What is Lean Manufacturing?

Put simply, lean manufacturing is premised on the principle of purging waste from the production process – subtracting all elements that contribute no overall value to the finished product. It’s “lean” because it aims to achieve much more with much less. 

Targets for lean manufacturing’s subtraction process include unnecessary transportation of parts, vehicles, or machinery plant, excessive inventory storage, inefficient movement of people, and waiting or delays caused by lags in inputs. In addition, overproduction of goods above requisite levels, over processing (steps in the production process that are surplus to requirements and therefore redundant), and avoidable defects that necessitate time-consuming and costly reworking or scrapping. 

By this definition, lean manufacturing extends to creating lean supply chains that aim to provide exactly what’s needed with no excess. The process requires considerable forecasting as well as judicious planning of demand and supply. As one can imagine, these are by no means simple tasks when supply chains traverse multiple countries and may be subject to the contingencies of natural disasters and geopolitical disruptions.

Lean Manufacturing Skills

This preamble demonstrates that lean manufacturing is an intricately systematic approach to production and supply that requires unique skills. And these skills are very much in demand as well as being highly remunerated. We live in a competitive world in which businesses of international reach must be lean in production processes or perish.

For those considering a career in lean manufacturing, master’s degrees such as that on offer from Kettering Global will equip them with the in-depth knowledge and coveted skills set that global businesses depend on to thrive. The program takes students through the foundations of lean manufacturing (e.g., global leadership skills, cross-cultural business communication skills, cross-cultural teamwork skills, continuous process improvement techniques, and international supply chain management). 

From here, students learn the application of the “Six Sigma” philosophy for eliminating defects in manufacturing. In statistics, one “Sigma” refers to one standard deviation from the mean. In manufacturing, a defect is defined as an event that occurs three standard deviations above or below the mean (the line in the center of a bell curve). In other words, a defect is beyond the range of six standard deviations or Six Sigma. In the master’s program, students learn how to maximize efficiency over the production process to minimize these defect events using the ‘DMAIC’ (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) method. 

Other skills include systems thinking, value stream mapping, and understanding of business dynamics inherent to lean production systems. Also, work analysis (methods for measuring and improving work output using ergonomic techniques), statistical methods of product quality improvement and variation reduction, and analyzing data from the manufacturing environment to improve operations so that they conform with the lean paradigm.

Whether you chose to work in the automotive, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, aeronautical, or soft beverages industry – any industry, in fact – you can be sure that a master’s degree in lean manufacturing will place you in very considerable demand. 

So much so that you can confidently expect the world to become your oyster.