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Lean Manufacturing Terminology

Lean Manufacturing Terminology

To get a better understanding of the principles of the lean manufacturing strategy, it is essential that you be familiar with the terms associated with it. This article will serve as your guide to lean manufacturing terminology.
Mukulika Mukherjee
Lean manufacturing, also referred to as lean production, is a production practice that considers any excess, in terms of resources, time, manpower, space or inventory, as a waste and aims at eliminating it. According to the principles of lean manufacturing, the sole purpose of resources of all kinds should be addition of value to the end product that reaches the customer. It focuses on producing better quality products in a shorter span of time, and using fewer resources. This production strategy, which aims at implementing Kaizen or continuous improvement, was formulated by the famous Japanese industrialist Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Industries. The ability of lean manufacturing to increase the profits of a company has been proven, of sorts, after the remarkable growth of Toyota into the largest automobile company in the world.

Today, lean manufacturing is the globally accepted strategy for companies that aim at optimum use of resources, maximizing profits, and staying ahead of its competitors. Let us have a glance at important terms associated with lean manufacturing in the subsequent part of the article.

Terms Associated With Lean Manufacturing

Here you'll find a glossary of terms associated with lean manufacturing that have been arranged in an alphabetical order.

The 5S tell us how to achieve organization at the workplace in a systematic way. They are Seiri (Organization), Seiton (Orderliness), Seiso (Cleanliness), Seiketsu (Standardization) and Shitsuke (Discipline). It is considered as the first step to implementing lean production principles.

A visual signal that is used to indicate that the production process needs to be stopped temporarily, due to a problem.

Autonomation (Jidoka)
This implies that the manufacturing process be stopped the moment any defect is detected.

Balanced Production
The production at a manufacturing plant is said to be "in balance" when it meets the market demand, or the demands of the customers.

Batch Production
It is the term used to represent mass production, as suggested by Henry Ford. Lean manufacturing strategy deems such a method of production to be inefficient in the long run.

Benchmarking refers to the comparison of the product success of a company, to that of its competitors. This helps the company to identify its strengths and weaknesses.

A bottleneck refers to a resource or a step in the manufacturing process that is responsible for slowing down the entire process.

Breakthrough Improvement (Kaikaku)
This stands for an improvement of greater scale, brought into effect by a series of smaller continuous improvements (Kaizen).

Cellular Manufacturing
Cellular manufacturing refers to work area layouts that are aimed at minimizing the distance between processes, and thus the time taken by the workers to pass parts to each other. Typically, U-shaped work-cell configurations are preferred, but they can also be polygonal, circular, T-shaped, V-shaped, etc.

Chaku is the Japanese word for load, which means chaku-chaku translates to load-load. It is a process whereby the only human involvement in the entire manufacturing process, is simply loading each machine in a sequence, while the rest of it is automated i.e. carried out by machines.

Change Agent(s)
It refers to the people who are responsible for implementing the principles of lean manufacturing in the company.

The process whereby a machine switches manufacturing from one product/part to another. The time taken for the changeover process to take place is termed as the changeover time.

Concurrent Engineering
It is a methodology that aims at performing all the tasks associated with the manufacturing of a product (such as designing, development, procurement, etc) simultaneously. This can be achieved with the help of the following:
  • Cross-functional teams
  • Concurrent product realization
  • Incremental information sharing
  • Integrated project management
Any factor that comes in the way of achievement of goals or improvement of performance, is termed as a constraint.

Continuous Flow
This is just the opposite of the method of batch production devised by Henry Ford. It signifies continuous production through a system of one-piece flow, without grouping the product into lots.

Current State Map
The purpose of the current state map is to illustrate the current state of production, and how it is different from the ideal scenario.

Cycle Time
The total time taken, from start to finish, for producing an individual unit, is called the cycle time. Ideally, the cycle time should be equal to the takt time for prevention of waste in the manufacturing process.

Distribution Management
Keeping a track of the customers' demands and then deciding the quantity of production required, is termed as distribution management. In short, it is all about letting the demand decide the supply of products, to reduce wastage due to overproduction.

Error and Mistake Proofing (Poka-Yoke)
It is a method of designing the production system in such a way that there isn't any scope or possibility for any errors, whatsoever.

External Setup
External setup refers to the steps in the manufacturing process that do not require the machine to stop running, for them to be executed. These procedures are designed such that they can be performed even when the machine is in operation. It's a part of the Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) method.

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
It is a systematic method of analyzing potential failure modes (errors or defects in the manufacturing process), and removing the causes of potential failures from the system, with minimum expenditure of resources.

Five Why's
This is one of the important principles laid down by Sakichi Toyoda. He said that, in order to find the root cause of a problem, it is essential to ask "why" five times. This way it becomes easier to determine what was the cause of the problem in the first place. Once the cause becomes evident, effective steps can be taken to solve the problem.

First In First Out (F.I.F.O.)
This is another lean manufacturing principle which says that whatever comes in first, should be processed first. This implies that orders should be delivered based on which order was placed first, as this is essential for customer satisfaction.

The literal meaning of Gemba in Japanese, is "the actual site". In context of lean manufacturing, however, it refers to the place where the product gets value attached to it, i.e. the manufacturing unit.

The literal meaning of Gembutsu in Japanese, is "the actual product". This refers to all the equipment, machines, and raw materials that are used for manufacturing the product.

In Japanese, Genjitsu refers to the "actual facts" concerning the problem, which help us to understand the problem at hand, more clearly.

Hoshin Kanri
This refers to the process of determining the resources required and the specific steps that need to be taken, to accomplish the key goals of the firm. Hoshin Kanri breaks the ultimate goals into smaller targets that can be easily achieved.

Internal Setup
Set-up procedures that can be undertaken only when the machine is stopped, which refers to changing dies or other components, are collectively termed as internal setup. The objective of the Single-Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) method, is a rapid changeover brought about by reducing the internal setup time to less than 10 minutes.

Ishikawa Diagrams
Commonly known as the cause-and-effect diagrams or the fish-bone diagrams, the Ishikawa diagrams show the various factors responsible for bringing about an effect. These diagrams are used to study the causes of defects, to bring about improvements in the manufacturing process.

Just in Time
A strategy that focuses on organizing raw materials, manpower and equipment to ensure delivery of the high quality finished product to the customers, as and when they ask for.

It stands for an attitude to bring about continuous improvement by setting small targets, which makes it easier to achieve the ultimate goal.

In lean manufacturing terminology, Kanban stands for a signal.

The time required for a product to reach the customer, after he has placed an order for the same, is known as the lead-time. One of the objectives of lean manufacturing is to cut the lead-time.

The literal meaning of Muda in Japanese, is waste. It refers to the seven wastes identified in lean terminology, according to which, anything that creates no value, in spite of utilization of resources, is termed as a waste.

Non-value Adding
Used to refer to activities or processes that do not result in any net value. It is a form of Muda or waste.

The steps that constitute the manufacturing process, from the raw material stage to the finished product, are referred to as operations.

Process is a set of activities that are responsible for manufacturing a finished product from raw materials.

A working model or representation of a product that is not yet out in the market, which is meant for testing purposes.

Quality Audit
One of the major advantages of lean manufacturing is the quality audit. It is a systematic examination of the different departments in a company, to ensure that the quality control steps implemented by the company, meet the quality standards set by the lean manufacturing strategy.

A standard for quality, as used by the American Automobile Manufacturers for their suppliers.

Real Value
Real value refers to the features and benefits of the product that the customer is happy to pay for.

Rapid Prototyping
The testing of new ideas and concepts regarding designs and products, as against beginning with the manufacturing process right away, is termed as rapid prototyping. This is done to prevent wastage of resources behind production of non-feasible products.

Standard Work
Setting specific steps that need to be followed for the completion of work, is termed as standardization of work. The purpose of standard work is to eliminate wastes and do away with any errors, ensuring high quality every time.

Takt Time
Takt time can be calculated by a simple formula: Daily requirement of production / Number of working hours per day. The purpose of keeping track of takt time is to balance the rate of production with the customers' demands.

Throughput is defined as the rate of completion of a process.

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)
It is a system formulated for the effective maintenance of inventory and equipment, to tackle maintenance problems at an initial stage. This is to prevent them from turning to major issues that may lead to breakdown of equipment.

Total Quality Management (TQM)
Similar to TPM that addresses maintenance issues, TQM is a system meant for tackling quality issues at any stage, immediately, before they are carried on to subsequent stages, affecting the manufacturing process.

Value Stream
The value stream represents the sequence of steps that are required to get the product through the three crucial stages of management, namely, problem solving, information management and physical transformation.

So, that was a brief introduction to lean manufacturing terminology. If this has aroused your interest to know more about this effective strategy, you can refer to the many books on the subject. In case, you are planning to start a business, don't forget to inculcate lean manufacturing as a part of your business strategy.