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What is Lean Manufacturing?

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, normality in the UK and across much of the Globe has disintegrated in a matter of weeks. According to the Independent, the British public have stored approximately £1bn worth of essential items, leaving supermarket shelves scarce. Despite urges from the government to refrain from panic buying, shortages continue as manufacturers struggle to keep up with the growing demand. Elsewhere, car and hair dryer manufacturers including Dyson across the UK are being called upon to produce emergency medical supplies for hospitals.

Suppliers of household items, food, and medical essentials have had to increase production. Now is the time to improve the quality of our current production systems, with a focus on lean manufacturing principles. The ongoing situation is likely to present job opportunities to those with the right skill sets. Sign up to our job alerts for the latest jobs or view the latest opportunities via CBSbutler’s Manufacturing Recruitment Division.

What is lean manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing is all about improving the efficiency and performance of production processes while eliminating waste. When it comes to production, waste can be defined in many ways. It might occur due to insufficient use of the workforce; waiting time between production steps; issues with transportation; defects and mistakes; or problems with overproduction and storage.

Lean manufacturing prioritises not just waste elimination but also automation, pull processing, flexibility, and continuous improvement. There are a number of tools and strategies which lean facilitators may adopt to organise production. One example is ‘5S’, which involves five key steps.

  • Sort (get rid of what you don’t need)
  • Set in order (organize your resources)
  • Shine (inspect areas and keep things clean)
  • Standardize (create clear standards)
  • Sustain (ensure the application of standards)

The concept of lean relies upon eliminating any item or activity which eats up resources and fails to add value. Manufacturers need to adopt lean thinking in every aspect of their operations, from design to distribution. Due to current events, supermarkets are reducing the production of certain products to focus on the essentials. Morrisons have cut their extensive line of pastries from seventeen products to only seven. Tesco have similarly focused on producing larger milk cartons over small ones because consumers need long-term products.

A lean approach is all about analysing your processes and getting rid of any steps which are generating waste or slowing down production efficiency. Demand will likely increase for Lean Manufacturing Engineering Managers, Lean Facilitators, Manufacturing Engineers and Production Operatives. Those with related skills may be interested to know what a few of these roles involve.

Lean Manufacturing Engineering Managers

Lean Manufacturing Managers are responsible for leading projects intended to implement Lean and Six Sigma. Common focuses and duties include optimising lean manufacturing; developing cost reductive yet quality retaining solutions; carrying out design and development processes; evaluating processes to make improvements; and training supervisors and operators.

Manufacturing Engineers

A manufacturing engineer works to improve and develop manufacturing procedures by studying various methods and the product itself. Manufacturing engineers use research and design to evaluate manufacturing processes. They also test manufacturing equipment and methods and confer with the appropriate vendors. Other responsibilities include ensuring process quality; and making decisions related to materials or labor.