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Lean Manufacturing Terms and Definitions


5S A method used to organize the work area, workstation, or cell:

Sort: The elimination of that which is not needed.

Straighten: Organize remaining items with those used most, closest to you.

Shine: Clean and inspect work area for tool condition, safety and supplies of what you need.

Standardize: Write standards for above that can be applied and replicated.

Sustain: Regularly assess all aspects of 5S process and apply or improve standards.


Bottleneck Analysis Process to identify which part of the overall process limits throughput and causes pain points within your organization.

Cell: an arrangement of people, machines, materials and equipment with the processing steps placed right next to each other in sequential order through which parts are processed in a continuous flow.

Cycle time: the time required to complete one cycle of an operation. If cycle time for every operation in a complete process can be reduced to equal time, products can be made in single-piece flow.

Continuous Flow Manufacturing where work-in-process smoothly flows through production with minimal (or no) buffers between steps of the manufacturing process. Trying to eliminate unnecessary material handling.

Error proofing: a process used to prevent errors from occurring or to immediately point out a defect as it occurs. If defects don’t get passed down an assembly line, throughput and quality improve.

Feeder lines: a series of special assembly lines that allow assemblers to perform preassembly tasks off the main production line. Performing certain processes off the main production line means fewer parts in the main assembly area, the availability of service-ready components and assemblies in the main production area, improved quality and less lead time to build a product.

Flow: the progressive achievement of tasks along the value stream so that a product proceeds from design to launch, order to delivery, and raw materials into the hands of the customer with no stoppages, scrap or backflows.

Kaizen A strategy or system where teams come together proactively to achieve regular, incremental improvements in the overall process.


Kanban Regulate the flow of goods both within the factory and with outside suppliers and customers based on automatic replenishment through basic signal cards that indicate when more goods are needed. Electronic systems are also available and based on Kanban principles.

Kitting: a process in which assemblers are supplied with kits–a box of parts, fittings and tools–for each task they perform. This eliminates time-consuming trips from one parts bin, tool crib or supply center to another to get the necessary material.

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Metrics designed to track and encourage progress towards critical goals of the organization. Strongly promoted KPIs can be extremely powerful. It is important to carefully select the right KPI’s for your organization and to understand what is driving those results when making decisions.

Lead time: the total time a customer must wait to receive a product after placing an order.

Lean manufacturing: a manufacturing philosophy that shortens the time between the customer order and the product build and shipment by eliminating sources of waste. It attacks waste within a plant or process; waste elimination results in cost reduction

Muda Anything in the manufacturing process that does not add value from the customer’s perspective.
The basis of all things LEAN – the purposeful elimination of wasteful activities.


Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

A framework for measuring productivity loss for a given manufacturing process. Three categories of loss are tracked:

Availability (downtime)

Performance (cycle times)

Quality (returns or crashes)


Root Cause Analysis A problem solving methodology that focuses on resolving the underlying problem instead of applying quick fixes that only treat immediate symptoms of the problem. A common approach is to ask why five times – each time moving a step closer to discovering the true underlying problem.

Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED)


SMART Goals Goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Specific.

Total Productive Maintenance A holistic approach to maintenance that focuses on proactive and preventative maintenance to maximize the operational time of equipment. TPM blurs the distinction between maintenance and production by placing a strong emphasis on empowering operators to help maintain their equipment.


Toyota Production System (TPS) A manufacturing strategy developed by Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan over a period of many years. TPS focuses on the complete elimination of waste from the manufacturing process, and is the progenitor of lean manufacturing.


Value Stream Mapping Is used to visually map the flow of production. It shows the current and future state of processes in a way that highlights opportunities for improvement.


Visual Factory Visual indicators, displays and controls used throughout manufacturing plants to improve communication of information.