What Are Lean Manufacturing Concepts & How’re They Incorporated in Projects?


Lean manufacturing concepts have been around for quite a while now. These concepts have helped companies to increase productivity, improve efficiency and get the most out of their resources. 

These concepts have helped various companies gain a competitive edge including Nike, John Deere, and Toyota. With lean manufacturing, these companies were able to eliminate waste and increase productivity. 

Thus, it bears great importance in almost all industries. In this article, you’ll get all about lean manufacturing concepts. Moreover, you’ll also learn how to incorporate these concepts into lean project management effectively. 

So, let’s begin!

What are Lean Manufacturing Concepts?

Lean Manufacturing concepts are built to deliver maximum value through continuous improvements and minimizing waste. Generally, lean manufacturing concepts are associated with the manufacturing industry. However, they can be applied to any industry.

Thus, lean manufacturing methodologies focus on efficiency, value, and innovation. Having a sustainable approach and making continuous changes to improve the processes and optimize your work is what lean is all about. 

Now that we have a bit of an idea of what lean manufacturing concepts are, let’s see where the idea of it comes from.

History of Lean Manufacturing Concept

The Lean Manufacturing methodology was first implemented in the Toyota Production System (TPS) in the twentieth century. The fathers of this concept were Sakichi Toyoda, his sons: Kiichiro Toyoda and Eiji Toyoda as well as Taiichi Ohno, a manufacturing engineer.

What is the Importance of the Lean Manufacturing Concepts?


The ever-changing business processes require effective methods that cater to customers’ needs and demands rigorously. Companies need to be competitive, efficient, and responsive to the needs of the customers as well. 

Therefore, lean manufacturing concepts are important for companies as they help them to:

  • Cut down the operational costs
  • Increase customer value 
  • Better satisfaction of customer’s demands
  • Improve profitability
  • Optimize operational performances
  • Become responsive and efficient

Pro tip: Combining the lean manufacturing concepts with Agile methodologies yields the chances of higher success and gaining better workflows.

Some of the Key Lean Manufacturing Concepts 

The main lean manufacturing concepts to increase customer value and optimize workflows are:

  • Eliminating waste
  • Customer Value
  • Process and System Optimization

1. Eliminating Waste 

Eliminating waste is the first and the foremost concept of the lean manufacturing concept. According to the lean approach, there are three main types of waste – Muda, Mura, and Muri.

  • Muda- It includes all the activities that consume resources without providing any additional value.
  • Mura– This type of waste includes the overuse of equipment or employees. 
  • Muri-This type of waste includes operational unevenness that decreases productivity and efficiency in the long run.

However, in the lean manufacturing concept, Muda is a critical waste. As per Muda, anything that doesn’t bring value to the customers is considered a waste. 

There are 7 major types of waste in the lean manufacturing concept:

  1. Inventory- It is all the waste that is bought but not used by the teams. It also includes all the office supplies that exceed the needs of the team. 
  2. Waiting-It occurs when a task isn’t moving and is interrupting the workflow. Moreover, waiting for certain approvals from the higher-ups also causes waste waiting. 
  3. Defects- This waste when there are defects or a product needs certain scrapping. Incorrect data collection or conversational errors are also included in it. 
  4. Overproduction- As the name suggests, when the production exceeds the customers’ demand, the waste of overproduction occurs. 
  5. Motion-It occurs when workers are required to do more than what’s needed to complete their work. 
  6. Transportation- This type of waste occurs when you move resources but generates no value to the end product.
  7. Over-processing-It involves working extra or when work exceeds customer requirements. 

Lean practitioners deem waste elimination to be pivotal for maximizing the entire value stream. Thus, they believe in delivering the right products to their customers with minimum wastage. 

2. Customer Value  

Customers are the prime drivers of every industry. Thus, keeping them satisfied and catering to their needs is of utmost importance. Lean manufacturing concepts aim to maintain product quality by eliminating maximum waste. Therefore, the use of a customer-centric approach is essential. 

As we had already mentioned, lean manufacturing is not only about producing the goods but producing quality by systemically eliminating any waste. 

Lean practitioners pay special importance to the customer’s needs and requirements. Do they take a deep dive into what customers value? What did they pay for? What are their expectations?

Moreover, constant touch with the customers is deemed to be important. It helps them to better deliver the product as per the customers’ desires. Hence, increasing customer value at all steps. 

3. Process and System Optimization

Process optimization is also known as Kaizen. It is the continuous improvement of the processes. It is one of the core lean manufacturing concepts and is highly important for effective waste elimination. 

Kaizen is considered to be the building block of the lean manufacturing concept. The philosophy behind it is to make small incremental changes over time and sustain them over a longer period. 

The three main phases included in Kaizen are:

  • Planning and Preparation
  • Implementation
  • Follow-up 

Such processes help to achieve higher optimization by 

  • Constantly removing the bottlenecks
  • Meeting the customers’ demands
  • Constant employee training and team building

Through this approach, the team constantly keeps on embracing flaws and implementing required changes as well. 

Most commonly there are 4 main processes organizations typically use to optimize their processes:

  • Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA): It is based on the idea of managing change through proposing, adopting, measuring, and acting on the change processes. 
  • A3 Problem Solving Template: A3 analysis method is used for noting the current situation and finding the root cause of it. 
  • 5 Whys: In this method, the problem is identified by simply asking “why” till you reach its root cause. 
  • Poka-Yoke Technique: Poka-Yoke is a Japanese word meaning “error proofing”. It simply applies to the processes that help a person avoid any mistakes.


10 Top Process Improvement Tools You Need to Create a More Sustainable Business

Lean Manufacturing Concepts Principles


There are 4 main lean manufacturing principles and integrating these principles would seamlessly help you succeed. These include:

1. Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping is a great way to have a detailed visualization of every step you take to get your result. 

It is a great way to have a full view of how your project is going, what the bottlenecks are, and identify waste. Such identification helps to bring continuous improvements and optimization of the processes. 

2. Create Flow

The next principle is to create a smooth workflow. The creation of the flow helps you to accomplish continuous process improvement. It helps to improve the steps in the value stream and reduce production lead time as well. 

3. Pull System

This is another important lean manufacturing principle. Traditionally, the push system approach was used to assign tasks. However, it caused long waits, high inventories, and overloaded workers. 

Therefore, the Kanban pull approach was adopted. It provides a solution to the problems caused by the push approach.

The Kanban approach helps to create a backlog, from it the tasks are pulled out on a priority basis. Transparency and smooth workflows are achieved through this method. The team can have a full visualization of the tasks in 

  • Backlog
  • Progress
  • Canceled
  • Completed 
  • Currently stuck

This is a very effective way to manage inventory, as it’s only being pulled when it’s needed to and reduces the risk of higher inventories. Consequently, eliminating waste also. 

Now almost all project management software features a Kanban Board to optimize workflows and gain effective visualization. There are many other benefits of having a pull system with Kanban including:

4. Go to Gemba

Gemba is a Japanese word meaning, “actual place”. Thus, going to Gemba means visiting the actual place where the team works. This is pivotal because that’s the only way leaders can understand how their teams are performing. 

Moreover, to find out the ways through which they can bring continuous improvement and the challenges faced along the way. 

So, the only way to understand how the field works is by being there. It is a great way to develop interpersonal relations and understand things from their perspective. 

Going to Gemba greatly helps in making better decisions and better problem solving as well. 

5. Measure and Improve

Your lean manufacturing is incomplete without continuous measurement and improvement. You should measure your performance to determine whether your strategies are driving improvement and adding value or not. 

Various metrics can be used to achieve this purpose. For example, queues, blockers, throughput, etc. They help to indicate whether you’re moving in the right direction or not and what further measures can be taken as well. 

To wrap it up!

Lean manufacturing concepts can help project managers in the better management of their projects. Whether it is the elimination of waste, increasing productivity, or increasing customer value, lean manufacturing concepts can help you to achieve it all. 

Thus, follow the six principles of this concept to increase the chances of the successful execution of the projects with the use of minimum resources. 

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