Lean Manufacturing: Myths, Uses and Benefits

by Lalithaa

Lean Manufacturing: Myths, Uses and Benefits

If you work or run a business in the manufacturing industry, you may have heard about lean manufacturing – but what exactly is it? Most people in this industry may say that they do have a good idea of what’s involved with lean manufacturing, but the fact is that there are lots of different misconceptions and myths surrounding what is required to successfully build lean manufacturing strategies. Lean manufacturing is based on lean thinking, which refers to the conscious effort made by the organization to eliminate waste, or any activities that use up resources without providing any customer value. For lean manufacturing to be successful, a complete culture change is often required from the organization. Rather than being a one-time-thing, successful lean manufacturing is a continuous improvement philosophy that focuses on waste elimination. 

Waste comes in various forms including machine and operator waiting time, overproduction, defective products, excess inventory, physical waste, poor quality products, and any other activity that uses up time or resources without providing additional value for the end result. Lean processes and principles are most commonly used in manufacturing settings; however, they can also be applied easily in a wide range of other industries. So, what are some common myths about lean manufacturing, and what’s the truth?

It’s All About Reducing Costs

While reducing costs is of course an important topic that is taught at lean manufacturing schools such as Kettering University and lean manufacturing certainly makes driving costs down without compromising product quality easier, it’s a myth that cost reduction is the only thing it is used for. The primary goal of using lean manufacturing methods is about making work easier, reducing waste, improving workplace safety, and ensuring that things are as straightforward as possible in order to allow your company to focus more easily on investing energy, time, and funds into the things that matter the most. 

It is Constant

Another common myth is that lean manufacturing is something that needs to be constantly considered and thought about after the principles have been implemented in your manufacturing process. However, while lean manufacturing methods require frequent evaluation and iteration to ensure that the process is working well for the company, once strategies are in place firmly and the culture has been adjusted accordingly, doing this should become more of a natural process rather than something that you need to think about all the time. Teams should be committed to making things work, and it’s important to challenge old ways of doing things in order to ensure that the best results are obtained from lean manufacturing methods. 

It’s Tool-Based

When you consider lean manufacturing principles, related tools and/or professional development programs like Lean Six Sigma, Kanban or the 7 Wastes might be some of the first things to come to mind. However, while all these tools are worth using, and great ways to learn more and get started with lean manufacturing processes, you will not get the best results when using them alone. In order for lean principles to have the best effect on your business, tools and training courses that you may implement will need to be associated with a solid structure and company culture. It’s also important that everybody who uses these tools has an in-depth understanding of them in order to ensure that they are used and operated correctly and reliably to get the best results, as using them incorrectly may have the opposite to the desired effect, interrupting the process and leading to more waste. 

No Inventory is Kept

Reducing the risk of overstocking inventory is one of the main aims of lean manufacturing; however, a common myth is that lean manufacturing principles mean not keeping inventory at all. However, this isn’t true – instead, manufacturers who implement lean principles should consider how they can take a smarter approach to the inventory that they hold at any given time. Lean principles mean making sure that you have the right quantities of the right items in stock, and that they are available for when they are needed. Lean thinking helps you reduce your inventory, keeping only what is necessary and getting clearer about what is needed. 

New Equipment Isn’t Needed

Whether or not new equipment will be needed in order to make lean principles work will depend on the business in question. For some companies, implementing lean principles may sometimes lead to a need to invest in new equipment depending on specific company requirements and what’s necessary to get the job done. Consider the fact that any equipment that you need should always be chosen with lean principles taken into consideration and reliability, safety, and consistency are the main factors to prioritize. While investing in better-quality equipment may be a large short-term expense, it will be worth the investment if it can significantly reduce operating costs and make reducing waste easier. 

Employees Will Work Harder

Lean principles are all about reducing unnecessary waste, and not about making people work harder. In fact, the opposite of this myth is often more likely to be true, as you may find that when using lean principles, many employees will have their workload reduced as there will no longer be as much of a need for them to waste time taking on menial, wasteful tasks. In turn, they can focus their attention and energy on more meaningful tasks that actually provide more value for the end-user. When lean principles are implanted, it is more likely that individuals and teams are able to increase the results that they get without the need to work any extra hours. 

It’s Just a Fad

Another common misconception about lean manufacturing is that it is just a fad that won’t get any real results for your business. But while lean might have now become something of a buzzword in the manufacturing industry, it’s certainly not just a fad or a trend. Lean has actually been around for longer than most people realize, with a history that can be traced all the way back to the 1400s. In manufacturing, lean concepts were first introduced decades ago by Henry Ford, before becoming popular among car manufacturing companies, particularly Toyota. 

How Lean Principles Can Improve Products

Now you’re aware of the common myths and misconceptions surrounding lean manufacturing principles, it’s worth learning more about how these principles can actually help companies drive better and more successful products. These days, it can often be difficult, if not impossible for companies to achieve any success if they do not have a solid and clear understanding of what their target audience is looking for. It can be fatal for a company if they do not have a clear understanding of customer pain points, requirements and needs. Tech companies in particular are using lean manufacturing methods and principles to improve their products, provide better value to the end-user, and achieve success. Here’s how:


Creating a prototype or minimum viable product (MVP) should always be the first stage of any lean manufacturing process. This should contain just the necessary features of the product and is designed to provide users with a basic idea of what to expect from it. It is used to help the company make a final decision regarding whether or not the project should be continued. Before developing an MVP, it is important for the company to have a clear and defined concept in order to ensure that customers can understand what the product does and how it could benefit from them. It’s also important to determine what the MVP needs to gain from the customers for the company, and the MVP should be built with the intention of driving a reaction from customers. 

Validated Learning

Learning is essential for any growth, improvement, or change. Because of this, validated learning should be an important part of any development process that seeks improvement, allowing the company to determine how close each iteration of the product is to providing satisfaction and value to the end-user. For companies that use lean manufacturing processes, the success is not merely measured by the number of units that are manufactured, but rather by the measurable responses that are obtained from target users. 


Today we are in an age of rapid growth, especially in terms of technology. As a result of this, products need to be scalable in order for them to succeed. Lean manufacturing companies know this, and throughout the development process for a new product, are not only able to focus on the user needs of today, but also in the future. A product with fixed features or capabilities is unlikely to last. 

A/B Testing

A/B testing is a process that allows companies to go even further, testing different variations of a product in order to determine which variation is going to work best. In some cases, even the smallest differences can have a big impact on the behavior of consumers, meaning that testing different variations at the same time can make it easier for companies to understand which variation is going to provide the most value and be the most satisfactory for customers. The fact that different audiences behave differently makes A/B testing very useful. Something that might work well for one consumer might not have any use for another. 

How These Principles Benefit Any Manufacturing Business

Any manufacturing business can benefit from implementing lean principles. While they may commonly be associated with physical product manufacturing such as production lines or car manufacture, lean principles are now being more commonly used in other industries such as web design and development, software development and more. Some of the main ways that lean manufacturing can benefit an organization include:

Improved Flexibility

Lean manufacturing processes are based on iterative changes, which allows you to better streamline the operational process and makes it easier for customer demands to be immediately met. These principles make it easier to make changes where needed throughout the production process, putting a company in a position where customers have more confidence in the business to come with a request to get the product they need at the time they need it. 

More Productivity

Since lean principles are all about reducing and eliminating as much physical and non-physical waste as possible, it allows companies to eliminate any tasks that only waste time and do not provide value to the end-user. This could refer to collecting unnecessary data, producing unnecessary materials, or rearranging the workplace to relocate equipment and tools that are stored poorly. Although some of these tasks might not seem very significant when on their own, over time, they can certainly add up to produce huge amounts of wasted time and effort, which can eat into the productivity of the business overall. 

Avoid Errors

At times, it might seem that defective products or serious errors simply appear out of nowhere when you use more traditional methods of manufacturing. However, implementing lean principles throughout the production timeline allows you to significantly reduce defects and errors, or even eliminate them completely. This is a result of not waiting until the end of the process to test the product, instead using regular iterative testing to quickly discover and repair faults or issues when they arise. 

Improve Operations

Once all wasteful activities are removed from the production process, operations will begin to run more smoothly. Implementing lean principles means that fewer steps are involved, which typically means that the company will experience significant reductions when it comes to issues such as interruptions, errors, bottlenecks, and delays. When lean principles are implemented in a manufacturing process, you will usually expect a better chance of things running smoothly throughout the production timeline, with better-quality results. 

Improve Product Quality

Finally, lean principles can help businesses avoid reaching the end of the production timeline to find that a small error has not been noticed, impacting the final quality of the product. Iterative testing provides businesses with the necessary tools to deal with errors as and when they occur, ultimately leading to saving money and improving reputation. 

Although there are several misconceptions and myths surrounding lean manufacturing, there are many reasons why any company that manufactures any type of product may consider implementing them.

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