Lean Manufacturing Tools

Lean Manufacturing Tools

Lean Manufacturing provides a methodology for eliminating waste and improving organizations.  This methodology developed over the last 50+ years, and has yielded a wide array of tools and techniques.  Below is a list and basic description of many of the tools and techniques used by practitioners of lean manufacturing.

  1. 2-Bin System: A 2-bin system is an inventory replenishment system. It can be considered a specialized form of a Kanban. In a 2-bin system, inventory is carried in two bins. As the first bin, the “working bin,” is emptied, a replenishment quantity is ordered from the supplying work center. During the replenishment period, material is used from the second bin which typically contains enough to satisfy demand during the lead time plus some safety stock. In this way, there is always a bin of parts available at the work center to be processed, and inventory is capped at two bins of parts.
  2. 5 Why’s: The 5 Why’s process is used to uncover the root cause of a problem or defect. This technique relies on asking why something occurred, and then asking why this cause occurred. The process is repeated until the root cause if found.
  3. 5S: 5S is a system for cleaning, organizing and maintaining a work area to maximize efficiency and consistency. 5S is often one of the first major initiatives of companies who implement lean.
  4. A3 Report: An A3 Report is a presentation of a problem on a single sheet of paper, including all the background information on the problem, root causes, potential solutions and action plans. The name comes from the A3 paper size, typically 11″ x 17″. By presenting everything on one sheet of paper, the A3 Report can be a very useful root cause analysis tool. Many lean practitioners believe that when you confine your problem solving to one page of paper, your thinking becomes more focused and structured.
  5. ABC Inventory: An ABC Inventory system categorizes inventory items in three levels – A, B and C. The A items are extremely important, and typically high volume or high value items. B items are moderately important. C items are a low priority and typically low volume items. The system is used to define inventory stock levels, reorder points and cycle counting frequencies for items.
  6. Benchmarking: Lean benchmarking is the process of using a successful organization as a reference for identifying ways for another organization to improve. It can be conducted as a comparison with the best practices at other organizations, or it can provide a tool for comparing practices within an organization over time to prevent backsliding of performance.
  7. Bottleneck Analysis: Bottleneck Analysis studies a process to identify the step in the process where the capacity available is less than the capacity required. That process is known as the constraint. The next step is to identify ways of removing the constraint.
  8. Cause and Effect (Fishbone) Diagram: A Cause and Effect Diagram displays graphically the factors and underlying causes of a defect or problem. The factors are drawn on lines radiating out from a central line. The completed diagram resembles a fish skeleton hence the nickname.
  9. Cellular Manufacturing: Cellular Manufacturing organizes processes into flexible cells comprised of sequential steps. This organization allows for a number of processes to be completed on a part in quick succession with limited movement between steps.
  10. Check Sheet: A Check Sheet is a written document listing critical elements to be checked on a regular basis. Check sheets can be used to maintain almost any lean practice, or they can be used when implementing lean practices.
  11. Cross-training: Cross training is a primary technique used to build flexibility in a workforce by training workers to perform some or all the other operational steps required within the work center. Flexibility is a critical element of a lean operation.
  12. Current State Map: The Current State Map is a process map showing the existing processes exactly as they currently exist. This tool is used to identify opportunities for improvement, and to measure the improvements after changes have been made.
  13. Dynamic Scheduling: Dynamic Scheduling adds flexibility to a scheduling system by creating update procedures to refine and change a schedule as new information on supply and demand factors is obtained.
  14. Empowerment: Empowerment is a critical element of developing a lean culture. It pushes decision making to the lowest possible level, and encourages employees at all levels to take action to solve customer problems and improve the organization.
  15. ERP: ERP Systems are Enterprise Resource Planning systems. These large scale computer systems enable information flow throughout an organization, and with other organizations. An ERP system provides the processes for planning, monitoring and reporting on all supply chain, manufacturing and sales activities.
  16. External Setups: External Setups is a technique for identifying and performing time consuming machine setups steps that can be conducted without machine stoppage. This allows those setup activities to be conducted while the machine is still running with another set of tooling installed. External Setups are one of the techniques used to achieve Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED).
  17. Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA): FMEA is a process for analyzing potential failures within a system and the effects these failures will have. This technique is used to identify defects before a process is designed, or to diagnose complex defect processes.
  18. Flexible Manufacturing System: A Flexible Manufacturing System is comprised of a group of numerically controlled machine tools, and is interconnected by a central control system. In a lean manufacturing environment, this allows rapid changeovers, small batch sizes and reduced lead times.
  19. Flow Chart: A Flow Chart is a technique for visually representing a process in order to better understand the process and to identify opportunities for improvement.
  20. Future State Map: A Future State Map is a process map showing the design of a process after improvements are implemented. It represents the goal for the how the process will work.
  21. Heijunka: A production smoothing technique utilized by the Toyota Production System so that load leveling is accomplished by volume or mix of products. This method is used in conjunction with set up reduction so that smaller quantities of items can be produced without costly changeover costs or lost capacity.
  22. ISO-9000/1: The ISO standards provide a measurement, documentation and tracking framework that compliments lean. The focus of ISO on defining processes and holding processes to standards is useful for identifying opportunities for improvement and in maintaining lean practices after implementation.
  23. JIT/Inventory Reduction: Just-In-Time Inventory, and inventory reduction in general, is a core component of lean. In the lean system, inventory is viewed as waste. JIT strives to minimize inventory so that materials arrive where they are needed at the time they are needed. Materials do not arrive ahead of schedule and are not forced to sit in long queues.
  24. Jikoda: Jikoda is the Japanese term for stopping the production line when a problem or defect occurs. In Henry Ford’s time the American factory worker could be fired for stopping a production line. But Taiichi Ohno and Sakichi Toyoda considered this human form of automation to be fundamental to the Toyota Production System’s success.
  25. Kaizen Events: Kaizen Events are focused activities where a team attempts to identify and implement a significant improvement in a process. The events are limited in scope and intended to create significant change and improvement quickly.
  26. Kanban/Small Batch Sizes: Kanban systems use cards or bins for inventory replenishment. When a supply of material is used up, the card is delivered to a work station so that the materials can be replenished. Kanban systems are pull systems, with inventory movements only initiated when a downstream process requires material from an upstream process.
  27. Lean Supermarket: A lean supermarket is an inventory organization and storage system designed to centralize components when continuous flow is not possible. The supermarket regulates inventory levels and replenishment. Whenever one-piece flow cannot be accomplished, a Lean supermarket is often employed as a way of managing buffer inventory and allowing employees to have easy access to the parts they need.
  28. Level Loading: Level loading is a production scheduling technique where production is smoothed out over short time horizons to distribute work evenly, thereby creating a consistent and achievable production plan.
  29. Mass Customization: Mass Customization is an approach fostering flexibility. With Mass Customization, every product is considered custom, and processes are designed to rapidly switch between products. In such a system, a process would have lot sizes approaching single items, and setups between products would be virtually eliminated. This system would allow for a very large variety of products, and the addition of new products with minimal changes to the production processes.
  30. Metrics Based Process Mapping: Metrics Based Process Mapping is a tactical level tool, usually used to “drill down” from a Value Stream Map to allow improvement teams to capture and analyze data regarding elimination of waste and process improvements.
  31. Milk Run: A Milk Run is a delivery route that has been planned and optimized to minimize travel time. It can be used by delivery companies to schedule deliveries, or within a facility to plan material handling traffic.
  32. Mind Maps:  Mind maps are a visual tool used to organize and present interrelated ideas.  This tool is similar to cause and effect diagrams and other mapping tools.  Mind maps offer great flexibility and can present complex systems in a very easy to understand format.
  33. One Piece Flow: One Piece Flow is a scheduling technique where the batch size is set to one. The processes are designed with sufficient flexibility that a setup can occur between every item without slowing production.
  34. One-Touch Exchange of Dies: One-Touch Exchange of Dies a technique allowing a machine die to be exchanged in a single step. To accomplish this, a die or tooling is often loaded into a machine in one rapid step. One-Touch Exchange of Dies is often accomplished by identifying and separating internal and external setup steps, and is one of the techniques allowing for Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED).
  35. Pareto Chart: A Pareto Chart graphs data in order of frequency of occurrence. Pareto charts are used to identify the main causes of an issue.
  36. Poke-a-Yoke/Error-proofing: Poke-a-Yoke is a quality technique where a process is error-proofed. The goal of Poke-a-Yoke is to make it impossible for a defect to occur. Error-proofing is an important element of lean since defects are a significant contributor of waste.
  37. S&OP: Sales and Operations Planning is a formal business process where one set of plans is developed by a team including sales, marketing, finance, engineering, procurement and operations. All participants have responsibility and accountability for developing and maintaining the plan. This cooperative approach links the strategic plans to the tactical plans for the business and provides performance metrics that drive continuous improvement.
  38. Six Sigma: Six Sigma is a quality improvement strategy focused on removing variability from a process. Although originally developed for manufacturing processes, the Six Sigma methodology has been successfully applied to a wide range of processes. As a tool for process improvement and reduction of defects, Six Sigma compliments Lean and is a component of many Lean programs.
  39. SMART Goals: Goal setting is important with lean. SMART is a goal setting tool that helps ensure that the goals that are set are effective goals for the organization. For a goal to be SMART, it must be specific, measured, attainable, realistic and timely.
  40. Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED): SMED is an approach to machine setup and design that strives to minimize setup times. The goal of SMED is a 1-minute change over. Although the name focuses on die changes, the goal and focus on short changeovers can be applied to any machine.
  41. Spaghetti Diagram: A spaghetti diagram monitors the actual flow of material or workers in a process. Because the diagram often depicts resources repeatedly crossing each other, completed diagrams have been compared to a bowl of spaghetti.
  42. Standardized Work: Standardized Work is a technique where process procedures are documented so that an ideal standard work process is developed. This standardized work process can then be taught and managed improving consistency and overall performance.
  43. Statistical Process Control: Statistical Process control often referred to as SPC, is a tool for monitoring processes for variability. By monitoring output closely, operators can detect variations in the process that may affect the quality of the end product or service. This will reduce the possibility of creating defective products or services as well as the likelihood that those defects will be passed on to the customer.
  44. Takt Time: Takt Time is a measure of the maximum allowable time to meet customer demand. It is measured as the available production time divided by the rate of customer demand. For example, if you have 432 minutes of planned capacity per day and your demand is 500 units per day, the Takt time is = 432minutes/500 units, which gives you a Takt time of .86 minutes. This means that a completed unit must exit your production process each .86 minutes. This monitoring of Takt Time allows employees to properly pace activities and recognize when a problem is developing within a work cell.
  45. Time Study: A Time Study is a detailed measurement of the individual actions within a process. Time studies are used to establish production rates and to set product costs. In lean manufacturing, time studies can also be used to identify wasteful processes and motion that can be eliminated. Data from a time study is often used within Value Stream Maps.
  46. Total Productive Maintenance: Total Productive Maintenance is a system for predicting the maintenance needs of equipment so that machine breakdowns are minimized. This methodology uses statistics and standardized work processes within the maintenance function. Another component of this technique is that machine operators are trained to many of the day-to-day maintenance tasks.
  47. Value Stream Mapping: Value Stream Mapping is a tool for documenting a set of processes related to a single value stream, showing every step and activity from start to finish. Value Stream Maps highlight processing time, wait time, and material handling. The maps are extremely valuable in lean for reducing lead times and eliminating unnecessary process steps.
  48. Visual Cues/Painted Floor: In a lean organization, making lean easy to maintain is critical. One common technique is to provide visual cues that alert anyone in an area how a process should be completed, or how a workstation should be setup. 5S utilizes visual cues to ensure that work cells maintain proper layouts. The cues often include lines painted on the floor and other markings in the area indicating where materials and tools should be staged and stored.
  49. Visual Metrics: Lean requires constant attention and focus, and implementing visual metrics is an effective way to provide this focus. Visual metrics can cover any aspect of an organization. In lean, some of the more common metrics that are tracked and posted are throughput, quality, safety, productivity, machine uptime, and customer service.
  50. Visual Status Indicators: Visual status indicators are typically light based indictors providing a simple status of a process. The indicators are often used to signal a problem that must be addressed. In this case, the light turns on when the problem condition occurs.
  51. Waste Walk: A waste walk, also known as a Gemba Walk, is a lean technique for identifying waste. Typically, the walk will be conducted by several individuals, allowing the participants to learn from each other. In a rigorous waste walk, dozens or hundreds of opportunities can be quickly identified. Waste walks can focus on a particular area, a type of waste, or cover anything the participants see.
  52. Zero Quality Control: Zero quality control is a methodology designed to shift quality to the process and eliminate the need for external quality inspections. A zero quality control system typically includes error-proofing, “source inspection” and employee empowerment as well as other quality initiatives.