If you’re trying to launch a new product for your company, especially if you’re selling a physical product, there are a myriad of things you need to consider. The design, the overheads, the manufacturing, the supply chain, the list seems endless. Not to mention that you need to consider the costs of manufacturing.
That’s why it is important to take a step back from the project itself and focus on the specifics. For instance, the manufacturing part of it. We talked to manufacturing experts at Wunder-Mold about lean manufacturing. Here’s what they had to say about it.
What Is Lean Manufacturing
In simplest terms, lean manufacturing is a method that focuses on reducing waste to a minimum during manufacturing. The reasoning behind lean manufacturing is clear – it saves the material cost, as well as improves the product quality if done right. In a world with limited resources, as we’re living in, any kind of waste needs to be considered carefully.
What’s more, the waste itself is a serious problem that our environment is facing – which makes steps like introducing lean manufacturing a hugely important factor in helping protect the environment.
How Lean Manufacturing Came to Be
Many major companies are employing, or have promised to employ this strategy, including the world’s largest car manufacturer in the world – Toyota. In fact, it was through the case study of Toyota done by MIT that the world at large first got introduced to the concept of lean manufacturing.
There are five essential principles that lean manufacturing relies on in order to maximize the utilization of available resources and create the best product.
Learn What Your Consumers Value
It is your job as a manufacturer to create value for your customers. However, it is your customers that dictate what value really is to them and it is your job to adapt to that.
In terms of manufacturing, that means focusing on features your customers want, and not wasting time, money, and resources on things your customers aren’t interested in.
Follow the Life Cycle of Your Product
This step takes time, but it is worth putting in the time. What you need to do is track how your product is bought, used, and ultimately discarded during its life cycle.
The end goal is similar to the first principle – anything not useful in the life cycle of the product is a waste, and can be eliminated.
Create a Flow
In order to streamline manufacturing, you need to be aware of the whole process, from requisitioning materials to completion of the product.
Once you master this flow, you can ensure there are no unnecessary waiting times and halts in the production due to miscommunication or lack of material.
Build to Demand, Not Projections
If you start manufacturing your product without a clear demand for your product, you may just be wasting not just time, but also valuable resources.
Relying on projections to tell you how much of your product you will need may be a standard practice, but it is also a wasteful one – creating a surplus of product that may never be sold, i.e. waste.
Instead, rely on actual demand for your problem. Coupled with previous steps, this should ensure minimum waste overall.
Arguably the most important aspect of lean manufacturing, the concept of kaizen is not too familiar to people outside of Japan. However, it is fairly simple. It requires the manufacturer not to rest on their laurels after creating a product.
Instead, continually searching for ways to improve it and build upon it is the right way – this insistence on incremental, gradual improvement is often at odds with the business culture in the West, particularly the US, which is why this seems to be the concept of lean manufacturing that is the hardest to grasp.
However, things are changing. With new technologies come new players who don’t necessarily have to play by the established rules of the past and may be more amenable to adopting kaizen, and indeed all other aspects of lean manufacturing.