The lean manufacturing is the process that allows a company to create more value for their customers, using fewer resources. The ultimate goal is the customers total satisfaction while having  zero waste.

Many companies have already started to adopt this process and much more are on the way to do the same. With the global demand increasing and new businesses coming up every day, you need to increase the manufacturing or the production. This means that besides maintaining the same quality, you need to reduce the waste and deliver the products at a much faster pace. So, here are the top 5 lean tools and techniques that can help you:

#1: 5S

5S is a simple but powerful Japanese tool that will help you organize your workplace. This organization will reflect on the work standardization efforts, in helping visual management, and in a productivity increase.

The 5S is one of the most used lean manufacturing tools as it serves as the base of other lean tools to be used effectively. This tool works in 5 phases:

– 5S Seiri or Sort: This is the first phase and involves sorting all the clutter and mess that are currently affecting the company’s productivity.

– 5S Seiton or Straighten: In this phase, there is a verification of all the necessary items for the production and they are put in their place.

– 5S Seiso or Sweep: This is the cleaning phase. From the tools that you use to the entire work area, from the machines to the equipment that is used.

– 5S Seiketsu or Standardize: This is a crucial phase in what concerns to the lean manufacturing process. In this phase, you need to make sure that the first 5S’s are working well.

– 5S Shitsuke or Sustain: In this last phase, the goal is to maintain all the standards that were adopted in the previous phases. It involves audits to the tools, equipment, and processes, as well as housekeeping.

#2: Cellular Manufacturing

According to the cellular manufacturing tool, a cell refers to the workstation or work areas, as well as to how all the equipment is arranged so that the process runs smoothly. These changes can lead to numerous advantages. One of the principles of this lean manufacturing tool is the one-piece flow. According to this principle, a product will move through all the production process in just a single unit, one single time. This will allow you to avoid any interruptions, which means that there’s no waste.

This lean tool tends to mix different products in the same line of production, using the same equipment as well as the same sequence. Among the advantages are the fact that you save the time from changing from one product to the other or re-arranging the production process, and you’re also maximizing your space. By sharing the same space, the different workers will be allowed to improve their communication which will enhance teamwork.

#3: Continuous Improvement

The continuous improvement lean tool is not simply a process improvement tool but rather the establishment of both formal and informal guidelines. The main goal is to keep improving all the time.

With this lean tool, you’ll be able to turn the workflow more efficient which will save you cost, time, and resources. Each task that is required also has the improvement goal present, as well as any resource that you use should be thought as a way to improve products, services, or even the processes.

This lean manufacturing tool follows a 4-phase process called the PDCA cycle or Deming Cycle:

– Plan: This is the phase when the change is identified and a plan is elaborated to make the change.

– Do: In this phase, and after the plan is verified, the change in the process occurs.

– Check: This is the phase where you’ll be checking whether the change had positive effects in the process and what they were.

– Act: When everything is checked and you noticed an improvement in the process, this change will be applied at a larger scale.

#4: Jidoka

Jidoka is usually defined as “automation with human intervention”. This process improvement tool appeared during the 19th century with the founder of Toyota, Sakichi Toyoda.

Back in those ways, the worker was watching the automatic process to take place. When there was a break, the worker had to intervene to solve the problem. This meant that the production line was temporarily stopped until he managed to figure out the problem and solve it. This lean tool was used to make sure that there weren’t any defect products coming out from the production line, which means there wouldn’t be unhappy customers.

The Jidoka tool managed to be very cost-effective since it only required one worker to improve the productivity.

#5: Total Productive Maintenance

One of the most important lean tools to adopt is, without a doubt, the Total Productive Maintenance. Its goal is to make sure that every equipment and machinery are running smoothly so that the production doesn’t have to suddenly stop.

The Total Productive Maintenance has 3 different components:

– Preventive Maintenance: This doesn’t simply translate into random checks that could be done by workers. The preventive maintenance involves a plan that includes regular checks to all the machines and equipment to check if there is any problem. This will make sure that there’s not a sudden breakdown.

– Corrective Maintenance: When a machine keeps breaking down, even with the regular inspections, you need to evaluate if it’s not the time to replace the machine or equipment, either by fixing it or by buying a new one.

– Maintenance Prevention: The third component makes sure that the new equipment or machine that you buy is the right one. You shouldn’t only look at the price you pay but also to the difficulty or easiness to maintain it.

These 5 lean tools and techniques are not the only ones that exist and that you can use. There are much more and you can read more about lean manufacturing methods and tools here.

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