Five Essential Lean Tools for Manufacturing

Lean Tools for ManufacturingThe Right Lean Tools for Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing has been growing in popularity for quite some time now. While every facility implements it slightly differently, they can all benefit from having the right lean tools for manufacturing. Look at the following key tools and see if your facility is using them properly.

5S Methodologies

This is perhaps the most well known lean tool for manufacturing. It has been helping companies to eliminate waste for years, and continues to be one of the most versatile and effective options in your toolbox. It can be combined with many other tools, or implemented on its own. If you don’t already know, the 5 S’s that make up this tool are:

  • Sort – Sort your facility to eliminate anything that isn’t needed including excess inventory, equipment and anything else that is getting in the way.
  • Set in Order – Take all the remaining items after going through the first S and make sure everything is properly organized.
  • Shine – Keeping the facility clean and in proper working order at all times will help to eliminate downtime.
  • Standardize – Make sure everyone is following the established best practices for each task in the company.
  • Sustain – Continuously go through each of these S’s and look for improvement opportunities.

Takt Time Production

Takt time production is a concept where manufacturers need to attempt to determine the rate of production that is required to meet customer demand. They can then make changes to staffing and production levels to precisely meet this requirement.

When properly implemented, takt time production reduces the amount of inventory that needs to be kept on site and also improves the customer satisfaction. It can also help to reduce the ebb and flow of work that needs to be done at any given time.

Visual Indicators

People are very visual creatures, which is why using visual indicators in a manufacturing facility is so important. It is even more effective when working in a loud facility since auditory indicators are often ineffective.

There are many types of visual indicators that can be used in your facility. Things like floor tape , safety labels and signs are all great examples of this type of manufacturing tool. While people primarily think of these as safety options, they can be used in many other ways as well, which makes this a key tool for manufacturing.


Whenever planning for the future, a great lean tool for manufacturing is SMART goals. This is a way of creating goals that will maximize the benefit to the individual and/or the facility. SMART in this case is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Specific. It is easy to see how thinking about each of these items when setting goals will make them more effective.

Kaizen Strategies

Kaizen strategies focus on getting the facility to pursue continuous improvement. When implemented properly, it will help employees from all levels of the company to work together toward similar goals. In most cases, this specific lean tool is going to help with smaller, incremental improvements for the facility as a whole.

Of course, larger improvements can come out of this as well, but it is not as common. When done properly, the kaizen tool will keep everyone on the same page toward both long and short term goals.

Harnessing Lean Tools for Manufacturing

While these five lean tools for manufacturing are extremely important, they should definitely not be the only ones you use. There are dozens of great tools and processes that should be part of your ‘lean toolbox.’

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