The Ultimate Guide To Lean Manufacturing Terms and Principals

Wed Feb 01 2017
By: Mike P

If you’ve ever been in a meeting with a roomful of engineers discussing shop, you know how easy it is to get lost in the discussion. For anyone that’s trying to get a feel for the industry, there’s no easy way to decipher the many terms and principals that surround the manufacturing cycle; it’s as if there should be an entire section of the dictionary devoted solely to the industry. While we can’t offer you that concession—because let’s be honest, we don’t have time for that—we can offer you a place to start. We’ve put together the ultimate glossary, for the leading manufacturing philosophy in the world: Lean manufacturing.

5S: Believed by many to be a staple of the early Japanese Toyota Production System, the 5S process is an organizational method for the shop floor. Most factories commonly use the 5S process as a way to organize their workplace and expose any waste that may be counterintuitive to the continuous improvement process. The method is composed of a five-step process:

  1. Seiri (Organization): Eliminate any unnecessary items or tool that are not in use.
  2. Seiton (Set In Order): Bring order to your factory by assigning a set location for tools and equipment.
  3. Seiso (Shine): Make cleaning your factory a routine process to prevent material deterioration and act as a form of regular inspection.
  4. Seiketsu (Standardize): Establish a culture that reinforces a continuous development process.
  5. Shitsuke (Sustain): Apply standardization to your factory. Perform regular audits, create goals and milestones for workforce, and create a self-sufficient environment.
6S: An iteration of the 5S Process, 6S builds upon the previously established 5S process with the addition of a safety component.

Andon: A visual management system that notifies when issues arise in the production cycle. Traditionally used a system of light indicators, an andon system visually gives management the opportunity to identify abnormal situation in the production cycle.

Autonomation (Jikoka): A creation of the Toyota Production system that pairs human intelligence with intelligent design. Autonomation is a form of automation that grants supervisory functionality to machines used in the production cycle. Meaning if an issue arises on the production line, a machine will stop and wait for a worker to correct the problem.

 Autonomous Maintenance: One of the eight pillars of Total Productive Maintenance system (TPM). Simple machine adjustments that are made by certified machine operators such as: lubrication, cleaning, and inspections.

Automatic Time: The time period where a machine can operate unsupervised without human intervention. Also known as Machine Time and is one of three times recorded on a Standardized Work Combination Sheet.

Bottleneck: The place in your supply-chain that is causing a stall in production. Bottlenecks can be caused by a variety of issues such as: machine difficulties, long process queues and underqualified workers.

Bottleneck Analysis: Uncovering which element of your production process is limiting the performance of your manufacturing cycle.

Batch Production: A form of production in which the object in question is produced through a series of workstations, leaving the end product to be produced in batches as opposed to individually.

Breakthrough Improvement: (Kaikaku): Major improvements in key business areas that affect the future of a value-stream. Breakthrough improvements are often implemented during the course of small, team-based, problem solving events focused on improving organizational processes (Kaizen Events).

Catch Ball: A project management concept that involves moving ideas and information evenly throughout a team. When a person introduces a project, they are responsible for articulating the purpose, objectives and concerns of said project to the rest of a team.

Cell: Group of machines that are connected by a work process and used in a pattern that increases production.

Cellular Manufacturing: A sub-section of just-in-time and lean manufacturing. The goal of cellular manufacturing is to move as quickly as possible with as little waste as possible.

Cellularization: The creation of cells.

Chaku-Chaku: Japanese term for “load-load”. Chaku-Chaku is a form of production that requires an operator to load each machine in the sequence of production, as everything else has already been automated. This is a process that is entirely reliant on autonomation being previously established on the shop floor.

Changeover: The time it takes to convert a machine from running one product to another.

Continuous Flow: A manufacturing process that moves a single unit in every step of the production cycle, rather than treating units in batches.

Cycle Time: The amount of time it takes to complete the production of a single unit.

Drum-Buffer-Rope: Drum Buffer Rope (DBR) is a planning and scheduling metaphor derived from the Theory of Constraints. In this philosophy the ‘drum’ is the constraints of your factory (ie. Size, machines, workforce), the ‘buffer’ is the inventory needed for production, and the ‘rope’ is the number of parts and materials needed to support both parts of the system.

Elimination of Waste: The foundation of the Toyota Production System. This philosophy states that any element of the manufacturing process that takes away or distracts from the end product is not necessary for the success of your operation.

Fishbone Diagram: A diagram that directly identifies multiple causes for an effect or problem. These diagrams are commonly used for brainstorming and troubleshooting root causes in the factory.

Five Whys: A problem solving technique that works by asking oneself “why” five times in an effort to get to the root cause of an issue. Repeated questioning will identify multiple countermeasures to best tackle the problem at hand.

Flow: The progression of milestones that take place on the value stream.

Flow Production: Describes how goods, services, and units are being processed on your production floor. Flow production involves a continuous movement of items through the production process without stoppage. There is little changeover involved in the production process, meaning the time taken on each task must be the same.

Gemba: A Japanese term meaning “Real Place”. In the workplace, a Gemba is known as the place where value is added; in the case of the manufacturing industry, the Gemba is the shop floor. A component of the “three reals”.

Gembutsu: A Japanese term meaning “Real Thing”. This term refers to the actual product in a factory. Includes all tools used to manufacture products. A component of the “three reals”.

Genjitsu: A Japanese term meaning “actual facts”. In the manufacturing industry, this is used to describe metrics that indicate a situation or problem. A component of the “three reals”.

Hanedashi: An auto-eject device or means that unloads a work piece from one operation or process. This device allows the operator to load the next work piece without difficulty.

 Hansei: A Japanese term for “self-reflection”. In the manufacturing industry, this term is commonly used to identify when someone recognizes a mistake has been made and vows to make improvements.

Heijunka (Level Scheduling): A method of production scheduling that specializes in manufacturing smaller batches in sequences to minimize peaks and valleys in customer demand.

Hoshin Kanri: A form of policy deployment that ensures goals are distributed evenly throughout every level of a company. The goals of the company should align with the plans of middle management and the work that is performed in the factory. Company objectives are developed into specific strategies and deployed throughout the organization.

Just-In-Time (JIT): A production strategy built to expose waste, encourage continuous improvement, and engage employees. Parts are pulled through production soley based on customer demand. Also known as the Toyota Production System (TPS)>

Kaizen: A Japanese term for “improvement”. More specifically, Kaizen in the manufacturing industry described as standardized activities that encourage continuous improvement and employee engagement throughout the workplace.

Kanban: A way to regulate production movement of an item. Originally designed as a way to manage inventory as-needed in supermarkets, Kanban has found it’s way into the manufacturing industry as a job/inventory management resource tool. They system itself is based on automatic replenishment through card indicators that signal when more units are needed.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI): Metrics used to track and monitor the progress of critical milestones for an organization. KPI’s are often used as a motivational tool for employees on the shop floor, as they provide a constant stream of feedback for how an operation is performing.

Lead Time: The total time it takes for a process to convert a raw material to a finished quality part. Also known as “Throughput Time”

Line-Balancing (Control): Equalizing the time it takes to create a single unit with the goal of creating a smooth production flow.

Machine Time Cycle: The amount of time it takes for a piece of equipment to complete its function and create a unit without the help of an operator.

Make It Ugly”: over-emphasizing waste on the shop floor to bring attention to resolving a problem. This phrase is commonly used to see instant results to simple problems.

Monument: Any tool or design that necessitates time is put aside for processing. These items contribute to waste, and due to their lack of flexibility, they serve little value to the continuous improvement cycle.

Muda (The Seven Wastes): Any activity that uses resources and creates no value. These wastes have been categories by Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, they are:
  • Transport: The movement of products between operations.
  • Inventory: The completed stock of finished goods.
  • Motion: The physical movement of operators and machines
  • Waiting: Waiting for a machine, delivery or any other operation.
  • Over-production: Making more than the customer has ordered.
  • Over-processing: Manufacturing a product beyond what a customer expects.
  • Defects: Finished products that do not meet standards.
Mura: The waste of inconsistency or unevenness. Overloading a specific portion of your manufacturing process with unreasonable demand.

Muri: Placing unnecessary stress on employees and processes.

Nagara: A Japanese term meaning “while doing something else”. Balancing multiple operations at one time.

 Nichijo Kanri: Daily workflow management. To drive ownership of problem solving and work through crisis scenarios.

Non-Value Added (NVA): The processes in a value stream that take time and resources without adding to the final product or service.

Obeya: A Japanese term meaning “big room”. A room that provides a dedicated space for coordination and problem solving, and is designed to minimize organizational barriers. Obeya’s are typically used with the visual management tools, providing members of the workforce and management with key metrics to review and act upon.

Operator Cycle Time: The amount of time it takes an operator to complete one cycle of his/her job.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): A “best practices” metric that measures productivity loss for a manufacturing process. The metric identifies the percentage of production time that is truly productive. Three categories of loss are tracked:
  • Availability loss = run time / planned production time
  • Performance loss = (Ideal Cycle Time × Total Count) / Run Time
  • Quality loss = Good Count / Total Count
P.D.C.A Cycle: The plan-do-check-act cycle is a four-step problem solving process that is used for quality control. The method revolves around finding a change for a process (plan), implementing the change (do), measuring the results (check), and taking appropriate action thereafter (act).

Point of Use: When all supplies are within arms reach of where they are required.

Poka-Yoke: A Japanese term for mistake proofing. It can be either a device or methodology that ensures processes achieve zero defects by placing limits on how operations can be performed.

Pull System: A production method in which units are only produced when needed by a customer. There are three basic types of pull systems available for use:
  • Replenishment- Reproduce unit when inventory runs low
  • Sequential- Manually scheduled production of units based upon inventory levels
  • Mixed- A combination of both replenishment and sequential
Push Production: A production model with no work-in-progress limit. Production is set at a level based upon historical metrics, leaving high levels of inventory in circulation.

Rapid Improvement Event (RIE): An event aimed to apply lean tools to identify and remove waste in the workplace.

Root Cause Analysis: A problem solving methodology that looks to resolve the underlying problem of an issue to prevent it from growing further, as opposed to offering a quick fix that only temporarily remedies a problem.

Shojinka: A form of manufacturing that constantly monitors and alters the number of workers in a factory to meet the volume of demand requirements. This systems relies on workers taking on multiple job functions to combat low staffing, a work center design that supports a varying number of workers, and processes must be standardized to support a varying number of workers while maintaining a consistent flow.

Single Minute Exchange of Die: An efficient method of decreasing the amount of time for a changeover to occur on the shop floor by performing elements of the changeover process while the equipment is running. This streamlines remaining steps, minimalizing the amount of changeover steps required to continue with the process.

Six Big Losses: Six categories of manufacturing that are universally experienced.
  • Breakdowns
  • Setup / Adjustments
  • Small Stops
  • Reduced Speed
  • Startup Rejects
  • Production Rejects
Six Sigma: A methodology that relies on well-defined projects and teamwork to systematically limit cycle time, and reduce variation in the manufacturing process. Using multiple quality management methods to remove defects, Six Sigma projects often follow a specific set of steps with a mutual end goal in mind.

SMART Goals: Goals that are specific, measurable, action-oriented, reasonable and timely. SMART Goals are usually utilized to help streamline time management.

Spaghetti Chart: A map of a floor plan that highlights paths taken by specific products or operators as they travel throughout the value stream. Using a collection of lines, thus creating a collection of spaghetti-like graphics, highlights individual paths.

Standard Work: A documented form of the current best practice for a single operation. Standard work includes the rate at which products must be made in order to meet customer demand, the sequence in which an operator must perform tasks, and a record of the units and machines required to keep the operation running at it’s current pace. Standard Work is seen as the baseline for continuous improvement, with standards improving as efficiency increases.

Standard Work Combination Table: a table that show the combination of manual work time, walk time, and machine processing time for every operation in a value stream.

Takt Time: Derives from the German word for “Pulse”. The calculated maximum amount of time in which a product must be created to satisfy market demand. The formula from takt time involves dividing the available production time by customer demand.

Total Productive Maintenance: An approach to preventative maintenance that focuses on getting operators involved in maintaining their own equipment. The process is made up of 8 principals that seek to maximize the operational time of equipment.
  1. Focused Improvement
  2. Autonomous maintenance
  3. Planned maintenance
  4. Quality maintenance
  5. Cost deployment
  6. Early equipment management
  7. Training and education
  8. Safety health environment
Toyota Production System: A manufacturing system developed and mastered by Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan between 198 and 1975. Considered to be the precursor to modern lean manufacturing techniques, the Toyota Production System is designed to remove any trace of waste in the factory with the help of just-in-time and Jikoda principals.

Value Stream: The processes of creating, producing, and delivering a good or service to the market.

Value Stream Mapping: A management method for analyzing the flow of production throughout the factory. Also known as “material and information flow mapping”, the mapping technique is designed to interpret both current and future states of the manufacturing facility by highlighting individual elements of the production process.

Visual Management: Improving effectiveness and communication with the help of visuals.

Water Strider (Mizushmashi): A person assigned to support a production operation by running specific tasks, such as inventory replenishment to operators on the shop floor. The goal of the water strider is to remove non-value added work away from the operator of a production cells. The term is used to describe someone that moves from place to place within the production area.

Yokoten: A Japanese term that roughly translates to “best practice sharing”. A practice that involves sharing plant related activities and other important data throughout the organization.


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Factory and Production

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