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All Lean Articles

Lean's Next Act is a Balancing Act

Senior Editor Bill Koenig


In the evolution of lean manufacturing principles, agile manufacturing may be the next big thing. Agile manufacturing uses processes, tools and training—and people organized in teams—to respond quickly to customer needs and market changes while controlling costs and quality. It’s a newer approach that allows a leaner, more flexible approach to manufacturing. But most of all, it’s about speed, which requires lithe, well-coordinated action. Full Article

Tips for Improving Manufacturing Practices Through Lean Implementation

Chip Johns, President/COO, Butler Automatic


Reducing waste, implementing efficiency-promoting practices, and continuously improving manufacturing operations are the main goals of LEAN manufacturing ideology. While these tasks may seem daunting for a manufacturer at the start of an improvement program, there are many concrete steps that can be taken to shift the culture at any company. For many companies, all it takes to dramatically increase efficiency and reduce waste is a commitment to dive right in and a willingness to continue trying new and creative ideas to find out what works best. Full Article

To Survive A&D Industry Transformation, Redefine Innovation

Edward Talerico Industry Strategy Director, Aerospace & Defense Infor


A&D companies can better meet today’s industry challenges by systematically bringing new ways of thinking and working to their organizations’ processes and products. Innovation doesn’t mean chaos, and—when done thoughtfully—enhances the work already happening across the organization. IT has a key role to play here. Full Article

In Defense, a New Focus on Project Management Process

David Karr, Technical Advisor for Manufacturing & Quality, Engineering Services Directorate, USAF Life Cycle Management Ctr., Wright-Patterson Air Force Base


The Department of Defense (DoD) is interested in manufacturing engineering and wants its suppliers to be world-class manufacturers. That’s the take-away message from DoD’s adoption of the new SAE standard AS6500, “Manufacturing Management Program.” In fact, DoD recognized the need for a new standard and partnered with SAE International for its development and publication. Full Article

Establishing the Groundwork to Leverage the Internet of Things in Lean Automotive Manufacturing

Frederick L. Thomas, Director, Discrete Manufacturing Industries, Apriso, Dassault Systemes


Within the context of Lean manufacturing, focused on elimination of waste and continual process improvement, the Internet of Things can lead to huge efficiency gains … some Engine manufacturing linepeople see it as Lean on steroids. Tools and equipment will automatically collect, share and interact with other data and processes, opening up a whole new realm of achievements attainable under Lean initiatives.
Full Article

Custom Component Job Shop Gets Lean

Luke Galindo, Sales & Marketing Manager, eNETDNC


What started out as a 5S tool-room project to bring organization and reduce setup times has blossomed into a full organization-wide commitment to getting Lean. GEM Manufacturing Inc. offers contract prototyping, machining, finishing and assembly for some of the world’s largest Agriculture, Oil & Gas and Hydraulic OEMs such as CNH, Eaton, Parker Hannifin, GE & Deere Corp. Started by brothers Rob and Kevin Gottschalk in June 2006 in Bristol, WI. Full Article

Manufacturing Executives Top Fear: Communication with Plant Floor Workers

Louise Dickmeyer President PDP Solutions Mankato, MN


While 90% of surveyed manufacturing CEOs reported that their employees are their most valuable asset, few knew how to motivate and inspire employee engagement. Third-party manufacturing communications solutions are an answer.
Full Article

Leading Industry Organizations Introduce Enhanced Lean Certification Program

Press Release -- Lean Certification Alliance


The Lean Certification Alliance has introduced customer-driven improvements to its Lean Certification program. Lean Certification candidates will now encounter an improved program and more streamlined process in achieving certification. Full Article

Toyota Says It’s Improving Fuel Efficiency, Factories

Senior Editor Bill Koenig


Toyota Motor Corp. says it’s increasing the fuel efficiency of its vehicles and improving its factory operations.“Toyota has increased the overall fuel efficiency of its powertrains” by about 25% and “overall power output” by more than 15% the company said in a March 26 update about its Global Vision plan..With factories, Toyota said its plants are running at more than 90%, up from 70% in 2009, when a major recession cut demand for new cars and trucks. Toyota said it’s moving to “simple and slim” production lines, including smaller paint booth “and switch to compact equipment.” Full Article

Not Everything That Can be Automated Should Be

Robert Simonis, Senior Consultant, Manufacturing and Operations, KCE Consulting LLC


The assembly cell was installed and running in our Mexican factory. We had used the Production Preparation Process (3P) to design this Improved Junction Box assembly area and were happy to see our hard work and ideas in practice. We had a compact U-shaped cell with right-sized equipment and low-cost automation. Machines had no changeover or were designed for single-second-exchange-of workstation (SSEWS) to allow mixed production and level flow.  Full Article

Part Inspection Speeds Up at Triangle Manufacturing

Ken Gredick, Engineering Manager, Triangle Manufacturing Co.


Triangle Manufacturing Co. was established in 1955 by William F. Strohmeyer and two other enterprising engineers in a suburban New Jersey garage. It’s grown steadily over three generations to become a leading provider of highly complex, tight tolerance surgical implants, medical instruments and powered hand tools. Full Article

Shop Solutions: HBA Inserts are Cost Cutters for Hard Metals

Edited by Senior Editor Jim Lorincz


As part of its Lean Manufacturing Initiative, Mike Alfonso, president, Grand Traverse Machine (GTM; Traverse City, MI) established a regular Thursday morning meeting to discuss tooling issues and opportunities. The family-owned shop specializes in high-precision manufacturing applications and has grown from a three-man operation in a 2000 ft2 (185 m2) facility in 1966 to a 29,000 ft2 (2694-m2) plant employing 70 people on two shifts seven days a week. Full Article

Never Out of Style in the Shop: Classic Lean Techniques

Contributing Editor Ed Sinkora


About five months ago, a member of the Lean Business System group on LinkedIn posed the question: “Can you describe lean with one word? Or at most three?” The most common answers were things like “waste-free” or “efficiency,” plus phrases that echo “continuous improvement.” But perhaps the most popular submission—and there were over 400—was “focused common sense.” Full Article

To U-Shape or Not to U-Shape?

Robert Simonis, Senior Consultant, Manufacturing and Operations, KCE Consulting


“You should strive for a U-shaped layout,” I said.  “It is U-shaped!” responded the Engineering Manager.  We were both looking at the same factory layout.  He was looking at how the machines were placed so that they formed three sides of a square, or a U-shape, and I was looking at the process flow and material flow, which twisted and looped like the proverbial plate of spaghetti. Full Article

Seven Organizational Design Tips for Aerospace Executives

Tim McConnell Managing Partner McConnell Consulting Inc. New York, NY


Processes to counteract entropy—the silent killer of business performance. Full Article

Lean Now: Time to Improve

Robert Simonis


I asked the kaizen team, “Who is responsible for continuous improvement?” They quickly responded, “Everybody!” I then asked, “When do you do continuous improvement?” I was met with silence. It is great that everyone is invested in the idea of continuous improvement, or Lean, or Operational Excellence, or whatever you call it, but when does it get done? . Full Article

Easing the Sting for Patients Waiting in Line

Alzatex, Inc.


Every administrator, office manager, doctor, nurse, lab technician, scheduler, clinic director or admissions clerk  knows that keeping patients waiting in long, slow-moving lines is a recipe for poor service. Not only can long waits cause patients to become extremely upset and agitated, but it can also result in lost opportunities in the form of walk-outs and poor patient reviews. Full Article

Rising Sons at Micro Mold and Plastikos

Senior Editor Michael C. Anderson


The Erie, Pennsylvania companies Micro Mold and Plastikos make highly engineered precision parts for an ever more demanding client base in the medical and other industries. Both companies also have reputations as great places to work. The companies’ success is directly related to the culture of each workplace, according to their CEOs—who are themselves directly related. Full Article

Metcam Completes and Implements Nine Kaizen Projects; Reaps Substantial ROI and Process Quality Improvements

Press Release - Metcam


Metcam (Alpharetta, GA), a fabricator of sheet metal components and assemblies for OEMs, announced on November 6 that it has successfully implemented nine process improvements since it began its Kaizen initiative in early 2014. Kaizen, which is Japanese for “good change,” is a business philosophy of continuous improvement through small, targeted initiatives. Full Article

Lean for All Seasons

Senior Editor Michael C. Anderson


These are interesting times for lean. On the one hand there are few businesses that have anything to do with manufacturing that don’t have some knowledge of, and don’t pay some lip-service to, the practices that came out of the Toyota production system (TPS). On the other hand, there are companies that have made a good-faith effort to change to a lean culture, only to find themselves unable to sustain the effort. Full Article

Ubisense Survey Finds 40% of Manufacturers Have No Visibility into the Real-Time Status of their Process

Press Release - Ubisense


Ubisense, a global leader in location intelligence solutions, today revealed the results of its 2014 Smart Manufacturing Technologies Survey which secured responses from 252 manufacturing engineers, product designers and quality management professionals. The survey revealed that lack of visibility into manufacturing processes is the most prevalent issue plaguing manufacturers today. Full Article

How to Run a Factory: Timeless Advice from the Late Jim Harbour

Jim Harbour


Editor’s note: Early lean advocate Jim Harbour, whose Harbour Report prodded the US automotive industry into improving the way it designed and made cars, passed away on September 6th. In his memory we offer the following excerpt from his book, Factory Man, which SME was proud to publish in 2009. Full Article

Innovative Tools Remove the Jagged Edges

Senior Editor Jim Lorincz


Precision product finishing has come a long way from the days when the principal options for burr removal were manual deburring or high-volume tumbling. Both of those options play an important role in helping manufacturers meet their finishing requirements, especially with the variety of equipment and media available to meet most any part requirement. Full Article

Six Sigma in the Spotlight

Senior Editor Ellen Kehoe


Other than lean, two of the most downloaded topics from the expansive SME Technical Paper collection are quality and Six Sigma. Zeroing in specifically on Six Sigma, which is all about “zeroing in”—on defects, that is, we find more than 15 papers directly related to the subject. Full Article

Quality Scan: Using Metrology for a Competitive Advantage

Jeff Freeman


Manufacturing is one of the most challenging industries in the world of business. Foremost, it is highly competitive and attention to detail is crucial. Secondly, structural costs and regulatory compliance increase costs of doing business, leaving manufacturing companies continually looking for opportunities to reduce costs, improve productivity and increase profitability. Full Article

Frost & Sullivan: Lean Strategies and Decentralized Value Chains Fuel RFID Uptake in Manufacturing

Press Release - Frost & Sullivan


The business model and structure of the manufacturing industry has grown well beyond the scope of a single enterprise and location, making radio frequency identification (RFID) solutions indispensable to its functioning. With increasing adoption of lean manufacturing strategies prompting most industry players to focus on and outsource niche operations within global supply chains, RFID solutions will help sustain high levels of performance. Full Article

Turning to Technology to Confront Skills-Gap Issues

Edward Talerico, Industry and Strategy Director, Infor


The skills-gap issue in manufacturing has received considerable attention in the national press, but few sound countermeasures are being suggested, not to mention implemented. The aerospace and defense industry, always on the forefront of problem solving, is one of the few market segments that seem to be finding answers to this serious and complex problem. Full Article

Shop Solutions: Multipallet HMC Builds KanBan Performance

Edited by Senior Editor Jim Lorincz


Kenlee Precision Corp. (Baltimore, MD) knows very well the demands that blanket order contracts for multiple parts and different customers can place on a manufacturing operation. “Every week we release a myriad of parts for customers that require reduced lead times, exacting quantities and specifications, on-time delivery and of course, 100% quality,” said Kenneth Lewis Sr., owner of Kenlee Precision. Full Article

Shop Solutions: Safe, Productive Fume Extraction Technology

Edited by Senior Editor Jim Lorincz


Vermeer Corp., a family-owned and operated company was founded in Pella, IA, in 1948. Vermeer provides agricultural and industrial equipment to customers in more than 60 nations for industries including biomass, landscaping, pipeline, surface mining, tree care, and utility installation. For Vermeer, building a quality product for customers starts with a foundation of well-trained, skilled employees who are valued as its most important resource. Full Article

Lean Enterprise Institute Appoints James Morgan, PhD, as Senior Advisor for Product Development

LEI Press Release


In the new post, Morgan, a former global engineering executive at Ford Motor Company, will spearhead several LEI initiatives to accelerate the adoption of lean product and process development. Full Article

Top Five Metal Spring and Stamping Trends for 2014

Steve Dicke, Vice President of Marketing, Connecticut Spring & Stamping


While I don’t profess to have seen 2014 trends by gazing into a crystal ball, I do feel confident about naming a few developments that will affect the spring and stamping industry this year – and on into the foreseeable future. Full Article

Reconfigurability Still Figures Big in Manufacturing

Senior Editor Ellen Kehoe


Reconfigurable manufacturing’s guru for more than 20 years, Professor Yoram Koren, presented the latest progress and challenges related to capacity planning and scalability in his keynote presentation April 29 at the CIRP Conference on Manufacturing Systems (CMS 2014) held April 28-30 at the University of Windsor (ON). Full Article

How A Vendor Managed Inventory System (VMI) Benefits Business

Matthew D. Malkie, Director, Marketing, Military & Commercial Fasteners Corp.


When a manufacturer has excess inventory not adding value to the process, the inventory is hurting the company’s balance sheet, and is by definition wasteful. Having excess physical inventory on hand increases the need for expensive warehousing space, not to mention the risk of obsolescence. All of these carrying costs put the enterprise at a financial risk. Full Article

Polishing Up on Matters of Process

Editor in Chief Sarah A. Webster


For more than 35 years, MPC Industrial Products (Irvine, CA) has been precisely grinding and polishing metals for airplaces, medical devices and other high-quality products. An ISO 9001/AS9100 certified organization, MPC specializes in finishing the large aluminum skins (up to 8 × 40' [2.4 × 12.2 m]) that wrap the fuselage of the Boeing 737 and other aircraft. Full Article

SME Speaks: Performance Benchmarking Service

Kevin McCormick, Member and Industry Relations Manager (Canada), SME


In the last five years, I have been very fortunate to work with many manufacturing, processing and producing organizations in every sector imaginable. During this time, I have watched the majority struggle with where to focus their continuous improvement activities. Full Article

Increasing Shop Productivity with a Portable CNC Machine

R. Leonhard, CEO Southwestern Industries


Smaller machine shops can become more competitive by embracing new ideas to increase their productivity.  Portable CNC second operation machines, integrated into primary machining and turning center work, can provide that productivity.  Full Article

Lean Machining--Integrating the Supply Chain

Michael G. Beason, CEO, Supplier Excellence Alliance (SEA)


In the aviation cluster of Wichita, Kansas, Cox Machine has been producing aerospace machined components for almost 60 years. Founded by Ernest “Bud” Cox in his garage, the company has grown to 180 employees and roughly $28M in revenue. Cox’s primary products are structural components and assemblies, and it produces products through machining or sheetmetal fabrication. Full Article

Can Lean Help Grease the Way in Oil & Gas?

Contributing Editor Bruce Morey


Lean manufacturing is generally seen as being best suited to the automotive and similar industries. Full Article

Making an Old Workhorse New Again

Editor in Chief Sarah A. Webster


Compact Power Services is remanufacturing old Bullard VTLs, turning the hulks into “Elec-trols,” modern, efficient powerhouses Full Article

Getting Compressed Air under Control

J. Ned Dempsey, Pneu-Logic Corp. and Barry Hendrix, HBG Consulting


Energy savings as part of a lean manufacturing strategy Full Article

Lean in Aerospace Metal Finishing: From Industry Step-Child to Lean Poster Child

Douglas Greene, President, Hixson Metal Finishing


Metal Finishing has historically been known as a messy, poorly organized and managed profession with little accountability and aggravation in spades for all stakeholders.  But small California supplier Hixson Metal Finishing is working to obliterate that reputation and make it as sterling as their long-time home of Newport Beach is beautiful.  Full Article

Taking Action to Avert a Supply Chain Crisis

Dave Lalain Vice President, Commercial Development Automotive Industry Action Group Southfield, MI


Industry group brings together competitors in order to prevent a global automotive shutdown. Full Article

Viewpoints: Stable Employment is a Key Lean Element

Phillip S. Waldrop, PhD. Professor of Manufacturing and MER Steering Committee member


Given the shortage of skilled front line workers and leaders, it is critical to the employer to not only hire qualified people, but to then protect their recruitment, selection, and training investment by keeping them on board into the future.  Full Article

The Toyota Way: Helping Others Help Themselves

Jeffrey K. Liker & James K. Franz, Co-Authors


As we have struggled over the years to make sense of what we learned from Toyota, and to teach it to others in many business sectors, we have developed a broader and deeper view of this thing called “lean.”  Full Article

Focus on the Workforce: Lean Course Teaches Value of Manufacturing

Mark Doman, Pawley Professor in Lean Studies, Oakland University


When I start my undergraduate Lean Studies course at Oakland University, I ask the students to raise their hands if they have ever been in a plant. Usually, very few hands reach for the sky. When I ask if they are interested in manufacturing, most say, “Not really.” Yet I teach in a suburb of Detroit, the Motor City.  Full Article

Viewpoints: Throughput in Three Steps

Andrew M. Huckey, Project Engineer


Throughput must be in the forefront of any manufacturer’s mind. Increasing the quantity of quality products delivered is paramount to creating capacity for more sales. On the shop floor, support teams of liaison, manufacturing, and industrial engineers, along with quality assurance technicians, allow mechanics and operators to continue adding value.  Full Article

Dunnage: Often Ignored, Always Important

Nicky Borcea President Sohner Plastics Ann Arbor, MI


Dunnage used to ship and process automotive parts on the shop floor is a key component in the overall manufacturing process, yet it is often overlooked when companies are working to make lines lean and green. Today, it is important that manufacturers know that most dunnage used to transport parts from start to finish can be reused for the lifetime of production. Full Article

LEAN Manufacturing Through Compact Machining Cell Advancements

Steve Bond, National Sales Manager, RoboDrill, RoboCut and EDM Products, Methods Machine Tools, Inc.


Manufacturers, regardless of the products they produce, realize that to be successful in a global market, reducing costs and waste throughout their organization is critical.  Amid recession, employers were faced with downsizing in an effort to maintain the bottom line and many turned to LEAN practices to help them survive. Full Article

Enhanced Decision Making Supports A and D Industry's 'Shrink-to-Grow' Strategies

Arsenin Rodriguez, Director - Business Consulting, Infor


As aerospace and defense companies turn to internal process improvement to combat current market pressures, enhanced decision making is gaining recognition for its role in strategic planning, forecasting and supporting responsive customer service. Enhanced decision-making is becoming an important weapon in the A&D manufacturer’s arsenal. Full Article

Produce, Sustain--and Keep It Clean

Senior Editor Michael C. Anderson


As with every other part of the supply chain in 2012, the companies in this pavilion are adapting to ever-higher demands in productivity, reliability, and sustainability in an era of cut-throat competition and a still-uncertain economy.   Full Article

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