What is Lean for Manufacturing?

Lean for Manufacturing

What is Lean for Manufacturing?

When it comes to manufacturing processes, the term lean refers to a state of manufacturing that has reduced waste in order to optimise production. 

Lean manufacturing aims to identify all areas of waste in a company (wasted time, resources, energy, etc.). Then, a company can work to eliminate waste and change processes to be more efficient and competitive. Read on to learn more about what is lean for manufacturing, its benefits, and how it all started.

A Brief Introduction to Lean for Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is a type of business process improvement that seeks to eliminate waste, improve company efficiency, optimise processes, cut expenses, become innovative, and more. Companies try to achieve these goals via various concepts, tools, and practices.

In the end, lean manufacturing helps companies move efficiently as the marketplace continues to change regularly. Lean manufacturing uses various tools and concepts like improvement, flexibility, automation, and more.

Tools and Strategies of Lean for Manufacturing

There are various tools that companies use to implement the lean strategy. In order to eliminate waste and reduce cost, companies will use the following strategies:

  • Rank order clustering
  • Control charts
  • Value stream mapping
  • Poka-yoke (error proofing method)
  • Total productive maintenance
  • The Toyota way (this method is a bit alternative to the others but aims to improve the workflow in order to eliminate unevenness rather than waste)
  • 5S (workplace organisation methods)
  • Single-point scheduling

Types of Waste Lean Manufacturing Eliminates

Waste in a company goes beyond just money, time, and resources. Waste can even come down to the individual employee level, where a company evaluates who is wasting away time or not getting work done right on the first try. 

Waste in lean manufacturing involves three terms:

  1. Muda – Muda refers to waste in the form of work that doesn’t add any value to the company. 
  2. Mura – Mura refers to waste in the form of unevenness (fluctuating demands in the market). 
  3. Muri – Muri refers to waste in the form of overburden. Poor resource allocation (trying to do too much at once) leads to overburden. 

Key Lean Manufacturing Concepts

Lean manufacturing is a set of principles that address a larger goal. The following concepts of lean each play a role in creating company efficiency and conservation. 


Automation is a concept used in lean manufacturing that seeks to make processes more efficient with automation. Automated processes guarantee consistency, which means less errors and waste overall when properly implemented. 

Minimisation of Waste

Perhaps the more obvious concept of lean strategies, minimising waste is something companies always keep in mind when lean manufacturing. This means looking for waste in all areas of the company, from employee idleness to waste of utility resources or cashflow. 

Perfect First-Time Quality 

This is the idea that if you can do certain tasks or operations perfectly on the first try, you can reduce waste. It aims to reduce wasted time, resources, and more, although methods like automation may be necessary to achieve this concept.

Continuous Improvement

A company can’t hope to remain efficient if they don’t continually strive to improve. Continuous improvement is a concept that values operational choices you can tweak and improve in the future to become even more efficient.


Continuous improvement is a good segue into flexibility since you need it for improvements to keep happening. A company must be flexible in its processes so it can reduce waste. For example, if you improve a process but don’t allow a way to change it easily in the future, you could be wasting a lot of time and energy.

Optimising Long Term Relationships with Vendors

Optimal vendor management is another key concept of lean manufacturing. It costs a lot of money to change suppliers at a business since turnover often means changing costs and less opportunity to get good deals. Long term relationships formed with vendors leads to opportunities to get discounts, buy in bulk for cheaper, and stay consistent with costs. 

Load Levelling

Load levelling is a way of reducing the frequent and larger fluctuations in customer demand. Companies can either level by volume or level by product. 

Pull Processing

Pull systems attempt to reduce waste by only providing what the customers need at a given time. The company will only replace products or materials as needed and once they are out of stock. This method solely meets customer demand so that money is not wasted on goods that may wait a long time to finally sell.

History of Lean Manufacturing and How it Started

Lean manufacturing traces its roots back to the Toyota Production System. After World War II, Toyota gained success by adopting American production techniques, like those of Henry Ford and Edwards Deming.

Toyota sought to involve employees in the company processes together. They also started to make processes that improved efficiency and quick changes. Eventually, American companies saw the success of Toyota and started adopting their optimised methods but with new names. 

Americans called these processes World Class Manufacturing, Stockless Production, etc. Nowadays, these methodologies have been fine-tuned into what we now call lean manufacturing. 

You can learn more about the history of Lean Manufacturing here.

Benefits of Lean for Manufacturing

There are many benefits to using lean manufacturing in a company. Namely, lean manufacturing leads to: 

  • Reduction or elimination of waste – this is perhaps the most obvious benefit but is also one of the most important
  • Increased profits and financial improvements – overall, lean manufacturing leads to higher profit margins considering the contrasting lack of wasted funds in the manufacturing process
  • More customer satisfaction – lean manufacturing seeks to meet the customer’s values, so by following this concept you can satisfy more customers
  • Speed – improving processes and reducing waste can lead to faster and better processes overall
  • Improvement to company morale – lean manufacturing has principles that value teamwork


When most people ask what is lean for manufacturing? they don’t often realise that lean manufacturing is more than just reducing waste. 

Originating in the mid-20th century, lean manufacturing is a set of concepts, tools, and strategies for saving time and money, improving customer satisfaction, and making enhancements to a company’s overall processes.

Interested in implementing lean manufactuing in your business?

Our lean programme has run for over 18 years helping over 650 companies accross many sectors. It has identified £65 million in business savings and improvements since its conception. You could also attract funding of up to 95% of the costs.

Find out more by following the link below.


Do you want us to take care of your fire compliance? H&S compliance? ISO certification? training? human resources?

At RKMS we are determined to make a business run as efficiently as possible. Will that next business be yours?

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Do you want us to take care of your fire compliance? H&S compliance? ISO certification? training? human resources?

At RKMS we are determined to make a business run as efficiently as possible. Will that next business be yours?

John Keen
Apart from work John enjoys sports (football, karate & walking) as well as travel & spending time with friends & grandchildren.

Do you want us to take care of your fire compliance? H&S compliance? ISO certification? training? human resources?

At RKMS we are determined to make a business run as efficiently as possible. Will that next business be yours?