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Home > Articles and Resources > 7. Lean Manufacturing Glossary, Definitions and Terms

7. Lean Manufacturing Glossary, Definitions and Terms

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| A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |


5S: 5S is a housekeeping methodology for the shop floor. There are five rules of housekeeping for a lean environment and they help to expose waste and support the discipline needed to implement the Toyota Production System.

The five S’s are described below:

1. Seiri (Organization): Keep just what is needed, clearly distinguish between what is needed and kept and what is unneeded and thrown away.

2. Seiton (Orderliness): Have a place for everything and implement a system whereby everything is in its place. Organize in a way that ensures that necessary things are kept close at hand. Tools and other objects should be easier to find and returned to their proper location.

3. Seiso (Cleanliness): This can be viewed as systematic clearing where everything is cleaned, inspected and maintained on a regular basis.

4. Seiketsu (Standardization): Establish methods within the company that will ensure the effective continuation of steps 1 thought 3.

5. Shitsuke (Discipline): Set us systems that sustain the five S process. Ensure that all 4 steps are maintained.

If a company does not have the discipline to execute the five S’s, it will not have the discipline to complete standard work, pull systems, and other lean techniques. 5S is the very first step on a company’s learn journey.

| A |

Andon: Simply means “light” in Japanese. However, in a TPS environment, an andon is any visual indicator signaling that a team member has encountered an abnormal situation which can not be resolved without preventing a stoppage (as defined by takt time). Poor quality, lack of a parts, paperwork, information or tools may cause an abnormal condition. The key to effective andons is that they be visual and support “management by sight”.

Andon Board: A visual control device in a work area, typically a lighted overhead display giving the current status (green, yellow, red) of each step in the production system and alerting team leaders and supervisors to existing or emerging production problems.

Automation: Employing machines to do the work of people. The steam engine and the automation that it enabled was the backbone of the Industrial Revolution.

Autonomation (Jikoka): Transferring human intelligence to automated or semi-automated machinery so that machines and not people are able to detect production defects and immediately stop themselves. Usually, such a stop is signaled via an andon signal. This notion of built-in-quality was pioneered by Sakichi Toyoda when he invented automatic textile looms that stopped the instant a thread was broken. In Japanese, this concept is called Jidoka and it is a critical element of the TPS House.

Automatic Time: The time when a machine is running on an automatic cycle and a person is not needed to operate the equipment.  Automatic Time is also called Machine Time and it is one of three measures on a Standard Work Combination Sheet.

NB: If an operator is required to watch a machine work, this is to be considered not automatic time, but operator time.

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| B |

Batch Production: In contrast to one-piece-flow (or flow), batch production is a mass-production practice developed by Henry Ford. It is the practice of making large lots of a particular item to gain economic efficiencies of equipment and machine changeover time. TPS teaches that such a practice is inefficient in the long-term because it results in overproducing unwanted product. See the seven wastes.

Breakthrough Improvement (Kaikaku): A major, significant improvement that occurs after many small, incremental improvements (kaizen). Kaikaku should come naturally after completing many (sometimes hundreds) kaizens; it is not something that is forced.

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| C |

Chaku-Chaku: A Japanese word meaning load-load, it refers to a single-piece flow cell where the only thing that an operator does is load each machine in sequence. The operator only loads material because all other operations have been automated and do not require human supervision. This is an advanced lean technique and may takes years of hard work to develop in a single cell. However, the benefits are significant (elimination of WIP, defect free production and very high utilization of labor and space).

Changeover Time:  The time required for a machine to produce a different part (for example, a new stamping, a new color in a paint system, a new mold in an injection molding machine, etc...). Changeover time is measured from the last good part of the previous process to the first good part of the subsequent process.  Reducing changeover time is a key component of implementing a pull production system which operates with as little inventory as possible.

Continuous Flow: Flow of products in a manner through the production operation. The ideal situation is one-piece flow at and between the processes. The intent of flow production is to increase the velocity of products and make the production cycle predictable.

Concrete Head: A Japanese term for someone who resists and will not accept change.  Concrete heads do not accept that businesses must be focused on waste elimination and customer satisfaction and other concpets inherent to a lean production system. 

Cycle Time: Cycle time is measured, usually with a stop watch. The actual time it takes to complete a process from start to finish to produce one unit (one cycle of an operation). An employee’s cycle time, must meet takt time (with an appropriate buffer of safety time). If cycle time is higher than takt time, the customer’s needs will not be met. If it is lower, there will be overproduction / excess inventory or operator idle time, each of which is a waste and costs money. Keeping cycle time equal to takt time will prevent waste from creeping back in the process.

Only when cycle time for every operation in a complete process is reduced to equal takt time can products be made in a single-piece flow process.

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| E |

Elimination of Waste: A philosophy which states that all activities undertaken need to be evaluated to determine if they are necessary or unnecessary as defined by the customer. The philosophy of waste elimination is the backbone of the Toyota Production System.

Employee Involvement: A crucial aspect of Continuous Improvement based on two facts:

Fact 1: Those who do the job every day have vital information for eliminating waste and adding value and solving real problems.

Fact 2: To get commitment from those who will implement the plans developed, they need to be involved in the decision making process.

Error Proofing: See Poka-Yoke (Mistake Proofing).

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| F |

Five Why’s: Method of evaluating a problem or question by asking “why” five times. The purpose is to get to the root cause of the problems instead of addressing the symptoms. By asking and answering why five (or more) times, the root cause becomes evident and the proper corrective action can be taken.

Flow Production: Same as single-piece-flow or one-piece-flow. Describes how goods, services and information are processed. That is, once piece at a time. This can be a part, a document, invoice or customer order. It rejects the concept of batch, large lot or mass processing. Flow vertically integrates all operations and functions as operationally or sequentially performed. It also encompasses pull or demand processing. Goods are not pushed through the process, but pulled or demanded by succeeding operations from preceding operations.

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| G |

Gemba*: “Actual place” or the place where real action occurs, that is where products or services are performed. In a manufacturing environment, the gemba often refers to the shop floor, because it is there that product is being transformed.

Gembutsu*: In Japanese, it refers the actual product. These are a companies parts, tools, jigs, fixtures, machines, equipment and materials all used to manufacture quality products.

Genjitsu*: In Japanese, it refers to the “actual facts” or reliable and observed data required to understand what the actual situation/problem is.

*Three Gen Principle: When solving a problem, the combination of going to the gemba, to observe the Gembutsu in order to obtain genjitsu. With these three “gen’s” a problem can be properly solved.

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| H |

Hanedashi: A device or means for automatic unloading of a work piece from one operation or process. This same device will provide proper orientation of the next work piece for the next operation or process. Crucial for a “Chaku-Chaku” line.

Hoshin Kanri: A strategic decision-making tool for a firm’s executive team that focuses on resources on the critical initiatives necessary to accomplish the business objectives of the firm. By using visual matrix diagrams similar to those employed for quality function deployment, three to six key objectives are selected while all others are clearly deselected. The selected objectives are translated into specific strategies and deployed down to the implementation level in the firm. Hoshin Kanri unifies and aligns resources and established clearly measurable targets against which progress toward the key objectives is measured on a regular basis.

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| J |

Just In Time (JIT): A strategy that exposes waste, makes continuous improvement a reality, and relies on total employee involvement. It concentrates on delivering what the customer wants, when they want it, in the quantity they want. The key elements of JIT are flow, pull, standard work (with standard in-process inventories), and takt time.

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| K |

Kaizen (Continuous Improvement): An organizational attitude, approach and philosophy to doing business. It is the key thrust to maintaining or achieving competitive advantage through a well managed, dynamic change process. It is customer focused, ever changing, and maximized when all associates use kaizen to achieve the primary quality, cost , delivery, safety, and morale goals. The key to kaizen is to use it as a tool to accomplish the policy deployment breakthrough objectives.

Kanban (signboard): Designates a pull production means of communicating need for product or service. Originally developed as a means to communicate between operations in different locations, it was intended to communicate a change in demand or supply. In application, it is generally used to trigger the movement of material to or though a process.

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| L |

Level Scheduling (Heijunka): The creation of a level schedule by sequencing orders in a repetitive pattern and smoothing the day to day variations in total orders to correspond to longer-term demand. In other words, crating a production schedule based on a constant volume needed within a given time and variety of product called “mixed lot” production. The goal is to average both the volume and the mix of products.

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| M |

Make It Ugly: Kaizen and TPS does not fix everything right now. Instead, it exposes problems that need to be fixed. Instead of covering up the problems, make it “ugly” as possible so it gets attention. What gets our attention gets resolved. This is a very difficult concept for Western managers to embrace.

Milk Run: A routing of a supply or delivery vehicle to make multiple pickups or drop-offs at different locations on a regularly scheduled basis.

Mistake Proofing (Poke-Yoke): Developing a system so that it is impossible to make a mistake or produce a defect.

Monument: Any design, scheduling, or production technology with scale requirements necessitating that designs, order and products be brought to a machine to wait in a queue for processing. Contrast with right-sized tool. A piece of equipment (usually large and expensive) that cannot easily/inexpensively be moved, even if it would be good to so do in terms of TPS principles. Also, continuous improvement requires continuous re-arrangement; therefore monuments are waste.

Muda and the 7 wastes: Waste. Any activity that consumes resources but creates no value.
Seven types of waste have been identified for the shop floor. They are waste from (1) over production, (2) waiting or idle time, (3) transportation, (4) inefficiency of the process itself, (5) inventory, (6) unnecessary motion and effort and (7) defects.

Mura: Overloading an area or asking for otherwise unreasonable work.

Muri: Uneven flow of parts.

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| N |

Nichijo Kanri: Daily fundamental management. This is the opposite of Hoshin Kanii or Policy Deployment, which is the direction setting management or strategic planning function.

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| P |

Pull System: A production method in which the production of an item starts only when there is actual demand from a customer (as opposed to anticipated from a forecast). The demand of that customer starts (pulls) the next downstream operation into the production process, etc. The opposite of pull production is push production.

Push Production: The typical method of “pushing” large lots of material through the system, usually managed by a complicated (often computerized) process to track where items are and how to connect these items into a customer satisfaction unit. Inevitability this leads to other wasteful processes, such as expediting. The production of items based on a predetermined schedule or forecast. The result is inventory – manufactured items for which there is not yet a customer. A push system is the exact opposite of a pull system.

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| Q |

Q,C,S,D,M: These are the basic drivers of every business and are Quality, Cost, Delivery, Safety and Morale.

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| R |

Right Sized Tool: A design, scheduling, or production device/tool that can be fitted directly into the flow of products within a product family so that production no longer requires unnecessary transport and waiting. Contrast with monument.

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| S |

Spaghetti Chart: A map (floor plan) of the path taken by a specific product/part/material/person as it or they travel through the value stream in a mass-production organization, so-called because the product’s route typically looks as disorganized as a plate of spaghetti.

Standard Work: Standard work lists the normal tasks done with the least amount of waste possible at the current time (of course, it will continually be improved.) Standard work includes the amount of time needed for each task. Standard work focuses on the employee, not the equipment or the materials. Standard work is completed by the actual operator performing the task since they know best the details of the process. Standard work is often confused with work standards and/or work instructions. They are not the same thing. Standard work reduces variation an increases consistency that is necessary for first-time quality.

Standard Work Combination Sheet: A form that visually charts the information from a time sheet observation form in terms of an employees activity, machine time and moving time. It separates time between: man, machine and movement (walking).

Standard Work Sheet: A form to visually describe the standard operation, including inspection steps, safety issues, and standard work in process. It is a layout of the cell area with all the movement/steps in process noted like a spaghetti diagram.

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| T |

Takt Time: Takt time is a calculated value. The formula for takt time is AVAILABLE PRODUCTION TIME / CUSTOMER DEMAND. Since takt time is defined by the customer (denominator), it becomes a very important number in a lean environment and drives all shop floor decisions.

Throughput Time: The time required for a product to go thought a process. Usually, throughput time is measured from the receipt of raw material until that raw material is shipped to the customer. Some companies begin the process with the receipt of a customer’s order.

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM): Preventative maintenance carried out by all employees. It is equipment maintenance performed on a company wide basis. TPS has five goals:

  1. Maximize equipment effectiveness.
  2. Develop a system of productive maintenance for the life of the equipment,
  3. Involve all departments that plan, design, use, or maintain equipment in implementing TPM.
  4. Actively involve all employees.
  5. Promote TPM through motivational management.
| V |

Value Steam Mapping: Identification of all the specific activities occurring along a value stream for a product or product family. This is part of creating a lean enterprise. The output should be a list of action items to be done to improve the process.

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| W, X, Y and Z |

Waterstrider (Mizusumashi): Water-beetle or Water-spider. A term used to describe the activities of the person responsible for maintaining correct inventories on the production line.

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