Improving Your Value: Implementing Lean Manufacturing



A manufacturer’s focus each day must revolve around increasing production, reducing costs and generating profits—while simultaneously minimizing the risk of errors. This can be a delicate balance for manufacturers to achieve. That’s why implementing lean manufacturing is a critical component for success.

Defining Lean Manufacturing: The Customer Perspective
Lean manufacturing is typically defined as the production and management philosophy that considers any part of the enterprise which does not directly add value to the final product to be non-value added (in need of elimination) or a necessary non-value-added step that cannot be eliminated now but must be minimized.

Lean manufacturing uses Value Stream Mapping to analyze a manufacturing facility’s day-to-day operations. How does the organization respond to changing market conditions, emerging technologies and customer needs? Working from the perspective of the client who consumes a product or service, "value" is any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for. Lean manufacturing makes it obvious about what adds value. After identifying the value-added steps, lean manufacturing then examines the processes that generate that value and determines how to reduce or eliminate all non-value-added aspects of that value stream.

Considering Lean Enterprise
To get started in lean manufacturing, manufacturers must assess their facility’s productivity in terms of the form of waste using the acronyms DOWNTIME:

Non-utilized talent
• Transportation
• Motion
Extra Processing

Manufacturers also can assess their current level of productivity by asking themselves important
questions such as:

  • Does my team clearly understand what value the customer wants for the product or service?
  • What are my Value Streams from raw materials, production of the product or service, customer delivery, customer use?
  • How do my Value Steams perform?
  • Do my Value Streams flow? If it's not moving, it's creating waste, taking up time and producing less value for the customer.
  • Are my production processes robust enough to not make anything until the customer orders it?
  • Is communication within our company, or between the business and the client, strong or weak?
  • Does my team systematically and continuously remove root causes of poor quality from production processes?
  • Do my products require constant re-work?
  • Are my Value Streams capable of manufacturing more product for a client ahead of schedule?
  • Does production come to a stand-still if an employee is sick or if a component is out of stock or a key piece of equipment is not working?

Lean manufacturing allows manufacturers to not only answer (and address) all of these questions, but enables them to execute a strategy of continuous improvement that is specifically designed to suit their unique set of business needs.

The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center) – Your Lean Resource
The Center’s lean manufacturing consultants can provide your company with the proper tools to eliminate waste and strengthen processes for today and the future! Contact me at for more information.


Roger Tomlinson, Lean Program Manager
Roger Tomlinson is a Lean Program Manager on the Lean team at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center). He has trained and mentored hundreds of Michigan manufacturers in the entire portfolio of Lean strategies and methods (e.g., Kaizen events, Standardized Work, 5S/Workplace Organization, Value Stream Mapping, Total Productive Maintenance, Culture Change, Team Building, operations management and process re-engineering). In addition to his training and consulting work, Roger has more than 20 years of experience in manufacturing management. To read his full bio, click here.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Continuous Improvement, Lean Principles