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History of Lean Manufacturing

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The history of lean manufacturing dates back to 1913, as Henry Ford was the first to make great strides in field. Ford was able to integrate the entire production process by coupling standard work with interchangeable parts and a moving assembly line.1 With the implementation of lean manufacturing, the Ford plant decreased production costs significantly, making the Ford Model T the first automobile affordable enough for the average American. Ford sales skyrocketed and by 1914 they controlled nearly 50% of the automobile market.2 Ford's assembly line process reduced the production time of the Model T from twelve and a half hours to less than six hours, inspiring others to explore the benefits of lean manufacturing.2

During the 1930's, Kiichiro Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno at Toyota began to experiment with a production process similar to Ford's.1 Although Ford's process improved efficiency, their plant produced little variety, which was a large concern for many customers.1 Toyoda and Ohno realized this market opportunity and shifted their focus toward not only continuing to improve production efficiency, but also introducing variety into their product options.1 Toyota made several advancements to the techniques used by Ford and their new process was coined the Toyota Production System. The first advancement employed by the Toyota Production System was machinery that could sense problems and stop the production process when one would occur, minimizing defects and allowing for one person to operate multiple machines.4 They also introduced a feedback system into their assembly line process that would control what was being produced and in what quantity at each stage. This prevented too many of one part being produced than could be used at the next stage of the production process and is now referred to as just-in-time production.4

"The use of the term "Lean", in a business of manufacturing environment, describes a philosophy that incorporates a collection of tools and techniques into the business processes to optimize time, human resources, assets, and productivity, while improving the quality level of products and services to their customers".3 The Machine that Changed the World, by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones, and Daniel Roos suggests that there are five principles to lean manufacturing. These principles include specifying the value desired by the customer, identifying the value stream for each product and challenging which steps are necessary to provide it, making the product flow continuously through the production process, introducing pull between all steps where continuous flow is possible, and attempting to reduce the number of steps, time, and information needed to serve the customer.1

Although the benefits and principles of lean manufacturing may be well known, it is not guaranteed to always be a success, and so in-depth analysis and talented management is still necessary to successfully implement it. One example of a lean manufacturing success story is how Fluid Dynamic Corporation (FDC) implemented work cells to drastically improve their pump assembly system5. Due to their large products and complex



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