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Some Essential Lean Tools


What is 5S?

  • Sort (eliminate that which is not needed)

  • Set In Order (organize remaining items)

  • Shine (clean and inspect work area)

  • Standardize (write standards for above)

  • Sustain (regularly apply the standards)

How does 5S help?

Eliminates waste that results from a poorly organized work area (e.g. wasting time looking for a tool).



What is Andon?

Visual feedback system for the plant floor that indicates production status, alerts when assistance is needed, and empowers operators to stop the production process.

How does Andon help?

Acts as a real-time communication tool for the plant floor that brings immediate attention to problems as they occur – so they can be instantly addressed.


Bottleneck Analysis

What is Bottleneck Analysis?

Identify which part of the manufacturing process limits the overall throughput and improve the performance of that part of the process.

How does Bottleneck Analysis help?

Improves throughput by strengthening the weakest link in the manufacturing process.


Continuous Flow

What is Continuous Flow?

Manufacturing where work-in-process smoothly flows through production with minimal (or no) buffers between steps of the manufacturing process.

How does Continuous Flow help?

Eliminates many forms of waste (e.g. inventory, waiting time, and transport).


Gemba (The Real Place)

What is Gemba?

A philosophy that reminds us to get out of our offices and spend time on the plant floor – the place where real action occurs.

How does Gemba help?

Promotes a deep and thorough understanding of real-world manu-facturing issues – by first-hand observation and by talking with plant floor employees.


Heijunka (Level Scheduling)

What is Heijunka?

A form of production scheduling that purposely manufactures in much smaller batches by sequencing (mixing) product variants within the same process.

How does Heijunka help?

Reduces lead times (since each product or variant is manufactured more frequently) and inventory (since batches are smaller).


Hoshin Kanri (Policy Deployment)

What is Hoshin Kanri?

Align the goals of the company (Strategy), with the plans of middle management (Tactics) and the work performed on the plant floor (Action).

How does Hoshin Kanri help?

Ensures that progress towards strategic goals is consistent and thorough – eliminating the waste that comes from poor communication and inconsistent direction.


Jidoka (Autonomation)

What is Jidoka?

Design equipment to partially automate the manufacturing process (partial automation is typically much less expensive than full automation) and to automatically stop when defects are detected.

How does Jidoka help?

After Jidoka, workers can frequently monitor multiple stations (reducing labor costs) and many quality issues can be detected immediately (improving quality).


Just-In-Time (JIT)

What is Just-In-Time?

Pull parts through production based on customer demand instead of pushing parts through production based on projected demand. Relies on many lean tools, such as Continuous Flow, Heijunka, Kanban, Standardized Work and Takt Time.

How does Just-In-Time help?

Highly effective in reducing inventory levels. Improves cash flow and reduces space requirements.


Kaizen (Continuous Improvement)

What is Kaizen?

A strategy where employees work together proactively to achieve regular, incremental improvements in the manufacturing process.

How does Kaizen help?

Combines the collective talents of a company to create an engine for continually eliminating waste from manufacturing processes.


Kanban (Pull System)

What is Kanban?

A method of regulating the flow of goods both within the factory and with outside suppliers and customers. Based on automatic replenishment through signal cards that indicate when more goods are needed.

How does Kanban help?

Eliminates waste from inventory and overproduction. Can eliminate the need for physical inventories (instead relying on signal cards to indicate when more goods need to be ordered).


KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

What are KPIs?

Metrics designed to track and encourage progress towards critical goals of the organization. Strongly promoted KPIs can be extremely powerful drivers of behavior – so it is important to carefully select KPIs that will drive desired behavior.

How do KPIs help?

The best manufacturing KPIs:

  • Are aligned with top-level strategic goals (thus helping to achieve those goals)

  • Are effective at exposing and quantifying waste (OEE is a good example)

  • Are readily influenced by plant floor employees (so they can drive results)

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