Thinking Lean

by Todd McDonald on April 10, 2012

Google the definition of “lean manufacturing” and you will get a surprisingly wide variety of results. After sifting through these, we found one that seems to say it all:

Satisfying your Customers consistently through producing what they want, when they want it, by pulling it from the value stream using the minimum amount of resources through respecting and involving all of your employees in a continual process of improvement. – by LeanMan via What is Lean Manufacturing; Definition: Concepts: Principles

Which we think begs the question, couldn’t (and shouldn’t) these principles apply to much more than manufacturing?

As Jeff Rowe describes in a recent blog post, Moving Lean Manufacturing Beyond the Factory Floor, “lean manufacturing concepts have tended to focus strictly on the processes occurring only on the factory floor. Ironic, because to truly exploit all that lean processes have to offer can and should be deployed throughout a company — from the factory floor to the top floor”.

Following Rowe’s advice, and applying lean manufacturing principles throughout an entire company, a phenomenon called lean consciousness by the Lean Enterprise Institute, is not just an interesting trend for us here at TEQ – it’s a matter of survival. For example:

  • We use a single-source manufacturing ERP software (IQMS) to streamline our workflow processes
  • We implement a Kanban production scheduling system to accommodate our customers’ diverse needs for order fulfillment
  • We work with each of our material suppliers to ensure just-in-time (JIT) material delivery
  • We are moving towards a mobile CRM system to enable our remote employees use mobile devices to access and interact with customer data more efficiently
  • We implement the Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) tooling exchange method to dramatically reduce our tooling change over times
  • We have just added a rapid prototype machine that allows us to greatly reduce the steps necessary to create sample molds

How does your business think lean?

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