Partners in Crime: Lean Manufacturing and Innovation


Talking with manufacturers around Michigan, when many individuals hear the word “Lean,” they automatically think “to cut.” Especially during a recovering economy, Lean manufacturing topics are commonly discussed. It’s to the point where the perception of Lean is that you get rid of everything left and right….just reduce your expenses and improve your profit margins….that’s all that Lean is, right? People typically don’t think of the word “growth” when they hear “Lean.” We want to change that perception.

Is there some truth to Lean’s perception? Sure. As manufacturers, it is certainly beneficial to “cut” unnecessary expenses. However, Lean doesn’t just mean to “give everything the axe.” Lean is about reducing the right things, processes and expenses that don’t add value to your customers. It’s about becoming more efficient and effective so that you can become more productive and profitable.
Conversely, when people hear the word “innovation,” they tend to associate it with “growth.” The perception is that innovation means coming up with new ideas and new products to enter new markets. Again, is there truth to this perception? You betcha! Innovation is the key to new product developments.
Imagine putting the power of efficiency (Lean) behind the creativity (innovation) of new products. . These two concepts actually work hand-in-hand for forward thinking manufacturers. Simply put, innovation isn’t just about growth (although, that is the ultimate goal)… innovation is about finding new approaches to solve problems. As defined by Wikipedia, “this is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas.”
We use innovation to become more Lean, and lean to become more innovative. Trying new ways to develop more efficient processes is very innovative. For example, if you have trouble meeting demand or are seeing a rise in production costs, adopting lean principles would be innovative. You would be trying something new, to solve your problem. Saved resources could then be invested into more strategic initiatives… new product developments, R&D and other business initiatives that help drive growth.
The Urban dictionary defines Partner in Crime as “your significant other; someone you can depend on to help you get $&!* done.” Moving forward, think of Lean and innovation as partners and consider the positive impact it can have on your business. For a list of our Lean business solutions, click here or contact us at 888-414-6682 or via email at

 Image Source: LSS Academy.

Categories: Innovation, Lean Principles