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Shattering the Myths of Lean Manufacturing

After reading a recent LA Biz article discussing how lean manufacturing has a serious PR problem these days due to common misconceptions, we thought it might be a good idea to help get the word out about the enormous benefits of this approach to business. At Lyall, we’ve practiced lean manufacturing for 15 years, which has allowed us to strengthen a successful and growing company run by happy and successful employees. Following is a short breakdown of what lean manufacturing means, as well as some of the common myths regarding the approach.

What Lean Manufacturing Is Not :

Lean manufacturing is not the practice of mass layoffs. This is arguably one of the most pervasive and damaging myths giving lean manufacturing a bad name these days. In fact, the practice of lean continuous improvement is heavily dependent on employee input. To lay off the same workers who have provided the insight that has helped design lean practices within an organization would be crazy. Lean manufacturing is all about the continuous improvement of workplace conditions—and therefore efficiency—based on employees’ insights and expressed needs.

Lean manufacturing does not equal extra work. It’s really quite the opposite. The point of implementing lean practices is to render everyone’s jobs easier and more efficient.

Lean manufacturing is not operating without buffers or back stock. Anyone in manufacturing knows this would be pure insanity. What lean does mean is operating with controlled and well planned back stock to avoid losses.

Lean manufacturing does not mean penny-pinching at all costs. Every good businessperson knows that you have to spend money to make money. Continuous improvement through lean manufacturing means giving thoughtful consideration to where money is being spent, with a clear understanding that some best practices are expensive to implement but will pay off big time in the long run.

What Lean Manufacturing Is :

Lean manufacturing is maximizing customer value and employee morale while minimizing waste. To put it simply, continuous improvement through lean manufacturing provides customer satisfaction and keeps employees motivated and happy, profitably—making it truly a win-win.

Lean manufacturing is green. The EPA offers great insight in a recent article on EPA.gov, which reads, “Through its systematic focus on the elimination of non-value-added activity, lean manufacturing substantially improves the environmental performance of organizations. Reducing common types of manufacturing waste—defects, waiting, overproduction, movement, inventory, complexity, and unused creativity—yields a variety of environmental benefits, including less use of energy, water, and raw materials; reduced generation of solid and hazardous wastes; and lower emissions of hazardous air pollutants.”

Lean manufacturing is a way of thinking. Lean thinking is intended to create a lean business culture that facilitates sustainability by allying customer and employee satisfaction. The philosophy is intended to generate innovative products or services while maintaining profitability and minimizing over-costs to customers, suppliers and the environment. The goal of lean manufacturing is to train each member of a company so that they become lean thinkers, able to identify wasted time and effort and to work together to improve processes by eliminating this waste. This way of thinking allows an organization to deliver greater value with lower costs while garnering employee confidence, competence and collective morale.

To learn more about how Lyall implements continuous improvement through lean manufacturing, visit our Manufacturing Excellence page.