ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

KAIZEN: Definition of Terms in Lean Manufacturing

Updated on July 7, 2014
A Factory with proper lean manufacturing 5s
A Factory with proper lean manufacturing 5s | Source

Lean Manufacturing: Definition of terms

It is important to have a clear understanding of the terms used in any field so that communication is easier among practitioners. The same applies to lean manufacturing and lean thinking which has developed over the years into a well-respected discipline.

There are many lean manufacturing terms that are in common usage. But how many of the people who use these terms really understand them? This article explains the commonly used lean manufacturing terms in a clear and succinct manner. As much as possible, the lean manufacturing terms listed here are in alphabetical order.


A lean management device that controls operations by indicating their status and reporting when conditions are out of control.

Autonomation (jidoka)
Autonomation (jidoka) | Source


This means giving machines the ability to detect quality problems without the intervention of humans. Also known as jidoka, autonomation has also been described as ‘automation with a human touch’. By giving machines human-like intelligence, the operator does not have to continually monitor them. This frees up the human operator to engage in other value-added activities.


A bottleneck is a condition that impedes flow of value within an organization. Bottlenecks can be machines that cannot produce at the desired rate, or material that is preventing a process from producing.

Batch and queue

A method of production where products are manufactured without consideration of the actual customer demand. A batch and queue production process is characterized by excess piles of inventory at every stage of production. This method of production is costly and leads to poor customer order fulfillment.

Cellular manufacturing

This the manufacturing method of placing process steps as close to each other in a sequential manner. By doing this, the throughput of the product is higher due to the enhanced flow of materials within process steps.


A one-piece-flow technique where machines are able to offload their output without the intervention of the operator. This allows the operator to man many machines at the same time and therefore increase efficiency and productivity of the process.

Continuous Flow

The production and movement of one item or small batch at a time through the complete process of manufacturing with little or no waste in between.

Warehouse Storage
Warehouse Storage | Source

Cross Docking

A supply chain strategy where items from many supplies are sorted at a central facility then re-distributed to other units within a large organization. This method of supply chain and logistics management ensures better order fulfillment due to the efficient assembly of outbound orders through the use of shipping lanes.

Production lead time

The total amount of time it takes for a complete customer order to move through the various stages of production. Production lead time is also known as throughput time and is applicable to production and well as the design phase in product development.

Non-value added activities

All those activities within an organization that consume resources but do not add value to the customer’s order. These activities add costs to the product yet are not entirely necessary to the conversion of a raw material into a finished product that can be sold to a customer.

Demand Amplification

Also known as the bullwhip effect, this is the increase in variation along different stages of the value stream. These variations are not a reflection of the actual customer demand but rather are a result of having too many decision making points along the value stream. This results in excess inventory at various stages of the value chain and yet the customer demand remains constant.


The loss of valuable production time can either be planned or unplanned. Planned downtime includes normal breaks, scheduled preventive maintenance and changeovers. Unplanned downtime includes machine breakdowns, raw material stock-outs and lack of staff.


This are devices, processes or methods that are designed to help operators avoid mistakes. Error-proofing is also known as poka yoke and can include alarms or automatic stops when an error condition is encountered.


This is a visual control method that results in an organized and productive workplace. The five ‘S’ stand for:

  • Sort
  • Set-in-Order
  • Shine
  • Sustain
  • Standardize

5 Whys

A root cause analysis method where one asks ‘why’ repeatedly when a problem is encountered. This process continues until a satisfactory cause of the problem is reached. The number of ‘whys’ asked is not fixed to five and any number can be asked until the root cause is reached.

Flow Production

A system of production where there is continuous movement of value through the arrangement of process steps in such a way that there are few stops. It involves the use of interchangeable parts, cellular layout and work balancing so as to attain flawless production.

Four Ms

These are the fundamental resources required by any organization in order to attain value for the customer. The four Ms are:

  • Man
  • Machine
  • Materials
  • Methods


The gemba is the actual place where the real work in an organization is done every day. It is the location of the value added activities from the perspective of the customer. Change efforts are mainly concentrated at the gemba because it is here that the biggest gains are achieved.

Gemba Walk

Also referred to ‘genchi gembutsu’, this is the process whereby management go to the shop-floor so as to get a real feel of the source of the problems. In the process of problem solving, many managers are tempted to provide solutions from the comfort of their desks. This approach is in contrast with the lean manufacturing practice of ‘genchi genbutsu’ which encourages people to go to the source of the problem in order to get a clear picture.

Green Field

This is a new production facility that offers the opportunity for the implementation of a lean manufacturing system without having to encounter the huddles normally faced in an established company. A green-field facility allows lean manufacturing to be the normal way of doing things and it is easier to start off with a lean culture.


This is the act of deeply reflecting on one’s actions so as to gain insights that can be used to correct problems and for further improvement. Hansei meetings are usually held after the attainment of key project milestones as a way of developing counter-measures to problems encountered.


Heijunka is a production technique where the variety and quantity produced over a specific period of time is levelled out. By doing this, a production facility is better able to satisfy customer demand in a cost effective manner.

Heijunka Box

Also known as a levelling box, this is a tool that is used for sorting production kanbans at the prescribed time intervals so as to achieve a balanced production throughout the day. The kanbans are placed in slots within the box that represent the time as well as the type of product to be produced. Each Kanban represents a production pitch which is the number of goods that needs to be produced within the time slot in order to meet the takt time demands.


These are meetings by teams involved in continuous improvement activities that are normally held by standing up near the progress tracking boards and reviewing any problems that may hinder the attainment of set goals. The hurdles are meant to be brief sessions that address any urgent concerns as well as suggest possible countermeasures to problems that may arise. They are also used as follow-up sessions to any issues that may have been raised before.

Information flow

This is the direction in which customer demands move from receipt from the customer to the various points of processing within a provider. These points of processing are necessary in the fulfillment and the information flows in two directions - - from the customer to the provider and from the provider to the customer.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I am NIRAJ KADU working in Mahindra &Mahindra Ltd. Nagpur as a Diploma Trainee Engineer. Please upload a topic about daily work management for line supervisors. It is very important.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)