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Lean Manufacturing Cheat Sheet—Understand Lean Lingo

By Admin

If you’re involved in the business world these days, you’ve probably heard the word lean a lot—most often in phrases like lean manufacturing, lean production, lean methods, and so on. But if you’re like me several years ago, you’re probably not sure what the buzz is all about. For more than a decade, we at R.W. Lyall have benefitted enormously from taking a lean approach to manufacturing oil and gas pipeline components, so we like to share our knowledge whenever we can. That’s why we put together this quick overview of an incredible lean manufacturing basics article we found on Read on to learn a bit of lean lingo to get you started… and inspired!

6S is an acronym representing a basic organizational tenet of lean manufacturing; that is, keep the workspace organized so no one wastes time looking for things, such as tools. The 6S are (1) Sort, which means to get rid of anything unnecessary; (2) Straighten, or organize those items that remain; (3) Shine, or keep the work area clean; (4) Standardize, or set standards in writing for the measures above; (5) Sustain, or keep this process going and (6) Safety, or a commitment to safety in all activities             

Bottleneck Analysis refers to the process of first identifying the element in the manufacturing process that is limiting overall throughput and then focusing energies to improve that element’s performance.              

Continuous Flow is a type of manufacturing that eliminates waste, such as in the forms of inventory and time, by way of a smooth manufacturing process with very limited buffers between steps.          

Gemba is Japanese for “The Real Place.” This aspect of lean manufacturing calls managers and executives to spend time on the floor among employees to garner greater understanding of processes through firsthand experience. Every day here at Lyall we have two Gemba walks; one of these takes place on the production floor at 7:30 a.m. where each production cell reports out on the prior day’s activity, and any issues or potential issues are addressed in real-time. Then at 9:00 a.m., we do the administrative walk, where the production floor, as well as other departments, such as Customer Service, Accounting, IT, Engineering and Marketing, share cumulative information.

Hoshin Kanri, also a Japanese term, means “Policy Deployment,” and refers to a synchronistic relationship between Strategy, Tactics, and Action, which eliminates waste created by poor communication and inconsistent direction. The goals of the company, or the Strategy, align with the goals of middle management, or the Tactics, as well as the work performed on the floor, or the Action.  At Lyall, we utilize the Hoshin Kanri system for all strategic planning.

Just-In-Time (JIT) is a phrase that refers to the production of parts based on actual rather than projected customer demand. This approach incorporates several lean tools, including Continuous Flow, Heijunka, and, discussed below, Standardized Work and Takt Time. It reduces inventory, increases cash flow and reduces the need for space.

Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning “Continuous Improvement.” The article describes it very well as a process that “[c]ombines the collective talents of a company to create an engine for continually eliminating waste from manufacturing processes.”  Because continuous improvement is a constant process, Kaizen is a cornerstone for the Lyall Business System.  

Kanban is Japanese for “Pull System” and refers to a signal card system used to regulate the flow of goods in the factory and with suppliers and customers.

KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is a metrics system that tracks and encourages progress toward organizational goals. These systems come in a variety of shapes and sizes that are highly dependent on industry and company culture.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) provides a scaffold (including benchmark and baseline) for measuring productivity loss in the manufacturing process. The three loss categories areAvailability, Performance, and Quality. The goal is to achieve 100% OEE, which means the factory manufactures only good parts, very quickly, with no downtime.

The acronym PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) is an iterative, scientific approach to achieving improvement. To Plan is to develop a hypothesis; to Do is to run an experiment; to Check is to evaluate the results; and to Act is to refine the experiment and repeat it.

Poka-Yoke, or “Error Proofing” in English, refers to the incorporation of error detection and prevention within the production process to avoid the great expense of inspection.

Root Cause Analysis is the process of analyzing the production process to determine the root cause of a problem. By finding the root, ineffective and expensive quick fixes are eliminated.

The Six Big Losses are the six universal categories of loss in manufacturing. They are (1) Breakdowns; (2) Setup/Adjustments; (3) Small Stops; (4) Reduced Speed; (5) Startup Rejects; and (6) Production Rejects. Understanding these categories can help a company formulate a plan of attack for improvement.

SMART Goals refer to effective objectives that are characterized asSpecific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Specific.

Standardized Work refers to those manufacturing procedures that are based on best practices and are captured in an easily revised “living” document.  Capturing and documenting standard work is another cornerstone in Lyall’s manufacturing process.

Takt Time is simply aproduction pace that is aligned with customer demand. It is calculated as Planned Production Time/Customer Demand.

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) is a proactive and preventive approach to maintenance, which maximizes equipment operational time. A unique aspect of the approach is that it emphasizes the empowerment of operators as caretakers of their equipment.

Value Stream Mapping facilitates a visual representation of production flow. According to the article, it “[s]hows the current and future state of processes in a way that highlights opportunities for improvement.” And it “[e]xposes waste in the current processes and provides a roadmap for improvement through the future state.”  Value Stream Mapping is a major component of a Rapid Improvement Event, or formal Kaizen event.

A Visual Factory is one where visual controls, displays and indicators facilitate smooth, consistent communication by providing everyone with easy access to the same information.

 At R.W. Lyall, we’ve seen firsthand how significantly the lean approach can improve production and employee morale, so we hope you’ve enjoyed this quick introduction to lean lingo! If you’re interested in learning more about our approach, please visit our Manufacturing Excellence page.


Hey! Don't stop here. Learn even more about the benefits of lean in these blog posts:

Lean Production Brings Profits & Hope to African SMEs

Shattering the Myths of Lean Manufacturing