Lean principles have been around for centuries, but have only recently started to make big moves in the business world. They are particularly growing in popularity in the world of manufacturing, where the small, incremental changes required by lean principles means that the efficiency and speed of the production process is vastly improved, not to mention the better quality of service or product offered to the customer. Lean isn’t something that can be used once in your business and then forgotten about – it’s a long-term philosophy that often requires challenging old ways of thinking and encouraging a culture of constant improvement in your business.
The world that we are currently living in has become more and more demanding and fast-paced, and, as a result, there’s never been a more important time for businesses to develop the ability to consistently, continuously improve in order to ensure that customer expectations and demands are met. Many businesses today operate in a very high-pressure environment and applying lean methodologies allows them to enjoy a range of benefits including gaining a clear competitive advantage. So, how exactly can lean manufacturing benefit your organization?
Lean principles are designed to eliminate physical waste as much as possible. Not only does this mean reducing physical waste through strategies such as being smarter about the number of items kept in inventory at any given time, but also by eliminating tasks that waste time and do not provide value to the customers, such as producing unnecessary materials, collecting unnecessary data, slow systems, or locating poorly-stored equipment and tools. While these tasks might seem insignificant alone, they can easily add up to huge amounts of waste over time. Removing these wasteful processes not only allows your business to improve productivity overall but also means that the team is more likely to be able to invest their time in activities that directly benefit the customer.
Since lean allows you to streamline your operational processes and is based on iterative changes, it makes it easier for you to immediately meet customer demands, even if this means making changes throughout the production process. Now, you’ll be in a position where you can provide your customers with the confidence in your business that they need in order to come to you with a request to get the product that they need right at the time that they need it.
Once all wasteful activities have been removed from the production process, the operations tend to run more smoothly. Since implementing lean principles means that fewer steps are involved, it tends to offer significant reductions in issues such as bottlenecks, interruptions, errors, and delays. Implementing lean principles in your business means that you can usually expect a better chance of things running smoothly throughout the production timeline with high-quality results at the end. Find out more about the principles and benefits of waste elimination in lean here.
Sometimes, it can feel like serious errors and defective products can appear out of nowhere when using more traditional manufacturing methods. However, employing lean principles throughout the timeline of production means that you can significantly reduce errors and defects or even eliminate them altogether. This is because rather than waiting until the end of the process to test the product and discover whether or not it’s working correctly, lean principles require regular iterative testing that allows you to determine and repair any faults or potential issues as soon as they arise.
Faster Product Delivery:
Lean principles and their effectiveness at eliminating waste mean that you can complete products and have them ready to present to customers as quickly as possible. With so many new options available these days, customers are not used to waiting for long periods of time for new products so the faster you can produce them, the better. If you take too long, you risk having a competitor swoop in with something that’s delivered faster. Lean principles focus on cutting out wasted time and focusing on getting high-quality products out to customers in record time.
Improved Product Quality:
Reaching the end of the production timeline only to find that one small error has gone unnoticed and lessened the quality of the end result can be seriously frustrating. But, it happens all the time with traditional waterfall manufacturing methods and in some cases, it can have devastating results with significant amounts of money lost and serious reputation damage done. Lean principles work to reduce the risk of this by providing your business with the toolkit that it needs to quickly solve problems and identify even the smallest of errors through iterative testing as and when they occur rather than waiting until the end of the process. This allows you to implement error-proofing, correct errors as and when they arise, and prevent the problem from occurring again in the future. As a result, you can expect a much higher quality product.
More Customer Satisfaction:
So far, the many benefits that you can gain from using lean principles can bring about a serious improvement to customer satisfaction levels. When manufacturing businesses improve the value that they add to the customer and produce exceptional quality products in record time, customers are naturally going to get a good impression of your brand as one that they can rely on to deliver.
Safer Working Conditions:
Along with providing employees with a happier, more motivated and more productive place to work overall, lean principles can also benefit your employees by boosting the safety of their workplace. Lean principles are not only about reducing waste, but also reducing the risk of harm to teams. Lean principles mean less inventory, which results in less clutter around the workplace and a reduced risk of trip and fall accidents. And, applying lean principles for the smart and strategic organization of equipment and tools allows employees to enjoy more safety when they are finding the tools they need to do their jobs well. Lean includes several techniques for safety including Total Productive Maintenance techniques, which significantly reduce the risk of injuries and accidents due to faulty equipment.
Boost Workplace Morale:
While lean methodologies do have the customers at their heart and center, the benefits of implementing lean in your business aren’t limited to customers alone. Lean principles can lead to several benefits among your employees. A culture of ongoing process improvement and problem-solving means that teams are often more motivated to perform at their best, and providing them with the tools to improve their approach often makes it easier for goals to be met. Employee morale is boosted when teams are provided with the resources that they need immediately, clarity about which tasks are being worked on at any given time, and less time spent on time-wasting administrative tasks.
Companies that implement lean successfully often experience further perks like less sick days, better teamwork, improved staff turnover, more loyalty from employees, and better working relationships between employees. Lean methodologies allow employees more control over their role in the organization and improve trust in their employer, which in turn can produce several further benefits. Companies with a strong workplace morale and high levels of employee satisfaction tend to have better reputations, produce better results, and are places where the best professionals want to work.
Improved Bottom Line:
Whatever type of products or software your company produces, the benefits explored so far will all have one major benefit in common for your company; they are likely to improve your bottom line in some way. Improved productivity and operations allows you to produce more products without spending more time or money, while increasing flexibility means that there’s a lower risk of finding faults at the end of the production process and needing to start again from the beginning or put release dates on hold while errors are corrected. Applying lean principles of waste reduction means that when it comes to inventory, you can often save a lot of money by only keeping the exact amount of stock that you need at any given time. Happier employees are more likely to be motivated to perform at their best and add to the already high standard of customer satisfaction gained from producing products that are reliable and available quickly.
Overall, lean methodologies are centered around reducing waste and providing value to the customer, which will have a direct effect on your bottom line. By being able to produce more high-quality, customer-ready products in less time, you will not only reduce production costs significantly but also build a better relationship with your customer base and encourage them to return to your brand and purchase more.
While lean methodologies are very customer-centric with the main outcome of providing as much value as possible to customers, there are many benefits of lean that go much further than the customers. From reduced costs to improved safety, faster product delivery, more employee satisfaction and everything in between, companies that implement lean methodologies in their manufacturing process can benefit in many different ways.