Five Lean Manufacturing Trends to Keep an Eye on in 2018

Posted: 18th June 2018 08:17

The concept of lean manufacturing has been around for years. The goal is to eliminate waste and make things more efficient. Lean Six Sigma merges lean manufacturing principles with Six Sigma processes to improve quality at the same time, another proven process improvement methodology. Yet technology and the evolution of business models are transforming manufacturing, forcing people in the industry to keep up. Here are five lean manufacturing trends to keep an eye on in 2018.

Lean Labor

Manufacturers are faced with thin profit margins and increased competition. This makes optimizing labor resources and aligning them with the most important business projects and goals essential. And they can do that through “lean labor”. Businesses use scheduling applications to schedule the right mix of people and skills for each shift. This increases total production while minimizing labor costs. In particular, it reduces the need for overtime costs while improving productivity. This is complemented by the focus on the value stream; this brings measurement strategies to all aspects of the business and seeks to eliminate waste while dedicating people to the activities that truly matter.

Green Manufacturing

Lean already has the goal of eliminating waste, whether it is material wastage or idle time. This makes lean manufacturing a natural fit with green manufacturing. Lean manufacturing introduces a systematic and continuous approach to reduce waste in all forms, while it balances this goal against business objectives like profit. Lean manufacturing encourages improvements that achieve both like eliminating overproduction, excess inventory and rework.

3-D Printing

3-D printing is a natural fit with lean manufacturing. While 3-D printing isn’t completely new, it is receiving attention because of how much time, labor, and money it can save everyone. Benefits of 3-D printing include easier prototyping, shorter lead times, cheaper and quickly made customized products, greater consistency, and efficiency. Locally-made products eliminate transport costs and potential delays in delivery. 3-D printing may allow businesses to tap into new customer markets at relatively low cost.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things or IoT refers to the interconnected network of all the devices around us, including the equipment on the shop floor and sensors around the manufacturing floor. The internet of things is predicted to be a $50 billion market by 2020. Researchers at Georgia Tech think it will become a nineteen trillion-dollar market with manufacturing being one of the major markets. The internet of things could enable improved productivity and efficiency while tighter integrating the supply chain. Deeper supplier integration means businesses could know that the parts they ordered are literally in inspection right now.

It increases safety and reduces downtime. Real-time data makes it possible to more quickly optimize operations. Businesses get far better process control, learning about defects and operations out of spec much more quickly. The IOT may make lean custom manufacturing possible.

The Expansion Outside of Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing principles are now being applied across many different industries. For example, lean manufacturing concepts are being applied in healthcare, IT, retail and the public sector. It is being applied anywhere and everywhere because the principles are truly universal. This is because “lean” is now seen as a management system.


Lean manufacturing is a natural complement with a variety of business goals. A host of new technologies only serve to improve its speed, efficiency, and effectiveness.