Why is lean manufacturing called lean?

For many people, the term “lean” manufacturing is a novel concept. After all, isn’t manufacturing all about large production volumes by nature? C Tek Lean Solutions explains that although it might sound counter-intuitive to the industry, lean manufacturing has a place in business operations of all kinds. The general premise behind lean is to reduce waste and inefficiencies, which ultimately reduces costs for businesses, improves efficiency in production cycles, and makes customers and business partners happier overall.


What is Lean?

Lean manufacturing gets its name for the fact that it aims to reduce all unnecessary waste. Essentially, it seeks to trim down the manufacturing process to get rid of anything in the production cycle that doesn’t add value or creates waste. Lean manufacturing is also sometimes called lean production, but both terms mean the same thing. Ultimately, it is an entire system that influences a service or manufacturing operation. The activities and techniques used in lean differ based on the application that you use, but the underlying principle is the same, which is to eliminate all waste and activities from business operations that do not add value.


Types of Waste

Lean ultimately strives to reduce certain types of waste, or muda, from the production line. Muda refers to the performance of work that results in sub-par performance, poor performance, or errors. The categories of waste are generally described with the acronym ‘DOWNTIME.’

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Non-utilized talent
  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Extra-processing


Defects refer to products that are created below industry or company standards. They do not add value and may negatively impact a company’s bottom line and customer satisfaction.


Overproduction means producing too many products. They exceed customer demand, which in turn creates waste if they go unwanted and are not purchased by consumers.


Waiting can occur throughout the production line. It can include waiting for people, machinery, or information. Sometimes waiting occurs with multiple parts of the production line, which leads to even greater volumes of waste.


Non-utilized talent refers to employees whose time and talents are not used to the full advantage of the employer. Adopting lean practices can make better use of employees’ time and make them more valuable overall.


Transportation is the movement of goods and products. It is not to be confused with motion, which is the movement of people. Transportation can start anywhere along the production line. It ultimately costs a company and drains the business of valuable time if there are inefficiencies in the process.


Inventory can mean either Work in Progress or a Finished Product. Either way, inventory can create a surplus of products that results in items being stored in a warehouse or a production floor without being used. Storage creates waste if there is no demand for the products and they go unused.


Motion is similar to transportation, but it describes the movement of people rather than the movement of goods. Motion is the movement of employees across the production line. It can be as simple as a person getting up to grab materials or perform the same action over and over again. Motion can be wasteful if an employee’s actions are repetitive or do not provide efficiency and value.


Extra-processing, which is sometimes called over-processing, is superfluous work that the customer does not want to pay for. Over-processing produces too many products that may also be of a lower quality if the focus shifts to quality rather than quality.


Lean manufacturing encompasses many principles designed to improve business performance and efficiency while minimizing operating expenses. Lean is increasingly important for manufacturers around the world for all the benefits that it provides. Don’t hesitate to ask the experts at C Tek Lean Solutions for more advice on adopting lean practices and principles for your business.