Lean Manufacturing Glossary

Lean Manufacturing Terms and Definitions


5S is a method used to organize the work area:

  • Sort: eliminate that which is not needed
  • Straighten: organize remaining items
  • Shine: clean and inspect work area
  • Standardize: write standards for above
  • Sustain: regularly apply the standards


Andon is a visual feedback system for the plant floor that indicates production status, alerts when assistance is needed, and empowers operators to stop the production process.

Autonomous Maintenance

Autonomous Maintenance is a method from TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) for engaging operators to carry out basic maintenance activity (such as cleaning, lubrication, and inspection activity).

Bottleneck Analysis

Bottleneck Analysis is identifying which part of the manufacturing process limits the overall throughput and improving the performance of that part of the process.

Continuous Flow

Continuous Flow is manufacturing where work-in-process smoothly flows through production with minimal (or no) buffers between steps of the manufacturing process.


Drum-Buffer-Rope is a method from the Theory of Constraints for synchronizing production to the constraint while minimizing inventory and work-in-process. The “Drum” is the constraint. The “Buffer” is the inventory needed to maintain production. The “Rope” is a signal from the constraint when a specific amount of inventory has been consumed.

Gemba (The Real Place)

Gemba is a philosophy that reminds us to get out of our offices and spend time on the plant floor – the place where real action occurs.

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Heijunka (Level Scheduling)

Heijunka is a form of production scheduling that purposely manufactures in much smaller batches by sequencing (mixing) product variants within the same process.

Hoshin Kanri (Policy Deployment)

Hoshin Kanri aligns the goals of the company (Strategy), with the plans of middle management (Tactics) and the work performed on the plant floor (Action).

Jidoka (Autonomation)

Jidoka is designing equipment to partially automate the manufacturing process (partial automation is typically much less expensive than full automation) and to automatically stop when defects are detected.

Just-In-Time (JIT)

Just-in-time is pulling parts through production based on customer demand instead of pushing parts through production based on projected demand. It relies on many lean tools, such as Continuous Flow, Heijunka, Kanban, Standardized Work and Takt Time.

Kaizen (Continuous Improvement)

Kaizen is a strategy where employees work together proactively to achieve regular, incremental improvements in the manufacturing process.

Kanban (Pull System)

Kanban is a method of regulating the flow of goods both within the factory and with outside suppliers and customers. Based on automatic replenishment through signal cards that indicate when more goods are needed.

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

KPIs are metrics designed to track and encourage progress towards critical goals of the organization. Strongly promoted KPIs can be extremely powerful drivers of behavior – so it is important to carefully select KPIs that will drive desired behavior.

Line Control

Line Control is a technique from the Theory of Constraints for automatically controlling machines on synchronized autonomous production lines to maximize throughput at the constraint.

Muda (Waste)

Muda refers to anything in the manufacturing process that does not add value from the customer’s perspective.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

Overall Equipment Effectiveness is a framework for measuring productivity loss for a given manufacturing process. Three categories of loss are tracked:

  • Availability (e.g., downtime)
  • Performance (e.g., slow cycles)
  • Quality (e.g., rejects)

PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act)

PDCA is an iterative methodology for implementing improvements:

  • Plan: establish plan and expected results
  • Do: implement plan
  • Check: verify expected results achieved
  • Act: review and assess; do it again

Poka-Yoke (Error Proofing)

Poka-Yoke is desiging error detection and prevention into production processes with the goal of achieving zero defects.

Root Cause Analysis

Root Cause Analysis is 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)

Single Minute Exchange of Die reduces setup (changeover) time to less than 10 minutes. Techniques include:

  • Convert setup steps to be external (performed while the process is running)
  • Simplify internal setup (e.g., replace bolts with knobs and levers)
  • Eliminate non-essential operations
  • Create standardized work instructions

Six Big Losses

Six Big Losses are six categories of productivity loss that are almost universally experienced in manufacturing:

  • Breakdowns
  • Setup/Adjustments
  • Small Stops
  • Reduced Speed
  • Startup Rejects
  • Production Rejects


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

Standardized Work

Standardized Work is documented procedures for manufacturing that capture best practices (including the time to complete each task). It must be “living” documentation that is easy to change.

Takt Time

Takt Time is the pace of production (e.g., manufacturing one piece every 34 seconds) that aligns production with customer demand. It is calculated as Planned Production Time / Customer Demand.

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

Total Productive Maintenance is 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)

Toyota Production System is 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

Value Stream Mapping is a tool 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 Factory consists of visual indicators, displays and controls used throughout manufacturing plants to improve communication of information.


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