Lean Solutions, LLC.

a consulting services company


The term Lean manufacturing refers to the application of Lean practices, principles, and tools to the development and manufacture of physical products. Many manufacturers are using Lean manufacturing principles to eliminate waste, optimize processes, cut costs, boost innovation, and reduce time to market in a fast-paced, volatile, ever-changing global marketplace.

Manufacturers use Lean manufacturing principles to eliminate waste, optimize processes, cut costs, and boost innovation in a volatile market. For many people, the phrase “Lean manufacturing” is synonymous with removing waste – and eliminating waste is certainly a key element of any Lean practice. But the ultimate goal of practicing Lean manufacturing is not simply to eliminate waste – it is to sustainably deliver value to the customer.

To achieve that goal, Lean manufacturing defines waste as anything that does not add value to the customer. This can be a process, activity, product, or service; anything that requires an investment of time, money, and talent that does not create value for the customer is waste. Idle time, underutilized talent, excess inventory, and inefficient processes are all considered waste by the Lean definition.

History of Lean

The concept of Lean Manufacturing as we know it today was created in post World War II in Japan by Taiichi Ohno and others at Toyota.   Working against the standard of the production line invented and implemented by Henry Ford in 1913, Ohno and others took the step of shifting the focus away from individual machines to the actual flow of the product through the process.   By lining the machines up by process sequence and pioneering the concept of small tool change-overs to produce a variety of parts, they were able to achieve much higher through parts of different kinds of parts with high quality.

At the heart of Lean is the concept of "kaizen" or small continuous improvement. Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning "change for the better".   With kaizen, changes come gradually over time, but they represent consistent improvement.   These improvements are focused on eliminating waste (muda).   To accomplish this the leaders of the organization go to where the value is created the "gemba" or "actual place".

Toyota Production System (TPS)

The Toyota Production System is based on the philosophy of achieving the complete elimination of all waste in the pursuit of the most efficient methods.   TPS was established on the concepts of "jidoka" (automation with a human touch) and "just-in-time". Jidoka means that humans control the automation.   As soon as a defect occurs, the production line stops to avoid making further defective units.   Just-in-time works to ensure only the production of what is needed for the next process.

Even today Toyota continues to update TPS as new thinking and new technologies emerge.   The "Toyota Way" inspires manufacturing firms across the globe to continue to improve and evolve even more ways for eliminating waste.

Principles of Lean

The Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) was founded in 1997 by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones.   Jones and Womack posit that there are five key principles to Lean.

  • Value
  • Value Stream
  • Flow
  • Pull
  • Perfection

Value speaks to the importance or usefulness of a thing.   Viewed in terms of a product the price point, the lead-time and quality are all factors of value.

Value Stream refers to the process required to produce a product.   Having a map of your value streams allows you to find the areas where waste occurs and to eliminate them.

We are all familiar with the flow of water through a garden hose.   If you restrict the hose with a kink or by stepping on it, you reduce the flow of water.   In manufacturing these restrictions are called bottlenecks and they can result in the waste of "waiting"

The concept of pull as it relates to Lean is significant.   Instead of loading up the factory making products for orders that might be placed, Lean along with just-in-time, creates an environment where the customer pulls orders as needed.   This "pulling" helps you to avoid spending resources (labor, inventory) building materials that will just be stockpiled.   Avoiding the stockpile saves money in managing the inventory allowing a company to be more cost competitive (see value).

Perfection is the driving force behind Lean.   Constantly pursing perfection drives Lean thinking and "Kaizen" into your company's culture.

Key Concepts

Here are 12 key concepts that you will want to study on your journey to Lean.

    What Matters

  • Value
  •         To be lean you must know where your value lies.  If it does not add value get rid of it if you can.

  • Waste
  •         The opposite of value and therefore the opposite of what we want. Also known as muda

  • People over Process
  •         Provide clarity of the goal and be sure the people are aligned and working towards the goal BEFORE you try to implement the next thing.


  • Kaizen
  •         Small changes over time. Continuous Improvement.

  • Kanban
  •         Sending the signal to pull more work. Best if it's visual. Keeps people from being overwhelmed.

  • Gemba
  •         The best thing to do is be where the action is taking place. Take a "Gemba" walk and put yourself where the value is created.

    How you support it

  • Value Stream Map
  •         Draw out the processes to know what and where in your processes you add value and where you don't. Repeat the exercise at least once a year.

  • 5S
  •         5 steps to use (over and over again) to remove waste.   Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain

  • Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)
  •         Engage your machine operators in caring for and maintaining their machines. Provide them with tools from the maintenance group.

    Day to Day Production

  • Takt Time
  •         Takt time describes how much time is between the starting of each production unit. A simple formula of (hours (or mins) avail) ÷ (customer demand).

  • Standardized Work
  •         Documenting the current instructions for sequence and process of a work element. Best if visually presented and updated frequently.

  • Just-in-Time
  •         By pulling just what you need when you need it, you avoid waste (muda).

    When things go wrong

  • Andon
  •         A system for alerting maintenance, management, and others of a quality or processing issue. Often via a light or sound.

  • 5 Whys
  •         How to get to the root of a problem.

  • Poka Yoke
  •         Idiot-proof it.