5 Basic Elements of Lean Manufacturing Process

Last Updated on 28/10/2021

Lean Manufacturing:
Lean Manufacturing, or Lean Production, refers to a business concept wherein the goal is to minimize the amount of time and resources used in the manufacturing processes and other activities of an enterprise, with emphasis on eliminating all forms of wastage. It is basically the fusion of various management philosophies designed to make operations as efficient as possible. Business philosophies invoked by lean manufacturing include Just-in-Time (JIT) Manufacturing, Kaizen, Total Quality Management (TQM), Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), Cellular Manufacturing, and the like. The roots of lean manufacturing can be traced to Japan, or more specifically, Toyota.

Basic Elements of Lean Manufacturing
Fig: Lean Manufacturing Process

Description of the Five Primary Elements of Lean Manufacturing:
The Five Primary Elements for lean manufacturing are

  1. Manufacturing Flow,
  2. Organization,
  3. Process Control,
  4. Metrics, and
  5. Logistics.

These elements represent the various facets required to support a solid lean manufacturing program, and it is the full deployment of these elements that will propel a company on a path toward becoming a world class manufacturer.

Following is a short description of each of the Five Primary Elements:

Manufacturing Flow:
The aspect that addresses physical changes and design standards that are deployed as part of the cell.

Manufacturing flow

  • Product/quantity assessment (product group)
  • Process mapping
  • Routing analysis (process, work, content, volume)
  • Takt calculations
  • Workload balancing
  • Kanban sizing
  • Cell layout
  • Standard work
  • One-piece flow

The aspect focusing on identification of people’s roles/functions, training in new ways of working, and communication.


  • Product-focused, multidisciplined team
  • Lean manager development
  • Touch labor cross-training skill matrix
  • Training (lean awareness, cell control, metrics, SPC, continuous improvement)
  • Communication plan
  • Roles and responsibility

Process Control:
The aspect directed at monitoring, controlling, stabilizing, and pursuing ways to improve the process.

Process control

  • Total productive maintenance
  • Poka-yoke
  • SMED
  • Graphical work instructions
  • Visual control
  • Continuous improvement
  • Line stop
  • SPC
  • 5S housekeeping

The aspect addressing visible, results-based performance measures; targeted improvement; and team rewards/recognition.


  • On-time delivery
  • Process lead-time
  • Total cost
  • Quality yield
  • Inventory (turns)
  • Space utilization
  • Travel distance
  • Productivity

The aspect that provides definition for operating rules and mechanisms for planning and controlling the flow of material.

  • Logistics
  • Forward plan
  • Mix-model manufacturing
  • Level loading
  • Workable work
  • Kanban pull signal
  • A,B,C parts handling
  • Service cell agreements
  • Customer/supplier alignment
  • Operational rules

These primary elements provide full coverage of the range of issues that surface during a lean manufacturing implementation. Each element focuses on a particular area of emphasis and compartmentalizes the activities. Even though each element is important on its own for the deployment of a successful lean manufacturing program, the power comes from integration of the elements. For instance, manufacturing flow sets the foundation for change. People see activity on the shop floor, furniture being moved (sometimes for the first time), machines or floors or walls being painted, and areas being cleaned up. Excitement and energy surround this visible change. Add to this the less than visible changes in infrastructure relative to organizational roles and responsibility, new ways of working, training of personnel, multi-function teaming, and identification of customer/supplier relationships.

Finally, add the visible presence of shop floor measurements reflecting status, equipment being repaired, graphic work instructions being posted at work stations, and machine changeover times being recorded and improved. These primary elements complement one another and are all required to support each other as part of a successful implementation. Most lean manufacturing initiatives focus on the primary elements of Manufacturing Flow, some on Process Control and areas of Logistics.

You may also like:

  1. Application of Lean Manufacturing in Garment Industry
  2. Lean Manufacturing Process in Apparel Industry
  3. Lean Manufacturing: Principles, Goals, Advantages in Apparel Industry
  4. Lean Manufacturing Process – An Overview

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