The Age of Agile & Lean Manufacturing

New technologies, streamlined logistics, consolidated operations and much more have reshaped the way we view the manufacturing industry as a whole. Customers demand faster lead times, product cycles are increasingly shorter and widespread availability requires product differentiation. As product offerings become more complex and customer demands become more personalized, it’s harder for traditional manufacturing companies to stay afloat without some level of operational change. There’s a need to adapt techniques to be able to minimize overhead and handle demand accordingly. We’ve discussed lean manufacturing in the past, but today’s focus is on combining lean with agile manufacturing practices.

First, it helps to revisit what makes these two manufacturing techniques different from one another. At their most basic difference, lean focuses on minimizing costs across the board while agile focuses on responding to customer demand quickly and pivoting as needed. Cutting costs and being more flexible with product design aren’t mutually exclusive, however. Being agile with your business requires lean thinking, and both of these practices are designed to respond to the modern day customer and industry, making their combination a smart choice for plenty of businesses.

  • Both tactics rely on data to determine their next approach and correlate naturally with advances in technology.
  • Information sharing is emphasized across every department of the company in order to respond to product shifts and financial constraints.
  • Simplicity is at the core of each technique, focusing on simple cost/supplies management and simple operating procedures.
  • Decreasing production time is crucial to agile for customer-centric purposes, while it’s a core tenet of lean to reduce production costs.

A full-fledged shift into a lean and/or agile manufacturing strategy might not be feasible for every business, but both disciplines focus on core principles affecting today’s manufacturing environment: cutting costs and adapting to customer demand. What are some ways your company has incorporated lean and agile practices into your daily operations? Share with us in the comments below.

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