The History of Lean Manufacturing Practices

Lean training in manufacturing refers to a set of practices that are taught to individuals in a company, who can then introduce continuous change practices, cutting measures, and energy and waste reduction throughout the company.

Lean certification has many components, and was developed as an identifiable program back in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Lean training came out of an industry program known as Six Sigma. Six Sigma refers to the levels of training received through a design and implementation process, where different color belts are awarded, similar to judo, as each level is successfully achieved. Six Sigma tends to focus specifically on the design and implementation process, where lean has evolved into a broader, company-wide process including business units, as well as technical and production units.

One of the important aspects of the lean manufacturing process is the inclusion of the Kaizen method for continuous improvement. Kaizen is a Japanese word. It became known in the United States after World War II, when Japanese manufacturing techniques were being closely examined following the war. The word literally means “change for the better”, and involves workers at every stage of a production being aware of productivity and waste, and having a plan in place to communicate changes that can quickly be implemented into the process. The Kaizen methods have been taught separately for decades, but recently have been incorporated into the broader philosophy of lean manufacturing.

As Six Sigma became increasing popular, and manufacturing companies began training many of their employees in the practices, the short comings of the Six Sigma program became easier to identify. Because efficiencies were taking place only in design and implementation departments, the other parts of the company would actually hinder the process by not being able to keep up. If a procurement department is using old methods of ordering and receiving parts, and the rate of using those parts increases, the inefficiencies in the procurement department are going to be made visible to upper management.

This is also true in business departments. If the movement of capital in a company is slow, or moving at a rate that is not efficient, then cannot be made available fast enough to allow expansion along with the demand created by the design and implementation departments.

Lean certification broadened the training, and included all aspects of a company with regards to continuous improvement and cost cutting. As a result, entire businesses can be transformed into highly efficient and lean units which can quickly respond to the changes in demand, and to the continuous change process.

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