What is Lean Manufacturing, and Why Does It Matter to OEMs and Tier 1 Shops, Foundries, and Suppliers? Lean manufacturing isn’t new, but it is revolutionary. At Metrics Works we’ve been doing a lot of lean manufacturing training lately, so we wanted to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what we’re doing. More importantly, we wanted to share how training our team helps us deliver added value to automotive, industrial, medical, and agricultural OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers like you.

What Is Lean Manufacturing?

At its core, lean manufacturing is a commonsense approach that maximizes productivity while minimizing waste. As simple as it sounds, implementing lean manufacturing is never easy, nor is it every truly complete. That’s because lean manufacturing is both a philosophy and an approach to continuous improvement. It requires organization-wide commitment combined with implementation of best practice techniques throughout the entire supply chain. Here are just a few of the many benefits of lean manufacturing for us—and for you:
  • Improved cycle times
  • Increased efficiencies
  • Faster development
  • Decreased defects
  • Lower production costs
  • Less waste and waiting
  • Better inventory management
  • Enhanced customer service

When Did Lean Manufacturing Start?

There’s a bit of debate over whether lean manufacturing started with the first known use of the name in the 1990s, with a well-known Japanese auto manufacturer in the 1930s, or with an integrated production process that rolled out of Detroit in the early part of the 20th century. You can read a more robust version of lean’s history here. The short version, however, is that it doesn’t matter when lean manufacturing started. What matters is that lean manufacturing, done right, improves operational effectiveness and manufacturing excellence, resulting in delivery of the best possible parts at a fair price in the fastest possible time. Learn more about Metric Works’ commitment to delivering on lean manufacturing’s promise through what we call Last Mile Manufacturing.

The 5S Methodology

There’s a lot that goes into lean manufacturing, including various components and subprocesses, each of which serves a unique purpose and provides a specific outcome. Do a quick online search of the keywords “lean manufacturing” and you’ll be bombarded with 1+ million results, scads of research, and thousands of opinions about it. That’s why instead of talking more about lean manufacturing in general, we’re going to focus on is the 5S training we recently conducted with a pilot group of Metrics Work team members at our Effingham, Illinois, USA location.

What is the 5S Methodology?

5S is a series of process improvement practices designed to support manufacturing excellence. It helps organizations like ours to identify potential issues and resolve them in ways that:
  • Eliminate causes of defects
  • Reduce or remove redundancies
  • Improve changeover and handling times
  • Advance safety outcomes
Many (including us) consider 5S to be foundational to best-in-class lean manufacturing. In fact, the reason we’ve implemented 5S is simple: Our goal is to supply our customers with the right product in the right quantities at the right time.

Our goal is to supply our customers with

the right product in the right quantities at the right time.

Benefits of 5S

For us, 5S is a system that creates repeatable efficiencies that save us (and, ultimately, you) valuable time. Here are just a few of the many benefits of 5S:
  • Clean, well-organized workspaces
  • Visibly evident results
  • Inspired, motivated, and disciplined employees
  • Easier, safer work environment
  • Enhanced worker accountability and personal pride

5S Training: Top Takeaway

Like other aspects of lean manufacturing, 5S is not a “one-and-done” operational checklist. Instead, it’s a way of thinking and doing that is ingrained in our culture, so we can achieve small yet profound incremental improvements over time. Here’s how we summed up the biggest takeaway of 5S training for our team:

Don’t Let Perfect Get in the Way of Better