The Disadvantages of Lean Manufacturing

Written by chris joseph
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The Disadvantages of Lean Manufacturing
Lean manufacturing processes offer pros and cons (factory image by Milan Surkala from

Lean manufacturing, also known as Just-In-Time manufacturing, is a process where manufacturing companies attempt to become more profitable by eliminating waste from the manufacturing procedure. The time it takes to process and ship and order is greatly reduced, and companies only order the minimum amount of materials needed and keep little or no inventory. While lean manufacturing offers many benefits, it can be difficult and costly to implement, and disaster can occur if something goes wrong.

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Need for Full Support

In order for a lean manufacturing process to be successful, it must have the complete support of the entire operation, especially its leaders. The implementation of lean manufacturing may be a radical departure from the previous methods, and workers may be resistant to change. Without proper support, lean manufacturing will not be embraced and is doomed to fail.

Additional Training

The implementation of lean manufacturing will require much additional training. Employees may be required to work overtime to learn the process, which will create additional expense. Production may also slow considerably during the learning curve, which may result in a loss of business and unhappy customers.

Need for Team Leaders

In addition to the support of management, strong front-line leaders must emerge on the floor. Employees will likely experience high levels of frustration, especially those who were content with the "old way" of doing things. Appointed team leaders must be on board with the new process and have the respect of both the workers and management. It's possible that such individuals may not be eager to accept the challenge.

Supplier Issues

Since lean manufacturing requires the keeping of minimal inventory and supplies, a problem with a supplier can be monumental. If a shipment of defective goods or parts ir received, the result could be that a customer receives a low-quality product or no product at all. Thus, one of the most important components of lean manufacturing is to find reliable suppliers and develop strong relationships.

Cost of Failure

At worst, it is possible that lean manufacturing will not prove successful, resulting in permanent damage to the company. Customers may be lost due to poor service and relationships with suppliers may deteriorate. It may not be feasible to return to the old way of doing business. The result might be the ultimate failure of the business.

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