What is Lean Production?

The word lean refers to the “slim “that is used in manufacturing for the systematic designing that focuses on minimizing the waste in the manufacturing or production with the constant productivity of the operation. Lean manufacturing was rooted from Toyota Production system a Japanese manufacturing company that works on the approach of minimizing the non-value-added activities and making the production lean.

  • Lean manufacturing can be explained as the set of tools that are used by the operation department in the manufacturing or production of products for eliminating or reducing waste during production. Toyota Production system provides the methodology that works on lean production.
  • Lean manufacturing emphasizes producing the highest level of productivity or output with the minimum or lowest level of resources or input. The main objective of this approach is to eliminate the wastage associated with production. This helps in expanding the capacity, shortening the cycle time between the order place and the shipping time, and also helps in reducing the cost of production.
  • The lean production system was created or developed by Toyota Motor Corporation with the objective of improving the quality of the product, shortening the life cycle and eliminating the waste.

What is Waste?

The non-value-added activities or resources that leads to undesirable increase in the production cost can be considered as waste.

Types of Waste

The eight-waste described by the Toyota production system that has to be remove from the operation for making the optimum utilization of resources are as follows.

  • Excess production:  Excess production is waste as when components or products are produced before their requirement increases the inventory cost.
  • Inefficient processing: Poorly designed process can lead to human error, duplication of data, poor communication, overlapping of process, etc. This should be eliminated for optimized workflow.
  • Unnecessary movement or motions: Unnecessary motion and movement of people, equipment, and raw material will increase the time of the production, and result to increase cost and non-value-added time.
  • Excessive Inventory: excessive inventory will result in holding costs and is considered a form or type of waste during production.
  • Defective products: Defective products impact money, resources, time, and customer satisfaction, so defective product production should be eliminated from the operation.
  • Waiting time: Waiting for material, equipment, people, or process may lead to an increase in the cost of production, this is the non-value-added activity that should be eliminated during the production.
  • Unnecessary transportation: Poorly design of plant results he wastage of transportation as this impact the over headed cost like energy cost, fuel cost, and labor cost.
  • Non-Utilized talent: The management needs to ensure that potential or talented employees should be utilized as non-utilized talent leads to the wastage of potential.

Importance of lean Manufacturing

  • Easy management: Improving the process, eliminating the waste like unnecessary motion, movement, transportation, non-utilization talent, etc. leads to better and easy management.
  • Improved customer services: Improvement of quality of the product and process helps in improving customer services.
  • Increase profit: More productivity, better quality, and less waste will make more profit for the company.
  • Reduce the operating cost: Reduction in the waste such as excessive inventory, unnecessary transportation etc helps in reducing the operation cost associated with production.
  • Shorten the lead time: Lean production streamlined the processes and respond better to the demand fluctuations in the market that helps in improving the better lead time.
  • Improved continuous flow: Lean manufacturing emphasizes the continuous controlling and monitoring of the process of production that helps in the smooth and continuous workflow.
  • Improved the quality: The lean manufacturing focuses on zero-defect products and continuous monitoring is done during the production that leads to improvement in the quality of the product.

Difference between the Traditional Manufacturing and Lean Manufacturing

CriteriaLean ManufacturingTraditional Manufacturing
EmphasizesAchieving zero-defect productHigh productivity
ManagementEmphasizes controlling and use a Pull systemEmphasizes on planning and use Push system
InspectionInspection is done during the production or operationInspection is done on critical points
SuppliersSingle sourcingMultiple sourcing
Lead timeShorter or less lead timeLonger lead time
InventoriesMaintain minimum inventoryHave buffer inventories
MaintenanceFocuses on preventative measures and continuous checking of the machine is done during productionFocuses on corrective measures, machines are repaired after their break down

Types of Lean Manufacturing Techniques

  1. Kaizen: The term Kaizen in Japanese means is to ‘change for better “, so this approach emphasizes continuous improvement in effectiveness, productivity, safety, and employees. Kaizen's approach is based on continuous improvement and also focuses on involving all the employees in the management. This continuous improvement process leads to faster delivery, lower cost, improved quality, better safety, and customer satisfaction.


  • Improved Employees retention
  • Reduction in waste
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Employee’s commitment and satisfaction
  • Simplification of work

2.   5s System: Japanese words seiso, shitsuke, seiketsu, seiton, and seiri refers to clean, sustain, standardize, tidiness, and organize. These 5 words represent the step of the process used by lean production for eliminating or reducing waste. This methodology focuses on organizing the system and develop standardization. 

  • Organized: This is the first step that includes eliminating unnecessary items or clutter from the workplace.
  • Ordering or tidiness: once the wastages are removed, the department works on ordering and set an order that ensures everything at a place according to effective work
  • Clean: This is the next step that involves the cleaning of the workstation.
  • Standardization: There should be standardization of all the process, works, workers and equipment that helps in effective working.
  • Sustainability: The department then has to maintain constant and reinforce the steps of the methods.

 Benefits of 5s

  • Improvement efficiency
  • Reduced delay
  • Improved quality performance
  • Reduces accidents
  • Helps in quicker changeover

3. Kanban: Kanban is another methodology that was used in Toyota motor company that includes the scheduling system that is used in lean manufacturing that helps in removing or eliminating the overproduction waste and inventory by regulating the continuous and proper flow of the material and goods in the manufacturing. This method involves the process of translating to a visual signal or billboard, this signal helps the employees in controlling the inventory. A card is placed in the visible area of the station that is the signal of replenishing the inventory. So this concept helps in managing the smooth workflow and continuous improvement and reduces the overburdening on the team.


  • Focuses on continuous delivery
  • Increasing efficiency
  • Elimination in waste time and waste work
  • Flexibility
  • Increase in productivity
  • Prevents overproduction

4. Heijunka : The Japanese word for Heijunka means levelling. This technique is the part Toyota company that works on manufacturing smaller batches of products by making sequence varying products in the process according to the demand of customers.


  • Customer satisfaction
  • Improved deliveries time
  • Reduction in inventory cost
  • Helps in predictability regarding the production of goods.
  • Reducing the change over time in the process.
  • Consistency in Processes
  • Creating a balance between the use of machine and labor 

5.   Just In Time: Just in time is part of the philosophy of management that works on the concept of producing the product after the demand is placed and the emphasis on not hung up of inventory. This is an inventory system that helps in managing the inventories and helps in increasing the efficiency of the process.


  • Improve productivity
  • Improve supplier’s relationship
  • Reduce the time of manufacturing
  • Manage inventories
  • Reduced the storage cist
  • Waste elimination
  • Save resources
  • Minimize the waiting time

6. Poka-Yoke: Poka-Yoke, the the term refers to "mistake-proofing", this technique of lean production ensures to produce the quality product, with the objective of eliminating or minimizing defects by correcting, preventing, and identifying the human errors that can occur or arise during the operations. This technique is applied to any step of the process of manufacturing where there is the possibility of occurring human errors.


  • Eliminating the set-up errors
  • Lower cost
  • Increase safety
  • Quality management.

Context and Applications

This topic is significant in the professional exams for both undergraduate and graduate courses, especially for

  • MBA
  • BBA
  • B. Com
  • B. Com (Hons)
  • Total Quality Management
  • Just-In-Time
  • Six Sigma

Practice Problems

  1. Which is not the component of 5s approach?

a. Seiso

b. Shitsuke

c. Seiketsu

d. Sekoto


2. The Japanese word for Heijunka means?

a. Scheduling

b. Counting

c. Processing

d. Leveling


Want more help with your operations management homework?

We've got you covered with step-by-step solutions to millions of textbook problems, subject matter experts on standby 24/7 when you're stumped, and more.
Check out a sample operations management Q&A solution here!

*Response times may vary by subject and question complexity. Median response time is 34 minutes for paid subscribers and may be longer for promotional offers.

Search. Solve. Succeed!

Study smarter access to millions of step-by step textbook solutions, our Q&A library, and AI powered Math Solver. Plus, you get 30 questions to ask an expert each month.

Tagged in
BusinessOperations Management

Manufacturing systems

Lean manufacturing

Lean Production Homework Questions from Fellow Students

Browse our recently answered Lean Production homework questions.

Search. Solve. Succeed!

Study smarter access to millions of step-by step textbook solutions, our Q&A library, and AI powered Math Solver. Plus, you get 30 questions to ask an expert each month.

Tagged in
BusinessOperations Management

Manufacturing systems

Lean manufacturing