The Future of Lean Manufacturing by the Numbers

The Manufacturing Sector's Future by the Numbers broken down by top strategic objectives and top challenges.

The above infographic was compiled from LNS Research’s survey that reached out to over 500 manufacturing professionals in the last three years or so.

It is a snapshot into the future of manufacturing. Described are the top strategic objectives of manufacturing professionals over the last three years, along with their top challenges.

What’s not pictured?

What those professionals intend to do about it.

The Lean Manufacturing Takeaway

When it comes to the optimization of people resources, LNS Research found that 53 percent of the manufacturing professionals surveyed intended to create cross-functional teams.

LNS also found that 61 percent of manufacturers had established or planned to establish, at minimum, a Lean manufacturing group starting in 2014.

Additionally, 29 percent of the total number of manufacturing professionals surveyed said that they would completely shift to Lean manufacturing processes starting in 2014.

To look at those statistics another way, more than half of the manufacturing professionals surveyed said that they would try the Lean method via, at minimum, a single manufacturing group.

But less than a third of those same people said that they would fully commit to the Lean method.

It is impossible to argue with the Lean tenets of continuous improvement and waste elimination. The reality, however, is that many decision makers and members of upper tier management realize that a half-measure of commitment won’t deliver the results that other firms have seen.

The Next Steps for Lean

To fully embrace the Lean method requires total top-down commitment.

The Lean method permeates all levels of an organization, and if all members of that organization are not on the same page, that dissonance jeopardizes the success of Lean efforts in organization-wide implementation.

The reluctance of many of the firms surveyed to make the (expensive) leap to Lean is understandable. Their policies of adopting the Lean methodology piecemeal are a good way to test the waters without getting too wet.

For organizations that choose this piecemeal approach, the ongoing issue becomes one of scalability.

Just because the Lean method was rolled out smoothly for a single manufacturing group doesn’t mean that the whole organization’s adoption will fare the same way.

Likewise, a poor Lean rollout for a single manufacturing group doesn’t necessarily mean the Lean method is a poor fit.

Any number of variables can influence the efficacy of a successful Lean rollout.

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, the key elements of successful Lean implementation always apply. These aspects of the Lean method hold true regardless of whether the implementation is organization-wide or simply applied to a single manufacturing group.

1. Consistent, organization-wide support

Top to bottom, everyone from the front lines to the C-suite must be on board to ensure a smooth transition.

2. A reliance on key people

Key members throughout the organization will propagate the Lean methodology and increase the impact of management’s efforts. This is true whether the scope of Lean implementation is across an entire organization or simply just one manufacturing group.

3. Open channels of communication

Open communication also goes by another name: visibility. Visibility and transparency within the Lean transition process, along with the clear channels of communication key people need, ensure Lean success.

4. Complete foundational training

The completion of foundational training is a key element that ensures that an organization’s people are set up for success when it comes to a smooth and productive leap to Lean.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that manufacturing professionals across a variety of firms have agreed that the path forward is the Lean approach to manufacturing operations and processes.

Each of the professionals polled by LNS Research identified strategic objectives as well as top challenges. Most of them concluded that the best way to meet their goals would be to include a form of application of the Lean methodology.

Regardless of whether the implementation was organization-wide or relegated to a single manufacturing group, the majority of those polled identified the continuous improvement nature of Lean, coupled with its waste elimination basis, as the overreaching solution to both achieving their goals and overcoming their top challenges.

This article and the accompanying infographic was sourced from a study performed by LNS Research.

The next steps to take:

  1. If you found this post helpful, take a moment to share it. Even better, tell us in the comments!
  2. Continue exploring the world of Lean thinking and process optimization with these helpful posts:

 Want to learn about other facets of Lean philosophy? Let’s explore 5S.


Not sure where to find waste? Waste elimination identified and classified.

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