What is LEAN?

The definition of LEAN: LEAN is a method that reduces waste and maintains productivity. LEAN was developed in Japan under the Toyota Production System (TPS). It aims to reduce waste in an operation and show what adds value while removing what doesn’t. It is important to remember that LEAN requires time.

LEAN can be applied to any process. There are many different LEAN methods. We will discuss the eight types of waste LEAN aims to eliminate, and the Definition of LEAN principles, tools, and techniques that businesses all over the globe have adopted into their business processes.

The Eight Wastes of LEAN in manufacturing

We have already mentioned that the Definition of LEAN is about reducing waste and focusing on what adds value to your business, which in turn leads to more value for your customers. It is important to understand the diverse eight types of waste that can affect your lean business. There are eight types:

Lean wastes
What is lean in manufacturing?


The most obvious type of waste is defects. These are either scrap products or products that do not meet commercial specifications. These defects can lead to many kinds of waste, including one that we’ll discuss later: waiting. Defects can cause delays in delivery and logistical headaches, which will lead to customer dissatisfaction. Reworking defective products will also cost money. Your company will spend more time fixing defects and filing paperwork.


Businesses love to make enormous quantities. Although it may seem like a great idea at first, customers’ needs and market fluctuations change frequently, so production in bulk is not always a wise decision. Overproduction can lead to excess inventory, which in turn leads to storage costs like the cost of space and the cost of equipment and people to move the product.


Waiting is a side effect of many kinds of waste and can cause customer dissatisfaction. One way to think about waiting is that a customer or product might be ready to move on to the next stage (packaging or shipping, for example), but the next steps in your process aren’t ready. This could look like a waiting room in healthcare. This could look like downtime in manufacturing that causes packaging delays.

Under Utilized Talent

It is often overlooked that employees are a waste. Not using their talents and skills to their full potential can have an enormous impact on your bottom line. Neglecting to use talent is often a result of poor teamwork, ineffective communication, poor teamwork, and unneeded administrative tasks.


Transport is the movement or transport of goods from one place to another. This could be done in business by performing different tasks at various places. This could be, for example, manufacturing product parts in China and shipping them back to the U.S. to be assembled. This doesn’t add any value to the product. It doesn’t alter the result. And it costs more. Toyota’s production plant is near many of its suppliers, which can be seen in its setup.


Inventory waste is like overproduction. It occurs when your product sits there, waiting to be sold. Overproduction and inventory are different because inventory comes with a physical cost, while overproduction is assumed. Inventory waste is often caused by overproduction, which can be caused when you make more than what your customers need or assume that demand will continue to grow.


Unnecessary movement of people, machines, or other items that do not add value is called a waste of motion. This is also known as wasting time. This type of waste is often caused by not adhering to the 5s’ LEAN principle. Examples include employees searching for equipment or materials, and poorly designed workplaces.


Overprocessing refers to the addition of work that isn’t necessary. You will incur additional processing costs in the form time, materials, and equipment wear. These costs add up over time. This makes your process less efficient as employees who are performing extra processing tasks can be doing more value-adding tasks.

Definition of LEAN Manufacturing Principles, Techniques, and Tools to Consider

We now have an idea of the waste types we want to reduce, let’s look at the definition of LEAN tools and techniques that can help you minimize waste and maximize your production.

LEAN Principles
What is lean in manufacturing?

Definition of LEAN Kaizen

Kaizen is a Japanese word loosely translated as “continuous improvement”. Kaizen encourages teams to work together and share responsibility for their own areas of the company. Employees work together to make incremental improvements in manufacturing processes. Kaizen is a way to see the world. Employees should always strive for improvements in their workplace. This philosophy emphasizes the importance of everyone’s ideas and encourages all employees to get involved in improving the company. A company that practices kaizen is open to and not critical of suggestions for improvement at any level. This creates an atmosphere of mutual respect and open communication.

Definition of LEAN Kanban

Kanban is a system that regulates the flow of goods within and outside the factory. It helps reduce inventory and waste. It is also known as a “billboard” (or “visual signal”) and uses visual signals to assist employees in controlling inventory. To signal that inventory is low, a Kanban card can easily be placed in a visible location. This process allows companies to reduce inventory and minimize waste by only assembling products when they are needed. Kanban is very responsive to customers as it allows products to be made according to customer demand, rather than trying to predict future needs. Kanban’s basic form is to have three columns: “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.” This will allow everyone to know where they are in the process. You can label columns to match your project, and you can have as many columns as necessary.

Definition of LEAN manufacturing 5s Visual Management

Five Japanese words, seiri, seiton and seiketsu are the basis of the 5s system. These words mean to organize, tidy and clean, standardize, and sustain. These words represent a five-step process that reduces waste and increases productivity.

Definition of LEAN Just in Time (JIT)

Just in Time management is a philosophy that ensures that a product is produced when it’s requested by the customer. It also guarantees that the product will be delivered to the address where it is needed. This means that instead of stockpiling products to anticipate what your customers may want, you produce what they need when they order it. This allows you to allocate your resources (employees and machines, etc.). You can only do work that you will be paid for. Just in Time can help reduce inventory costs, space requirements, lead time, productivity, and other issues.

What is required to use Just in Time LEAN manufacturing? LEAN is a tool that works with many LEAN tools and techniques. This is what you will need to do to implement Just in Time.

  • JIT must have reliable equipment to function properly. It is impossible to have machinery that constantly breaks down or produces low-quality products.
  • JIT flow is best achieved by well-designed workspaces. To improve the flow and layout of your workspaces, use the 5s system.
  • Kaizen teams can improve the quality of your workforce. This allows employees to take control of their work areas.
  • Define the standards that should be used for each operation. JIT LEAN does not create inventory. It strives to produce according to customer demands. The Kanban technique indicates the need to go back to the prior process.
what is lean in manufacturing?
What is lean in manufacturing?

Definition of LEAN Poka-Yoke

Poka-Yoke, a Japanese term that translates to “mistake proofing”, is a technique to ensure your LEAN process produces high-quality products. Its purpose is to reduce or eliminate defects by correcting, preventing, or bringing to light human errors. Poka-yoke can be described as a situation in which a car equipped with a manual transmission requires that the driver steps on the clutch pedal to start the car. The poka-yoke (process, or step) for cars with an automatic transmission is the switch that puts the car in neutral or parks with the driver’s foot on the brakes before it starts.

Poka-yoke is a tool that can be used in manufacturing to correct human errors. A device that holds pieces of material for processing could be modified so that they can only be held in the right orientation for input. A digital counter that counts how many spot welds each piece has on it would be another example. This ensures that the welder is making the right number of welds.

Three types of poka-yoke are available to detect errors:

  • Contact methods are used to identify defects in products by testing their shape, size, and physical makeup.
  • The motion-step sequence (or motion-step) ensures that the required number of steps are followed for any given process.
  • If a predetermined number of movements are not executed, the fixed value (constant number), the method sends an alert to the operator.

The operator is usually notified when a mistake is imminent (known as a warning poke-yoke), or the poka-yoke device prevents the error from being made (known as the control poka-yoke). Poka-yoke can be used to reduce the cost of training operators, eliminate certain quality control operations, decrease the number of repetitive operations, reduce product rejections, improve quality control, and prevent defective products from reaching customers.

Definition of LEAN Heijunka

Heijunka, the Japanese term for “leveling,” is a method of manufacturing products in smaller batches. It involves sequencing various products within the same production process. You will need to implement Heijunka by setting the Takt time for your process. Takt time refers to the speed at which a customer orders a product or the time it takes to make the product. This means that you are matching your production rates with your customer’s requirements, creating a level process.

Definition of LEAN SMED

SMED (single-minute exchange of dens) is a method that reduces the time required to perform equipment changeovers. The SMED process has been shown to reduce changeover times by an average of 94 percent in multiple industries. SMED is a process that reduces waste and goes LEAN. The SMED process consists of a series of “elements”, which can be categorized into two types: external and internal. While internal elements must be completed when the equipment is turned off, external elements can be done while it is still running. SMED’s goal is to have as many elements outside as possible while streamlining and simplifying the rest

Benefits of LEAN in manufacturing

LEAN principles, techniques, and philosophies can give you a competitive edge by eliminating eight of the waste types mentioned earlier. Let’s look at real-world examples that show how LEAN in manufacturing has given companies an edge.

Final words

Around 60% of all production activities worldwide are waste. When it comes down, every company can improve its ability to minimize waste, make high-quality products, and lower overall production costs. It takes time to implement the tools, methods, and philosophies that we have discussed if you want to be LEAN. These techniques will help your team to reduce any of the eight types. They’ll just have to do their job.

It is important to remember the LEAN cycle when you are considering LEAN implementation. The LEAN cycle has five steps:

  • Value is what you should be focusing on. This involves thinking about the customer as a whole and what they value.
  • The value stream should be mapped. Organize all steps in your process. Get rid of any that don’t add value.
  • Establish flow. Find ways to streamline the steps so that the customer receives the most value.
  • Establish pull. Increase demand from your customers so that they are more interested in the product than you are trying to force on them.
  • Strive for perfection. LEAN is all about continuous improvement. When talking about LEAN and the implementation of LEAN principles, it is important to remember that people are also important. This means making it a core principle to ensure employees are happy and engaged in their work. People will lose respect for their colleagues and perform less well if they don’t feel valued.
What is lean in manufacturing?

How much does a Lean practitioner make? 

The average Lean Practitioner salary in the United States is $113,595 as of October 29, 2021, but the salary range typically falls between $105,460 and $123,484. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession (https://www.salary.com/research/salary/listing/lean-practitioner-salary).

LEAN Certification
LEAN Certification

Where can I find training to become a LEAN practitioner?

Six Sigma Development Solutions, Inc. has an excellent LEAN certification course. We are an Accredited Training Organization (ATO) with the International Association of Six Sigma Certification (IASSC). The LEAN certification course can be held either virtually, on-site (at your organization), or a hybrid of both. We also have virtual, live in-person, and hybrid public courses held monthly at our 50+ global training sites.

The course is full of games, videos, and simulations. We will be playing with dice, legos, and airplanes to make the LEAN Methodologies come to life. The instructors will keep you engaged and excited!

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