Understanding Lean Manufacturing
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What is Lean Manufacturing? How Do Nordell Use It?

You may have heard of the term ‘Lean manufacturing’, but what exactly is the definition of that? Lean Manufacturing is a methodology that focuses on minimising waste within manufacturing systems, while simultaneously maximising productivity. Waste is generally seen as anything that customers do not believe adds value and are not willing to pay for, alongside the traditional forms of waste in terms of excess materials. Some of the benefits of lean manufacturing can include reduced lead times, reduced operating costs and improved product quality.


The approach is based on the Toyota Production System and is still used by that company, as well as myriad others. Companies that use Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) can also benefit from using a lean production system.


Lean manufacturing is based on several specific principles, such as ‘Kaizen’, a Japanese term for continuous improvement.


There are 5 key principles to lean manufacturing:


  1. Identify value from the customer's perspective.

Value is created by the producer, but it is defined by the customer, therefore companies need to understand the value the customer places on their products and services.


Manufacturers must strive to eliminate waste and cost from its business processes, so that the customer's optimal price can be achieved whilst generating a sustainable profit for the company.


  1. Map the ‘value stream’.

This principle involves recording and analysing the flow of information or materials required to produce a specific product or service, with the intent of identifying waste and methods of improvement. Value stream mapping encompasses the product's entire lifecycle, from raw materials through to disposal.


Companies must examine each stage of the cycle for waste - anything that does not add value must be eliminated. Lean thinking recommends supply chain alignment as part of this effort.


  1. Create flow.

This has the aim of eliminating functional barriers and identifying ways to improve lead times. By doing so, this aids in ensuring the processes are smooth from the time an order is received through to delivery. Flow is critical to the elimination of waste: Lean manufacturing relies on preventing interruptions in the production process and enabling a harmonised and integrated set of processes in which activities move in a constant stream.


  1. Establish a pull system.

In short, this means you only start new work when there is demand for it; Lean manufacturing uses a pull system instead of a push system.


Push systems are used in manufacturing resource planning (MRP) systems. With a push system, inventory needs are determined in advance and the product is manufactured to meet that forecast. However, forecasts are typically inaccurate, which can result in swings between too much inventory and not enough, as well as subsequent disrupted schedules and poor customer service.


In contrast to MRP, lean manufacturing is based on a pull system, in which nothing is bought or made until there is demand. Pull relies on flexibility and communication.


  1. Pursue perfection with continual process improvement, or Kaizen.

Lean manufacturing rests on the concept of continually striving for perfection, which entails targeting the root causes of quality issues and ferreting out and eliminating waste across the value stream.



The eight wastes of lean production


The Toyota Production System laid out seven wastes, or processes and resources, that do not add value for the customer. These seven wastes are:

  1. Unnecessary transportation.
  2. Excess inventory.
  3. Unnecessary motion of people, equipment, or machinery.
  4. Waiting, whether it is people waiting or idle equipment.
  5. Over-production of a product.
  6. Over-processing or putting more time into a product than a customer needs, such as designs that require high-tech machinery for unnecessary features; and
  7. Defects, which require effort and cost for corrections.

Although not originally included in the Toyota Production System, many lean practitioners point to an eighth waste: waste of unused talent and ingenuity.


Lean manufacturing requires a relentless pursuit of reducing anything that does not add value to a product, meaning waste. This makes continuous improvement, which lies at the heart of lean manufacturing, a must.


Other important concepts and processes lean relies on include:


  1. Heijunka: Production levelling or smoothing that seeks to produce a continuous flow of production, releasing work to the plant at the required rate and avoiding interruptions.
  2. 5S: A set of practices for organising workspaces to create efficient, effective, and safe areas for workers and which prevent wasted effort and time. 5S emphasises organisation and cleanliness.
  3. Kanban: A signal used to streamline processes and create just-in-time delivery. Signals can either be physical, such as a tag or empty bin, or electronically sent through a system.
  4. Jidoka: A method that defines an outline for detecting an abnormality, stopping work until it can be corrected, solving the problem, then investigating the root cause.
  5. Andon: A visual aid, such as a flashing light, that alerts workers to a problem.
  6. Poka-yoke: A mechanism that safeguards against human error, such as an indicator light that turns on if a necessary step was missed, a sign given when a bolt was tightened the correct number of times or a system that blocks a next step until all the previous steps are completed.
  7. Cycle time: How long it takes to produce a part or complete a process.

At Nordell, we are ISO14001 accredited and are totally committed to manufacturing to protocols which reduce waste, through an effective environmental management and LEAN system. We have a detailed and robust plan to ensure our sourcing and manufacturing protocols exceed legislative environmental guidelines.


We are passionate about delivering long term, sustainable environmental targets through our innovation and maximising the awareness of technological advances in materials and moulding techniques.


Our fully integrated Logistics department operate a variety of supply and stock management systems, including Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI), Call-off agreements, Kanban systems and Direct Line Feed. Your parts are in place when you need them, without your cash tied up in stock.


Our commercial team work closely with you to agree a realistic forecast that we both agree on. Once confirmed our planning team will agree a production schedule to ensure we always have enough product to meet your orders, even at short notice.


Our ERP system supports the planning process by ensuring there is sufficient raw material, labour, and factory capacity to maintain our 100% service level to you.


Having Real Time data is critical to practicing LEAN Manufacturing. Nordell installed Delmiaworks IQMS ERP system 3 years ago and we have never looked back!


IQMS / Delmiaworks has become a staple factor in the growth of Nordell ever since launch.


The real-time information gives us detailed & common statistical data to drive performance metrics and control costs and the system has enabled us to scale-up the business to near double what we were able to achieve in a day and enables us to work seamlessly between our UK and China operations - some 9000 miles apart.


Why do we focus on Lean? Lean helps our customers get a better product, achieve their sustainability targets and helps products reach the market quicker.

Posted 3 years ago By Nordell HQ
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