Four Strategic Actions Taken by Lean Manufacturers

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Lean manufacturers are engaged in a never-ending quest to root out waste. From order input and scheduling to manufacturing and distribution, companies committed to lean strive to eliminate anything that doesn't add value. Benefits include less WIP and shorter throughput times, enabling faster response to shifting demand and customer requests. Rework is avoided, space is saved, and productivity rises.

Becoming Lean

Successful lean manufacturers recognize that achieving and sustaining results like these takes more than a few “5 S” initiatives. They configure operations and processes to support business-wide improvement. They invest time and energy in developing measures to drive improvement efforts, and they create top-to-bottom alignment so all employees pull in the same direction.
“Lean Manufacturing: Success Starts With Visibility and Alignment,” a report published by the Aberdeen Group identifies four strategic actions separating Lean “Leaders,” (those who gain the most from their Lean efforts,) from the also-rans. These are:

  1. Align operational and corporate performance measurement and goal
  2. Standardize reporting and compliance processes across the enterprise
  3. Promote visibility between manufacturing operations and the enterprise
  4. Promote visibility on the manufacturing lines

Without visibility and alignment

When every function or department has their own goals enterprise performance is sub-optimized. Each team pulls in a slightly different direction, creating tension and conflict. Sometimes separate databases are created so each unit can format data to suit its needs.

Inevitability, duplicate and overlapping systems get out of synchronization and data errors spread. Complexity and confusion increase and more effort goes into maintaining the many spreadsheets and other records.

In manufacturing, time and effort are wasted as shortages are discovered and priorities shift. Productivity suffers and morale drops. Worse, when performance measurements are based on inaccurate reporting and faulty data, they become meaningless and can drive the wrong behaviors.

A comprehensive software solution

Manufacturing depends on data, data about the product, the process, capacity, inventory, leadtimes, vendors, customers and quality. Rather than using localized records and databases, a software solution like Manufacturing 20/20 keeps this data in a single location. This simplifies maintenance of data such as BOMs, part routings and capacity, eliminating errors by letting users work from the same source.

A comprehensive solution allows real-time inventory tracking, and when capacity information is included bottleneck identification is feasible. Add-in the possibility of evaluating alternative production schedules and updating plans to accommodate changes in customer requirements and it's possible to reduce inventory while improving customer service.

Good design plus thoughtful implementation standardizes business processes. This means less room for error and less waste. Plus, the availability of up-to-the-minute production statistics makes it possible to measure the result of every improvement action. With good data, changes can be tried, quickly evaluated, and if successful, rolled-out across an organization.

Measure to improve

The right manufacturing software solution drives alignment throughout the organization, standardizing processes and measures. Data centralization reduces the risk of errors and real-time updates coupled with relevant statistics increase visibility and allow better decision-making. In short, manufacturing software should underpin the Lean journey.


To learn more visit or contact Keri Robbins at