What is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean Manufacturing, which emerged in the Toyota Production System in the 1940s, is now used by businesses operating in any sector that want to increase business success and develop a culture of continuous improvement. The basic strategy of lean production is to offer the highest value to the customer. To achieve this, Lean aims to reduce waste, increase quality and continuous improvement. In this blog post, we examined many details about Lean Manufacturing, including the definition of Lean, the principles of Lean and Lean tools.

Definition of Lean Manufacturing

In the business world, Lean Production is also known as “Lean” and “Lean Thinking”. The aim of Lean is to maximize efficiency by minimizing waste in production systems and to provide products or services that add value to the customer. Lean sees everything that does not add value to the customer as waste. In other words, according to Yalın, waste is everything that the customer is not willing to pay for. The biggest benefit of Lean to companies is that it detects and improves inefficiencies, increases quality and reduces costs.

5 Principles of Lean Manufacturing

The five principles of lean production consist of the principles of value, value stream, flow, pull and perfection. These principles are used as the basis for applying Lean in business processes. Let's briefly examine these principles:

  • Value

Value is the value a customer places on a product or service. In other words, value is the determination of how much money the customer is willing to pay for the product or service. Therefore, companies must understand in the best way possible how much the customer values the product or service they offer.

Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping is the mapping and analysis of the flow of information and materials that occur for the production of a specific product or service to identify areas of waste and methods for improvement. To implement this principle, companies must examine every stage of a product's life cycle for waste and eliminate any factor that does not add value.

  • Flow

The flow principle is crucial for eliminating waste in processes. It is necessary to ensure a flow for the processes from order receipt to delivery. This flow ensures that activities occur harmoniously by minimizing interruptions and delays.

  • Pull System

Lean uses the pull system instead of the push system. In the push system, the product is produced without any demand from the customer. For this purpose, customer needs are determined based on predictions and the product is produced to meet these predictions. In the pull system, the product is produced in response to customer demand. In other words, pull requires a demand-driven system.

  • Excellence

The final principle of lean manufacturing is perfection. Excellence means striving to deliver the best by eliminating waste, improving processes and embracing a culture of continuous improvement.

Types of Waste in Lean Manufacturing

One of the main goals of lean production is the elimination of waste. In order to understand Lean in the best way, it is necessary to understand the factors that Lean identifies as waste. The Toyota Production System has identified seven types of waste that must be eliminated:

  • Overproduction

Overproduction waste occurs when a company produces more product than customers need or produces beyond demand.

  • Unnecessary Transport

Unnecessary transportation of materials and products from one place to another causes unnecessary transportation waste.

  • Excess Inventory

Excess inventory waste consists of overstocking materials or resources to meet predictive customer demands. Excess inventory causes companies to increase their storage costs and suffer financial losses.

  • Unnecessary Movement

This type of waste relates to the unnecessary movement of people, equipment or machinery. Movement waste greatly affects production time, workplace order and safety of the working environment. For example, while a material should be positioned close to the employee, positioning it far away causes the employee to walk extra to reach that material. This movement creates waste.

  • Wait

Waiting waste relates to delays in the production process due to people or idle equipment waiting, downtime, or inefficient planning.

  • Defects

In Lean Manufacturing, any product that cannot be used and requires expensive corrections is defined as a defect.

  • Overprocessing

Adding more features to a product than the customer needs causes more resources to be spent. This results in excessive processing waste.

  • Respect for People

Lean emphasizes being aware that employees are a valuable resource. It is crucial to involve employees in decision-making, provide training and support, and create a culture of respect.

In Which Sectors Can Lean Manufacturing Be Applied?

The Lean Manufacturing methodology first emerged in the manufacturing industry, Toyota, to reduce waste and increase quality. However, today, Lean Thinking is adopted and successfully implemented by many sectors. Some of the sectors where Lean Manufacturing has been successfully implemented are as follows:

  • Aviation Sector
  • Health sector
  • Banking and Finance Sector
  • Retail Sector
  • Construction Sector
  • Information Technologies

What are Lean Production Tools?

Lean manufacturing has developed multiple tools and techniques to enable companies to achieve their goals. Companies can integrate Lean Manufacturing principles into their business processes by choosing the most appropriate tool according to their processes, business environment and needs. Lean Manufacturing tools and techniques commonly used by companies are listed below:


Kanban is a Lean technique used to visualize workflows and optimize task flow. Kanban consists of boards and cards to visualize workflows. The goal of Kanban is to create a clear and transparent workflow, facilitate collaboration, and provide a visual representation of work in progress, bottlenecks, and overall project status.

5S Methodology

5S methodology is a technique used to increase order, efficiency and safety in the workplace. The 5S method consists of five principles: classification, organization, cleaning, standardization and discipline.

Poka – Yoke

Poka – Yoke, also known as error prevention, is a technique that involves designing processes and systems that will prevent errors or defects in production. The purpose of Poka – Yoke is to prevent errors from occurring and reduce the need for rework by preventing errors at the source.


The Kaizen technique focuses on achieving large results over time by making small, incremental changes to products or processes.

How to Apply Lean Manufacturing?

There are three basic steps you can follow to successfully implement lean manufacturing in your company. You can start implementing Lean by using the basic principles of Lean: value stream mapping, using the pull system and continuous improvement.

  • Visualize the Value Stream Process

Value stream mapping is a Lean technique for visualizing all the steps in a business process. Creating a value stream map of your business processes allows you to identify and eliminate activities that cause waste. In this way, you have the opportunity to redesign your process to create an efficient workflow.

  • Produce Demand-Based

The pull system focuses on producing only when there is a demand from the customer, thus reducing waste. Applying a pull system to your production processes can optimize resources, reduce overstock and increase your delivery speed.

  • Continuous improvement

Continuous Improvement is the cornerstone of Lean Manufacturing. Lean always focuses on finding better ways to do a job, a task. Continuous Improvement requires you to make small but effective changes to your products, services or processes, measure the effects of the changes you make and make new improvements. Continuous improvement is a continuous cycle that improves the quality of your work, simplifies processes and reduces waste.

Continuous Improvement Software


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