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Lean Manufacturing Glossary

Welcome to the Lean Glossary

Explore the language of Lean through this Lean glossary as you transform your organization into a lean, agile, and competitive force.

Start the conversation today and get assistance from experienced Lean practitioners as you navigate the principles and terminology of Lean manufacturing. From eliminating waste to enhancing productivity, the seasoned experts at WMEP, part of the MEP National Network, can help you to optimize operations and drive sustainable growth.

3P (Production Preparation Process)

3P focuses on eliminating waste through product and process design. 3P meets customer requirements by starting with a clean product development slate to rapidly create and test potential product and process designs that require the least time, material, and capital resources. A diverse group of individuals work together in a multi-day creative process to identify several alternative ways to meet the customer’s needs using different product or process designs. 3P typically results in products that are less complex, easier to manufacture (often referred to as “design for manufacturability”), and easier to use and maintain. 3P can also design production processes that eliminate multiple process steps and that utilize homemade, right-sized equipment to better meet production needs.

5S (Sort/Set in order/Shine/Standardize/Sustain)

5S is a method used by front-line workers to organize the workplace and thereby improve workplace safety, reduce waste, simplify work processes, improve equipment maintenance and trouble-shooting, and ensure product quality.

6σ (Six Sigma)

Six Sigma is a business management strategy originally developed by Motorola, USA in 1981. Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes. It uses a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods, and creates a special infrastructure of people within the organization (“Black Belts”, “Green Belts”, etc.) who are experts in these methods. Each Six Sigma project carried out within an organization follows a defined sequence of steps and has quantified financial targets (cost reduction or profit increase)

The term Six Sigma originated from terminology associated with manufacturing, specifically terms associated with statistical modeling of manufacturing processes. The maturity of a manufacturing process can be described by a sigma rating indicating its yield, or the percentage of defect-free products it creates. A six-sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of the products manufactured are statistically expected to be free of defects (3.4 defects per million).

8D (Eight Disciplines) Problem Solving Process

The eight disciplines are:

  1. Use a Team: Establish a team of people with product/process knowledge.
  2. Define the Problem: Specify the problem by identifying in quantifiable terms the who, what, where, when, why, how and how many (5W2H) for the problem.
  3. Implement and verify Interim Actions: Define and implement containment actions to isolate the problem from any customer.
  4. Identify and Verify Root Causes: Identify all potential causes that could explain why the problem occurred. Also identify why the problem has not been noticed at the time it occurred. All causes shall be verified or proved, not determined by fuzzy brainstorming
  5. Choose and verify Permanent Corrective Actions (PCAs): Through pre-production programs quantitatively confirm that the selected corrective actions will resolve the problem for the customer.
  6. Implement and validate PCAs: Define and Implement the best corrective actions.
  7. Prevent recurrence: Modify the management systems, operation systems, practices and procedures to prevent recurrence of this and all similar problems.
  8. Congratulate your Team: Recognize the collective efforts of the team. The team needs to be formally thanked by the organization.


The A3 is a structured approach to problem solving where the problem is analyzed and all relevant information is recorded on an 11×17 piece of paper in a specific set of categories.


A bottleneck is a step in a process line that limits the throughput of the entire process line.

Cellular/Flow Manufacturing

Cellular/Flow manufacturing is the linking of manual and machine operations into the most efficient combination to maximize value-added content while minimizing waste.

Continuous Improvement (CIP)

Continuous Improvement follows a “Plan-do-check-act” cycle.

COQ: Cost of Quality

COQ is a quantification of the cost of poor quality.


A defect is a frailty or shortcoming in a product resulting from a departure from its design specifications during production.


DMAIC is a project methodology with five phases:

  • Define the problem, the voice of the customer, and the project goals, specifically.
  • Measure key aspects of the current process and collect relevant data.
  • Analyze the data to investigate and verify cause-and-effect relationships. Determine what the relationships are, and attempt to ensure that all factors have been considered. Seek out root cause of the defect under investigation.
  • Improve or optimize the current process based upon data analysis using techniques such as design of experiments, poka yoke or mistake proofing, and standard work to create a new, future state process. Set up pilot runs to establish process capability.
  • Control the future state process to ensure that any deviations from target are corrected before they result in defects. Implement control systems such as statistical process control, production boards, and visual workplaces, and continuously monitor the process.

DOE: Design of Experiments

DOE is a family of statistical improvement techniques.

FMEA: Failure Mode and Effects Analysis

FMEA is a technique used to assess risk in a process or a product design.


Gemba is a Japanese term that means the place where all activities are actually taking place; in other words, the place where value is added. For example, in a job shop, gemba is the shop floor.  Gemba-Kaizen would mean “continuous improvement on the shop floor.”


Inventory is the value of materials and goods held by a firm:

  • to support production (raw materials, sub-assemblies, work in process),
  • for support activities (repair, maintenance, consumables), or
  • for sale or customer service (merchandise, finished goods, spare parts)

Inventory Turns

Inventory turns is the number of times the value of inventory is turned over in a year; 12 turns means that the value of inventory is turned 12 times per year or once per month.


Just-in-time manufacturing means providing what is needed, when it is needed, in the quantity it is needed.


Kaizen is a Japanese term that means “To make better”, or “continuous improvement”. Small incremental changes that add up to big improvements, usually low-cost / no-cost solutions that can be implemented every day. Practicing kaizen often produces a philosophical shift in doing work, toward becoming inquisitive and proactive in problem-solving and problem prevention.

Kaizen Event

A Kaizen Event is a focused, short-term event to make immediate improvements.


A kanban is a visual signal, typically a re-order card or container that triggers a pull manufacturing system.

Layouts & Work Cell Design

Layouts & work cell design uses the results of value stream mapping and workflow analysis to improve the macro and micro layout of the process.

Lead Time

Lead-time is the time quoted to customers (usually in days or weeks) between the date of purchase and the shipment date.


Lean manufacturing is the process of analyzing the flow of information and materials in a manufacturing environment and continuously improving the process to achieve enhanced value for the customer.

Lean is a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste (non–value-added activities) through continuous improvement by flowing the product at the pull of the customer.

Load Balancing

Load balancing is matching or adjusting the throughput rate of all steps in a workflow.

Mistake Proofing

Mistake proofing consists of low-cost, highly reliable innovations that will detect abnormal situations before they occur, or if they occur, will stop the machines or operators, preventing the production of defective product.


Monuments are equipment that is too costly or disruptive to move is considered a monument.

On-Time Delivery

On-time delivery is a measure of the success rate of delivering (or shipping) on the date promised.

One-piece Flow

One-piece flow is a practice where product is moved from one workstation to the next one piece at a time without allowing inventory to build up in-between steps.

Point Of Use Storage (POUS)

POUS are raw materials, parts, tooling and gauging stored at the workstation where they are used using a visual, small-batch replenishment system.

Problem-Solving Process

A problem-solving process is a formal, structured approach to solving a problem such as the 8D Process or DMAIC.

Pull/Kanban System

The Pull/Kanban system is a visually driven method for controlling the flow of resources in a production process by replacing only what has been consumed. Production schedules are customer order-driven based on actual demand rather than forecasting. A method of controlling the flow of resources by indirectly linking dissimilar functions, through the use of visual controls (kanbans), replacing only what has been consumed at the demand rate of the customer

Pull vs. Push

Pull and Push are two diametrically opposite scheduling philosophies. Push manufacturing schedules are dictated by a formal production schedule where a new lot is pushed onto the first step of the process. With pull manufacturing, a customer order triggers the start of a new lot; typically empty kanbans pull new production from the prior process step.

QFD: Quality Function Deployment

QFD is a technique used to identify the “Voice of the Customer” and match customer requirements and technical requirements.

Quality at the Source

In quality at the source, operators inspect product before passing it to the next workstation.

Quick Changeover, Setup Reduction

Quick changeover/setup reduction focuses on reducing the time between the last good piece off the current run, and the first good piece off the next run.

Set-Up Time

Set-up time is the amount of time it takes to set-up a process to produce the next product, measured from the last good part of the prior lot to the first good part of the new lot.

Simulated Continuous Flow

Simulated continuous flow – in a step-wise batch operation, simulating a continuous process with small lot sizes (as small as a lot size of 1), elimination of WIP, and direct feed of each process step from its prior step.

SMED: Single Minute Exchange of Dies

SMED stands for set-up reduction on a machine that uses dies — an approach that minimizes the time the process is down being changed over from one product to another.

Standardized Work

Standardized work is repeatable and reliable operations, safely carried out, with all tasks organized in the best known sequence, using the most effective combination of people, material, machines, and methods.

Takt Time

Takt Time is the rate at which the customer uses a product. It is calculated by dividing the total daily operating time by the total daily customer demand.


Teams are cross-trained and multi-skilled employees with a continuous improvement philosophy practicing process quality, not inspection, which promotes camaraderie and improved morale within the organization focused on a common goal.

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

TPM is a method to proactively maintain machines and equipment at their peak productivity and reduce equipment downtime to zero. A systematic approach to the elimination of equipment-related waste.

VSM: Value Stream Mapping

VSM is a tool used to identify the current flow of material and information for a product or process, highlighting the opportunities for improvement that will most significantly improve the production system.

Visual Controls

Visual controls are simple visual signals that give the operator the information to make the right decision. They are efficient, self-regulating, and worker-managed.


Waste is anything that uses resources, but does not add real value to the product or service. Waste is “anything other than the minimum amount of equipment, materials, parts, space, and worker’s time which are absolutely essential to add value to the product.”

The Eight Wastes of Lean

  1. Overproduction: Produce only the exact amount the customer wants, when they want it.
  2. Transportation: Eliminate movement of materials and information that doesn’t add value to the products. Extra processing: Do as little as required in each step to the product as possible to add the most value to it.
  3. Motion: Eliminate unnecessary movement of people.
  4. Waiting: Eliminate delays, long setups and unplanned downtime of machines, processes or people.
  5. Underutilized people: Use people efficiently as possible
  6. Non-value added processing
  7. Defects
  8. Unnecessary Inventories


Work In Progress

Workflow Analysis

Workflow analysis – Analyzing the physical layout of a process flow with the intent of reducing travel distances, eliminating redundancies, improving communication and quality.

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