Some examples of lean manufacturing include minimizing inventory, simplifying changeover routines and reducing employee wait times. Lean manufacturing involves finding ways to reduce all types of waste in the manufacturing process. This process is common in the automobile manufacturing industry.
Lean manufacturing starts with the premise that anything that doesn't add value to the customer is waste. Typical areas of waste include transportation, inventory, motion, wait periods, over-processing, overproduction and defective end products. Transportation is reduced by storing products at the manufacturing or sales site. Inventory is kept small to avoid storage costs and waste. Motion is minimized by storing things in logical places and setting up assembly lines to keep workers in place. Reductions in wait periods come from proper timing in the manufacturing process. Over-processing is avoided by keeping product improvement to those areas that customers really want. By avoiding overproduction, manufacturers avoid being left with unsold products. Quality control is increased to avoid defective products that are returned and need to be repaired.
The lean manufacturing movement started in the 1980s with the Toyota Production System. A key factor in lean manufacturing is getting employee feedback in all areas of production. Those workers directly involved in the manufacturing process often experience the production of waste and have good ideas on ways to prevent it.