DevFactory is not a manufacturing company, but it is a company that borrows the best ideas from the factory mentality. In particular, the company has adopted some of the most tried and true methods of lean manufacturing. For companies—whether factories or not—that have never before encountered lean manufacturing, this concept can be a revelation.
The best way to understand lean manufacturing is to compare it to other forms of production. For many years, manufacturing companies have created products in anticipation of finding a market for them. Manufacturing processes have been driven by sales forecasts and product maximization efforts. Companies have buffered their inventories to ensure they are able to meet any sudden flux in demand.
Many manufacturers, as well as companies like DevFactory, find lean manufacturing to be a more prudent model. Lean manufacturing is based on the notion that production can be—and really should be—driven by demand from consumers. Instead of producing what a company hopes to sell, or simply producing as much as it can possibly make, lean manufacturing teaches that companies should produce enough to meet the actual demand they are receiving.
To put it most succinctly, lean manufacturing is all about manufacturing what the customer wants, with much shorter lead times. Instead of pushing out as much product as possible, lean manufacturing companies pull products through a system designed to keep up with consumer demand.
It is not hard to see why a company like DevFactory might wish to borrow some of the basic concepts of lean manufacturing. The benefits of lean manufacturing are numerous, and they include:
- Lean manufacturing companies are capable of producing high-quality products, both economically and in lower volumes.
- Lean manufacturing organizations can also bring these products to market much more quickly than mass producers can.
- In fact, a lean producing organization can make twice as much product with twice the quality, at half the cost and with a fraction of the normal work-in-process inventory.
- Lean manufacturing principles allow companies to operate the most efficient businesses possible, with the smallest amount of waste.
The Challenges of Going Lean
If lean manufacturing is so advantageous, why don’t more companies seek to implement lean principles? While companies like DevFactory benefit greatly from lean concepts, there are also some challenges to lean implementation. A company cannot simply elect to go lean one day; it takes time and real commitment.
Successful lean manufacturers understand that “lean” is not just a catchphrase, but also a corporate vision that touches all aspects of the company. Lean manufacturing notions touch everything from product design and manufacturing to marketing, management, and beyond. Even suppliers and trading partners have to be engaged in order for lean manufacturing to be effective.
The Long History of Lean
With that said, companies have been adopting lean ideals for decades now—so there is no reason to think that lean manufacturing is impossible to attain. Lean production has been around nearly as long as mass production itself, standing as one of the many ways in which companies have come to terms with mass production techniques.
Henry Ford is often credited as being the man who first implemented lean production techniques. His use of the assembly line, in the production of the Model T, brought his company higher productivity, but at lower costs. Many businesses, such as DevFactory, have sought to replicate this basic formula, in Ford’s wake.
Lean Manufacturing and Your Company
The next question is what does lean manufacturing mean for your company? Why should companies pursue it? Why have companies like DevFactory made lean manufacturing such a high priority?
Lean manufacturing involves identifying and eliminating any steps in the design, production, and management processes that do not add value to the consumer. This ideal can be broken down into the following principles:
- Specify value, in the eye of the customer.
- Identify the value stream and remove any source of waste.
- Make value flow at the pull of customers and clients.
- Involve and empower all employees and team members.
- Continuously improve in the pursuit of true perfection.
Lean Manufacturing is a Process
It cannot be overstated that lean manufacturing is a paradigm shift. It is a whole new way for companies to understand their practices and procedures. It is not something that can be simply mandated from the boardroom, any more than it can be rolled out in the span of a day or a week. Going lean means getting the entire company united behind a shared vision, and working toward that vision each and every day.
There are challenges to address along the way, then. For many companies—including DevFactory—these efforts are met with numerous rewards.