Lean Manufacturing Is No Less Important

There are a variety of new production technologies coming onto the scene, but lean manufacturing should remain a shop’s underpinning.


Facebook Share Icon LinkedIn Share Icon Twitter Share Icon Share by EMail icon Print Icon

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), additive manufacturing and collaborative robotics are emerging technologies that will change the nature of how manufacturers make parts. In a growing number of instances, they already are changing the nature of how manufacturers make parts. That’s why it is important that we cover these topics in our magazine; our blog; our various social media channels such as LinkedIn, FacebookTwitter and YouTube; and so on.

That said, the concept of lean manufacturing should remain at the top of mind for all parts producers out there. In fact, I plan to revisit this topic in a story for an upcoming issue, describing how one shop’s efforts in cultivating a lean culture is enabling it to grow and win a greater amount of aerospace work.

The title of this article might be something like “What Comes after 5S?” Many shops start their lean journey by implementing 5S workplace organization tactics, as did the shop I’m hoping to profile. (For most, 5S stands for sort, shine, simplify, standardize and sustain.) Unfortunately, some shops I’ve visited have seemingly stopped there. That’s why I’d like this article to describe the next steps this particular shop took after 5S as it worked to establish its lean-manufacturing mindset.

From the limited information I currently have about the shop, applying specific lean concepts was important as evidenced by holding kaizen events, identifying ways to reduce setup times, etc. However, it seems true value came only after instilling a culture of continuous improvement, and continually seeking ways to improve work flow and the value stream.

In addition to appearing in our magazine, the story will be added to our website’s Lean Manufacturing Zone, which contains stories and videos about other machining facilities that have made similar lean transformations. For example:

  • This story describes how a job shop used lean manufacturing to become effective at low-volume work, in part, by identifying a more efficient machine-layout based on part-routing patterns.
  • This story explains how a contract shop leveraged lean as a means to help it manageably control growth, ultimately recognizing that lean is scalable.
  • This story shows that a machining cell that seeks to optimize product flow may look very different from a cell that seeks to optimize a machining process.
  • This story suggests that the most valuable resource for lean is the people, because it wasn’t until every employee at the profiled shop got involved that lean really started to have the desired effect.

So if lean means more than 5S for your shop as it did for the ones above, what were your next steps following workplace organization? I’d be interested in finding out where you are on your lean manufacturing journey. Send me an email.


  • Why Boeing Is Big On Right-Size Machine Tools

    Simple, dedicated machines save on capital expense, while they also make it possible to realize one-piece flow. These machines are often developed internally. 'Chaku-chaku' is the new ideal.

  • Lean Manufacturing Begins With Layout, Commitment

    Sustainably streamlining production of a varied mix of low-volume work depends not only on a strategy tailored for job shops, but also on human drive and enthusiasm.

  • From Job Shop Chaos To Lean Order

    Classic lean manufacturing principles are practically taken as gospel, but benefits can be elusive for manufacturers that produce a variety of parts in low volumes. This shop took a different approach to lean—one aided by software that helped identify a more efficient machine layout based patterns in part routings.