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Trends in Lean Manufacturing

Thursday, November 8, 2012 21:51
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With the global economy still nursing the wounds afflicted by the recent economic recession, businesses have opted to adopt lean manufacturing strategies to cut costs and reduce waste. A philosophy as much as a business strategy, lean manufacturing, when implemented appropriately has proven to eliminate waste, enhance production processes, and assist organizations to adopt more sustainable business practices.

To fully understand and appreciate the recent unprecedented interest and uptake of lean manufacturing strategies, it is vitally important to identify the subtle forces, in the form of business trends, influencing companies to climb in bed with lean manufacturing. Some of these trends include the following:

The Green Revolution

Without doubt, the green revolution has had a profound effect on almost every facet of business organizational and operational structure. Corporate social responsibility and sustainability programs have become more of a necessity than a privilege. Couple this with an ever-increasing environmentally conscious consumer, and you will appreciate that businesses cannot afford to appear wasteful.

Lean manufacturing is essentially based on the idea of sustainable development and the production of less waste – where waste refers to any activity that does not provide added value to the end customer. To achieve the preservation of this value and, therefore, cut costs and waste, companies will redesign their systems to streamline production processes and supply chain operations. Indirectly, this may also reduce the company’s carbon footprint, thereby boosting its green business reputation.

After Shocks of Global Recession

Although the global economy is showing signs of recovery, albeit at a snail’s pace, most businesses are still struggling to remain profitable. Budget cuts, layoffs and downsizing are some of the challenges many businesses are facing.

Lean strategies have been successfully applied to salvage companies struggling in these dire times. By assisting companies to reduce waste and streamline operations, significant savings have been achieved, giving businesses a fighting chance. Most businesses have adopted lean manufacturing strategies out of necessity to remain operational amidst the market jitters, and in an attempt to gain a competitive business advantage (arguably, also a method of organizational survival).

Information Technology Trends

Advancements in informational technology and the recent surge of business-focused innovations have greatly impacted how organizations are currently run. Applications and software that monitor, evaluate, control, and automate processes are redefining and reorganizing business operations. (For an example of, see this post on Microsoft Dynamics AX).

Case in point, lean manufacturing software has been designed to assist manufacturers to monitor stock levels, reduce inventory, match product demand to supply, and identify points of waste. These types of software are widely preferred because they are not prone to human errors; and provide reliable decision-making input that leads to faster and more efficient production practices.

Quality and Efficiency Trends

As noted earlier, lean manufacturing borders on the realms of philosophy and strategy. Recent quality and efficiency trends underpin this argument by supporting lean manufacturing principles of waste reduction in order to cut costs.

Some of these quality and efficiency trends include the following strategies: Theory of Constraints, which adopts a scientific approach to identify constraints or bottlenecks in the production process and formulate solutions to eliminate them; Distributed Order Orchestration (DOD), a strategy for boosting customer satisfaction through enhanced operational efficiency; and Six Sigma, which focuses on reducing flaws in the production process and enhancing customer satisfaction.

Each of these approaches promotes and supports the concept of lean manufacturing.

In summary, most businesses will continue to adopt lean strategies in their production processes due to both internal and external pressures to improve production efficiencies and cut costs. As illustrated above, there are various trends influencing businesses to adopt lean strategies, but one thing is certain: lean manufacturing as a business strategy will be sticking around.

Are there other trends you see as driving the prominence of lean manufacturing? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below!

Author Bio: Lee House is the Vice President of Advanced Manufacturing Software, a manufacturing software solution powered by Microsoft Dynamics AX that supports next generation lean manufacturing practices.

Barcode Software. Dynamic Systems asset tracking software gives you all the tools you need to manage your company’s resources – reducing costs, shortening cycle time, and increasing profitability in return.



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