In the 1980’s, JIT manufacturing methods became prevalent as a way of reducing waste and enhancing value to the company.  A natural outgrowth of JIT or Just-in-time production is lean manufacturing, which focuses not just on raw material waste, but anywhere in the entire product flow process where waste can be eliminated.

Loosely based on the success of Toyota Corporation (which has a methodology known as TPS or Toyota Production System) and the early works of Henry Ford, lean manufacturing can be implemented in two ways – one which focuses mainly on reducing waste and one which is more process based.  All implementations of lean methodologies focus on using fewer resources, less space, less manpower, less capital and less time to produce products and services with fewer defects and more overall value to the end customer.

Lean manufacturing methods identify seven key “muda” or areas of waste after the production process is in place:

1)    Transportation, when used to move materials that are not actually used

2)    Inventory – which is everything not being processed now

3)    Motion – people or machinery being moved more than is necessary

4)    Waiting – any people or machinery waiting for the next production step

5)    Overproduction – production ahead of demand

6)    Over-processing – more production steps than necessary due to poor design or methodology

7)    Defects – quality issues, inspection of and repair of any defects in products

Two more items have been proposed by researchers as additions to these “seven deadly wastes” – one is the waste of human talent, and one is manufacturing goods or services that do not meet customer demand or specifications.

Two other types of wastes are also identified – “muri” or wastes that happen during the planning process that result in unreasonable work performed by employees, and “mura”, which is waste due to inconsistencies in the process – mostly resulting from inaccurate demand forecast and inventory planning. All these terms are Japanese words – as lean manufacturing has its roots in Japanese management style.

A more process flow-oriented approach would focus on getting the people and materials in the right places at just the right time to make the optimum product at the optimum cost and customer benefit.

Pharmaceutical consulting firms believe that lean manufacturing begins with lean thinking and leads to a green and sustainable business model with maximum profitability.  The success of Toyota Corporation is a shining example of what transforming your processes and manufacturing organization to a lean model can buy you long term.

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