Lean Manufacturing Concepts And How to Use Them Part I

In Lean manufacturing the top three concepts you need to know about are Muda (Waste), Mura (Flow), Muri (overburdening).   For why and how these three concepts became the focus of Lean Manufacturing read Is Lean Right for My Company.  Waste is defined as Transportation Inventory Motion   Waiting Over-production Over-processing Defects or the acronym TIM WOOD.  Flow is how well a product moves through it’s path with minimal issues and as fast as possible.  Overburdening refers to the people working.  Are you giving them too much work and how do you know if you are?  On the flip side you also want to understand how to determine value as well.


Value can be defined as a process step that meets all three of these criteria:

  1. Does it change form, fit or function of a product
  2. Is the customer willing to pay for it
  3. Is it done right the first time

You can evaluate every step of your process with this lens to find the percentage of value add work you do at your business.


TIM WOOD is straight forward and the most used concept from Lean Manufacturing.  The way you can start using this is to go to your work environment and look where you see each type of waste.  Here are some examples

Transportation – any movement of a product from point A to B either internal or external to the building.

Inventory –  Excess inventory.  Usually you can see this if you need inventory to make sure a process stays busy.  You can also see this if you end up with a lot of wasted inventory that has been sitting for years.

Motion –  Think ergonomics and the motion of a person.  Excess reaching or moving is classified as a motion waste.  Motion refers to people and transportation refers to product.

Waiting – This can people waiting on product or product waiting on people.

Over-production – This happens when a product is produced at one station and sent on before the next station is ready for it.  This usually leads to inventory build up.

Over-processing – The most common example of this is double handling.  Quality inspections also fit into this type of waste

Defects – this can be process or product defects.

You can use this not only in manufacturing but in other areas like healthcare, financial industry, basically anywhere you have a process to produce a product or service.


Flow can be seen best by one metric.  Time to take one product from the start of the process to the end of the process.  The median time and the average time of all products gives you a good idea of how well you are flowing.  To give you an idea of how long it should theoretically take a product to get through your process tag every part of the process steps as Unnecessary Waste, Necessary Waste (aka transportation), or Value.  Divide the amount of time you spend on value add tasks and divide by the total task and that will give you a ratio.  The higher the ratio the more “flow” you have.  In manufacturing typically you have <%1 value add prior to going lean.


Overburdening is easy to see.  Are you spending your day putting out emergencies or being proactive?  The more reactive you are the more overburdening you have.  The ways to address this is to standardize work content and define it more clearly.  You also want to  create containment plans and resolution plans for any type of reactionary event that might happen (i.e. machine downtime).

By combining these concepts you can get a good starting point with Lean Manufacturing.  For more information on how to implement Lean into your business you can apply for a Discovery Call on how you can implement Lean in Your Business.

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