Lean Production is a system of production developed in the production of automobiles. Originally developed for Toyota and by Toyota, it is also known as the Toyota Production System (TPS), and also the ‘just-in-time’ production system.
This system of production owes its conception to an engineer Taiichi Ohno who was working with Toyota. He focused on eliminating waste in war-torn Japan, and also on empowering the workers. He also reduced kit-inventory and improved productivity. In doing so he went against the philosophy of Henry Ford who believed in shoring up resources in anticipation of what could be required in the future. To overcome the futuristically envisaged shortage of manufacturing resources, as Ford had done before him, the management team at Toyota built partnership with the suppliers! By making the maximum use of multi-skilled employees available at the factory, Toyota was able to flatten their management structure and focus their resources in a flexible manner. Being an in-house and smooth transition and also due to aftermath of the 2nd World War, Toyota was able to make the changes quickly. Toyota emerged way ahead of its competitors by doing so.
The 10 rules of Lean Production can be best described as under:-
- Minimize inventory
- Eliminate waste
- Maximize flow
- Pull production from customer demand
- Do it right the first time
- Meet customer requirements
- Design for rapid changeover
- Empower workers
- Partner with suppliers
- Create a culture of continuous improvement.
For a lay man the word ‘Lean’ would be best explained by the simple language – ‘creating more value for customers with lesser resources’. In order to achieve this, ‘lean’ thinking changes the focus of the management from optimizing separate technologies, vertical departments and vertical assets to optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams that flow horizontally across technologies, departments and assets to customers. This can be achieved by eliminating waste along the entire value stream, instead of isolated cases. It can also be done by creation of processes that require less human effort, less space and less time to increase production. In Lean Production the value of the customer is recognized, and every effort is made to multiply it.
Today, the Lean system is being adapted by every organization. The lean system applies not only to the production line but to every business and every process. In plain words, it is not a tactic or a program but a way of life and thought, not for an individual only but for the complete organization.
Some organizations prefer not to use the word ‘lean’ and use their own nomenclature, e.g.; the Toyota Production System (TPS). Most companies do so to demonstrate that the program is not a short-term cost reduction program as visualized by the general public. They want the public to know the way the company thinks, and operates and conducts its business.Just as a carpenter needs a vision of what to build to get the full benefit of a hammer, Lean thinkers also need a vision before picking up Lean tools.