27 October 2011

What 5 Trends Are Most Driving Lean Manufacturing Strategies?

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Is the answer to the question used in my headline too obvious? At least part of it certainly should be, as ‘budget reductions’ is certainly one of the key trends driving lean.

But going lean is not just about reducing costs.  Lean can be defined with words ranging from ‘efficiency’ to ‘green’ – and between these two words is too wide of a scope to tie into one obvious trend.

And with that, here are the five trends I see as most driving lean manufacturing:

1. Budget Reductions There is no sugar-coating the suffering that our economy has gone through as of late.  And this suffering has led to sometime significant budget cuts that have all but forced lean decisions.  That said – recovery is within our reach – and per the results of the eight annual Prime Advantage Group Outlook (GO) Survey – 87% of manufacturing companies see revenues as the same or better through the balance of the year.

That said, this same survey indicates that the manufacturing employment outlook is far more conservative, as 11% of manufacturing companies plan to increase layoffs.  In other words, while the economy may be improving, the budget reduction trend appears to be still firmly in place – squaring us in a lean new world.

2. Process Improvements The trend towards lean manufacturing is not all surrounded by grim economic reality.  Many manufacturing companies, whether forced into lean or not, have taken the opportunity to create greater efficiencies within their day-to-day operations.

And this has helped usher in a new trend of process improvements, as companies develop strategies designed to meet new objectives through more efficient use of existing resources.  For those developing a lean manufacturing strategy, I encourage you to read a recent post by my colleague Bob Aronson – who will help ensure your lean manufacturing strategy is ‘just right.’

3. Green Supply Chain Management Driven in seemingly equal part by social responsibility and environmental regulations, the trend towards green is impacting nearly every industry – including manufacturing.

Rooted in the very idea of using fewer resources, and producing less waste, the trend towards green is an underlying force driving lean manufacturing as companies must assess – and improve – everything from transportation planning to package design to comply with new green supply chain management guidelines.

4. Footprint Reduction Essentially a sub-trend of green, the idea of footprint reduction is rooted in the notion of using fewer resources.  Footprint reduction, though, is concerned specifically with the physical space being used.

A recent post I wrote about new warehouse management technology goes deeper into this trend, and describes how new technologies are helping to achieve this goal through better supply chain and inventory management.

5. Need for Visibility A big barrier many companies are striving to overcome, en route to lean, is visibility into manufacturing operations. In a recent post, Mark Symonds of Panorama Consulting describes how the demands of lean are driving companies to look deeper at the capabilities of their current (or prospective) Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software when it comes to achieving greater project and process visibility.

“If you can’t see it, you can’t lean it,” writes Symonds, as he helps close out the final trend on our list.

What trends do you see as most driving lean manufacturing? I encourage you to share your thoughts. Stay tuned to our manufacturing insights, follow us on Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Powerful, modern ERP is critical to manufacturing success

Luciano Cunha
Luciano Cunha,
Luciano Cunha,
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

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