Indian Centre for Manufacturing Excellence uses Lean principles which are derived from the Japanese manufacturing industry. The term was first coined by John Krafcik in his 1988 article, “Triumph of the Lean Production System,” based on his master’s thesis at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Krafcik had been a quality engineer in the Toyota-GM NUMMI joint venture in California before coming to MIT for MBA studies. Krafcik’s research was continued by the International Motor Vehicle Program (IMVP) at MIT, which produced the international best-seller book co-authored by Jim Womack, Daniel Jones, and Daniel Roos called The Machine That Changed the World A complete historical account of the IMVP and how the term “lean” was coined is given by Holweg (2007).

For many, lean is the set of “tools” that assist in the identification and steady elimination of waste (muda). As waste is eliminated quality improves while production time and cost are reduced. A non exhaustive list of such tools would include: SMED, Value Stream Mapping, Five S, Kanban (pull systems), poka-yoke (error-proofing), Total Productive Maintenance, elimination of time batching, mixed model processing, Rank Order Clustering, single point scheduling, see through Layouts, Total Employee Involvement , QCC using 7 QC Tools.

There is a second approach to lean Manufacturing, which is promoted by Toyota, called The Toyota Way, in which the focus is upon improving the “flow” or smoothness of work, thereby steadily eliminating mura unevenness”) through the system and not upon ‘waste reduction’ per se. Techniques to improve flow include production leveling, “pull” production (by means of kanban) and the Heijunka box. This is a fundamentally different approach from most improvement methodologies.

The difference between these two approaches is not the goal itself, but rather the prime approach to achieving it. The implementation of smooth flow exposes quality problems that already existed, and thus waste reduction naturally happens as a consequence. The advantage claimed for this approach is that it naturally takes a system-wide perspective, whereas a waste focus sometimes wrongly assumes this perspective.

ICME view is that the main method of lean is not the tools, but the reduction of three types of waste: muda (“non-value-adding work”), muri (“overburden”), and mura (“unevenness”), to expose problems systematically & Scientifically and to use the tools where the ideal cannot be achieved. From this perspective, ICME works to improve Bottom Line and Top Line of Organization and making manufacturing more Competitive & profitable.


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