.
In the post-war period, there was a huge demand for various products for the reconstruction of the country, such as staple foods, building materials, clothing, among others.
However, the companies that supplied these products opted for mass production, with large gains in quantity but a small variety of products.
In addition to these basic materials for reconstruction, there was also the need to manufacture the transportation, and it is during this period that Toyota comes into play. Let's see how?
It was impossible for the automobile company to produce in large scale because it lacked large yards for stock of material, and, moreover, this type of production was restricted to producing the same products.In addition, it required large investment expenditures.
But how could this productive system change? This was the same questioning that the engineers and managers of the company did.
They even came to think of implementing the Fordist system in Japanese industry, they even made several visits to US companies. But it did not go ahead.
With that, as good Asians they are, they have decided to revolutionize. They decided to create a production process in which they did not need large inventories, which would maintain a much faster cash flow and meet the diverse demands, efficiently producing customized products. Bold, aren’t they?
This process would later be called the Toyota Production System (TPS).
Has this new system generated results? Yes! And it generated in a meteoric way. In a few years not only Toyota, but also other Japanese companies, which adhered to the lean production model, already exported competitive products to the international market.
Japan was rapidly advancing and stabilizing itself economically. In a short time, Lean Manufacturing was already spreading throughout the world and conquering the entire industrial market. Incredible, isn’t it?
Now enough of history, let's understand more how this philosophy works.
What are the goals of Lean Manufacturing?
As its name suggests, this philosophy seeks to function in the leanest way possible, always trying to reduce the 8 wastes.
But what are these wastes? They are all those factors that do not add value to the product being marketed from the customer's perspective.
They were listed in 7 wastes: transportation, inventory, unnecessary motion, waiting, overproduction, over-processing and defects.
No, you did not count wrong, I actually only cited 7 wastes. It is because later came the eighth, the knowledge.
Therefore, the main goal of Lean Manufacturing is to eliminate or reduce wastes generated by a company's most diverse processes.
This brings great benefits to the company, such as increased productivity, and consequently their level of competitiveness also grows.
How to apply the Lean in practice?
To do this you have to go to where the problem happens! Proper implementation of Lean Manufacturing aims to eliminate processes and activities that do not add value to the customer, which can be done through the application of Kaizen.
For this, it becomes substantial to study the company, observe and measure the data, analyze the deviations and use simple, qualitative and managerial tools to work on the problem and solve it.
In addition, talking to employees is also a good move, as they feel more comfortable to express their opinions, to make guesses for the improvement of the whole process, having a greater autonomy.
This is where Lean Manufacturing fulfills its objectives: maximizing the value of a business' operations, increasing added value, reducing production time, reducing the costs involved, increasing process efficiency and, in particular, reducing company waste.
And why is it important to raise awareness in my company?
It is not enough for the managers and engineers of the company to know the advantages of the Lean system; the working class also has the same need to understand the importance of lean thinking behind the many practices and tools applied today in the industrial environment.
Everyone has to paddle in the same direction, so that this philosophy is applied correctly, faster, generating good results in the future.