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Top 10 global companies using lean manufacturing principles

In recent years, the requirement for large scale, global manufacturing has never been greater. We discuss how companies have adopted lean manufacturing to meet demands in all business sectors from worldwide consumer goods to vehicle and heavy machinery production. Read now to see some of the leading businesses implementing lean production principles in 2021.

10. Toyota

Toyota’s Total Quality Management (TQM) system has been developed beyond the past two decades and is a commonly used initiative in japanese car manufacturing.

The TQM was derived from the company’s ethos of ‘continuous improvement’ and the word ‘Kaizen’ (continuous improvement) has been a talking point in most conversations regarding Lean Six Sigma in the automotive industry. The philosophy is to work intelligently and eliminate waste so that only minimal inventory is needed, increasing cash flow and reducing physical production space requirements.

9. Ford

Lean manufacturing is truly part of the Ford heritage, dating back to the 20th century and the famous Ford Model T production line. The high quality standards and the need to reduce manufacturing waste is certainly part of the company’s DNA.

Henry Ford discovered the need to minimise inventory and focused on a Just-In-Time production that did just that. Since 2009, Ford have been working on the standardisation and flexibility of their factories, as they aim to be one of the leanest automotive manufacturers in the industry.

8. John Deere

The development of farm machinery has come under influence of lean principles at John Deere. The company takes on the design and production of it’s all important farm machinery components. John Deere has worked for many years to standardise their approach to the manufacturing of their components and now has the capability to meet rigorous standards when it comes to the quality of their products.

The company believes that lean manufacturing has allowed them to look back and see what the real issues were and have since benefited from more flexibility, higher quality components and lower production costs.

7. Parker Hannifin

Parker Hannifin, the technology component manufacturer, operates based on the four key principles of their Parker Lean System (PLS); Language, Leadership, Linkage and Learning by Doing.

Introduced in 2001 by CEO Don Washkewicz, this strategy has “guided us consistently through this sometimes tumultuous past decade,” said Kathy Miller, Vice President Lean Enterprise & Quality for Parker Hannifin. The standardised approach of Parker Hannifin allows them to benefit from safer workplace practices, reduced inventory and the overall improved quality of their products.

6. Textron

Lean Six Sigma has played a big role in the success of Textron Inc. Owner of Textron Systems, Cessna Aircraft Company and Bell Aircraft, the company has benefited from the effectiveness of lean manufacturing for over 20 years. The corporate wide ‘Textron Six Sigma’ initiative was founded in 2002.

The popular Lean Six Sigma ‘belt’ system was introduced and many trained Six Sigma ‘black belts’ were repatriated within the company workforce. The company found that one of their businesses, Textron Fastening Systems, was able to half their lead times on nearly 100 of their products using Lean tools and methodologies.

5. Illinois Tool Works

Illinois Tool Works, a Fortune 500 company, is a large scale industrial manufacturer of specialty site equipment and value-added products. As a global corporation, there is no doubt ITW has faced many challenges in the process of establishing around 800 decentralised business units, 200 of which are located outside of the United States.

In late 2008, ITW deployed the 5S initiative to further improve their manufacturing process. This initiative involved standardising their factories by decluttering the workplace, creating a safer working environment, minimising waste and improving the overall flow of production.

4. Intel

As can be expected from one of the largest technology companies, Intel has taken on the lean manufacturing approach through means of data management and production automation. Intel uses a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) in each of their factories to track equipment and monitor the status of material production.

When it comes to analysing manufacturing data the company focuses on three aspects of the production process:

  • Efficiency – Measuring true production inputs and outputs.
  • Velocity – Measuring lead times, work in progress inventories and average completion rates.
  • Quality – Measuring quality and traceability against strict quality standards.

3. Caterpillar Inc.

Caterpillar Inc. brought lean manufacturing into their lean boom and stick assembly line in 2019, but their implementation of lean principles dates back to 2011. Despite the company producing a low volume product, there is a lot to be said for the complexity of their manufacturing processes.

Upon rolling out lean manufacturing in the company’s boom and stick assembly line in Victoria, Texas, Caterpillar Inc. noticed dramatic improvements in their figures. The company’s 2019 annual report showed a 51% reduction in stored inventory, 85% reduction of work-in-progress inventory and even 60% reduction in workplace injuries.

2. Kimberly-Clark Corporation

Kimberly-Clark, supplier of brands such as Kleenex tissues, Huggies and Andrex, has made great strides with implementing lean manufacturing into their supply chain since 2008. As a result of this, in 2010 the company released a two year cost saving plan of around US$400mn to US$500mn.

At the time Kimberly-Clark first conceived the idea of lean production, they explained in an interview with Forbes how the change had forecasted significant savings through “the continued rollout of lean manufacturing and supply chain practices and from the formation of a global procurement organisation,” said Chris Brickman, Chief Strategy Officer, Kimberly-Clark.

1. Nike

A global giant in the sports footwear and apparel industry. Nike has seen significant growth from the implementation of lean manufacturing, in a bid to minimise material waste and reduce production times. At the time of introducing lean manufacturing, Nike CEO and President Mark Parker, explained the importance of the lean strategy for leveraging it’s improved efficiencies, minimising the company’s effect on the environment while “using the tools available to us to bring about positive change across our entire supply chain.”