Skip to main content

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog comes from Patrick O’Rahilly, Founder and CEO of Patrick gives us some insight into workplace efficiency and how to reduce waste. 

Lean manufacturing is the modern solution to the age-old workplace consolidation problem. The lean concept, itself, is a strategy created to simplify, organize and optimize a working environment. Lean manufacturing consolidates equipment, people and workspace resources to reduce waste, create an effective flow of actions and create unbeatable manufacturing solutions. Today’s leading manufacturers rely on lean manufacturing to persist, and they’re only getting better at it.   

Lean manufacturing deserves a “back to basics” approach, however. While lean practices aren’t hard to adopt, they’re still difficult to implement if the proper documents, data, services and knowledge isn’t processed. Check out our basic guide to lean manufacturing below, and outfit your workplace for incredible success. 

Targeting Workplace Efficiency and Reducing Waste 

Lean manufacturing surrounds two factors: workplace efficiency and wasteful processes. To fully understand how to implement lean manufacturing, you’ll need to understand how to add value to your end product. In lean manufacturing, produced goods don’t suffer great quality loss. Any cuts made serve to engage more efficient channels of task accomplishment. 

For this reason, you’ll need to take a customer-first focus. Determine what your buyers are willing to pay for, and maximize value based on each customer’s needs. Buyers won’t pay for products with defects, and they’ll likely turn down products weighed by the costs of expansive inventories. Consumers won’t pay for your company’s waste. Why should they? 

Determining Waste 

To maximize your lean manufacturing practices, you’ll need to determine the different embodiments of product and operational waste. By reducing these, you’ll create a lean process capable of boosting your company’s return on investment: 

Inventory Waste 

First, determine which parts of your inventory’s supply are too high. Here, focus on any works-in-progress, and water down any processes using unnecessary resource allocations. 

Overproduction Waste 

On the other side of things, you’ll need to determine whether or not your business is producing more products than your consumers need. If possible, reduce produced products based on consumer demand. 

Time Waste 

Time is an important production factor. It can be wasteful, however, to allow too much time between production steps. Reduce these key time slots, and maximize time spent working on product creation. 

Work Waste 

Human resources may be lacking workplace efficiency, resulting in a major productivity decline. Here, you’ll need to adopt quality training programs, reduce in-house slack and maximize each worker’s optimization. 

Machine Motion Waste 

Calibrate your in-house machines, too, as small motion problems result in long-term time wastes. Keep each machine up to date, and target potential problems immediately to maximize workplace efficiency. In the spirit of keeping it lean, many manufacturers are outsourcing their industrial service and repair jobs in place of hiring full or part time staff. Our website,, allows you to immediately hire top-rated industrial service providers whenever you need programming or repair to keep your production machinery running as efficiently as possible. 

Product Over-Processing Waste 

Sometimes, a product spends too much time in production. When this occurs, inefficiency is birthed. Reduce the processing time on products where possible—but don’t neglect safety and industry standards to do so. 

Transportation Waste 

Transportation is probably the easiest factor to control. Move your materials efficiently, and cut out any unnecessary transportation routes leading to work and travel delays. 

Defect Waste 

Production mistakes cost time, money and labor. While defect waste is unavoidable, it should still be reduced as much as possible. Redefine your company’s methods of defect identification, and boost its ability to solve bugs, errors and recall problems swiftly as possible. 

Stacking Improvements 

While the above waste factors are often small and separate, creating multi-layered solutions to alleviate multiple waste problems is the essence of lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing prioritizes small, continuous improvements. Tool replacement, machine tune-ups, and system fixes, when put together, can drastically improve a workplace’s efficiency. 

Knowing the Lean Manufacturing Process 

In lean manufacturing, decision makers must do three things: identify workplace waste, analyze it and solve it. Each step is incredibly important, and each reflects upon the other’s success. To get the most of your lean manufacturing practices, take a look at the following steps in detail: 

Step One: Identifying Workplace Waste 

Once you’ve categorized possible waste occurrences based upon the above-supplied waste categories, you’ll need to train your workplace to find them. Waste will always exist, regardless of how lean your production processes are. 

To identify workplace waste, you’ll need to adopt a Value Steam Map. A VSM depicts a workplace’s processes and materials, showing you how they “flow” within an organization to create a finalized product. By looking at a VSM’s actions, you can highlight areas of slack and identify waste. If a process doesn’t add value, it can be considered to be wasteful. 

Step Two: Analyzing Workplace Waste 

You’ll still need to analyze identified waste, however, determining the cause of any slacking areas. To do this, consider adopting a Root Cause Analysis Plan. This approach, when applied correctly, can target machine breakdowns, analyze in-depth problems and set your workplace up to quickly fix problems. 

However, Root Cause Analysis may reveal human resource waste—wherein workers are responsible for wasted machine time. In such cases, it’s important to target workers with learning solutions. Few things generate waste more than uninformed—or otherwise wasteful—employees. 

Step Three: Solving Workplace Waste 

Finally, you’ll begin targeting the root of any workplace waste, striking it out with well-targeted solutions. By using a personalized, problem-solving approach, you can create workplace efficiency while guarding against future issues. To solve workplace waste, you’ll need to take advantage of several workplace tools. The tools below serve to prevent wasteful environments while boosting worker cohesion when problems arise: 

The SMED Approach 

The Single Minute Exchange of Die approach will help your workplace’s decision makers boost production flexibility. In some industries, the SMED approach supports machinery capable of supporting quick, fluid changeovers. While these changeovers won’t occur daily, they’ll reduce wasted time in the event of needed crossover processes. 

Just-in-Time Inventory 

Just-in-time inventory is a core ideology of lean manufacturing, and it’s the figurehead of pull manufacturing. To reduce stock and resource needs, you should use just-in-time inventory practices to purchase materials as you need them. Just-in-time inventory management focuses on end-of-the-line analysis to reduce start-of-the-line manufacturing needs. It also allows for in-depth defect analysis. 

The 5S Philosophy 

The 5S philosophy will boost your manufacturing processes standardization. To secure your workplace’s processes, tools and arrangements, you’ll need to cut down on inventory replacement part needs. The 5S system creates a framework of industry needs, leading all in-house manufacturing processes with lean goals, resource consolidation and a sharp approach to immediate action. 

Continuous Improvement as a Goal 

Lean manufacturing, in essence, is about continuous improvement. Instead of making fast-paced, irregular changes, adopt a consistent policy of workplace efficiency. In doing so, you’ll be able to create small, sustainable changes your workers can prioritize.  

Consolidate your materials, equipment, and processes, and move forward with a high-value approach to manufacturing. Today’s manufacturing world needs systematic approaches to thrive—as does your company’s sustainability.