Lean manufacturing: knowing the principles and making the most of them9 min read

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Lean manufacturing is about seeking to increase production, reduce costs and maximize production efficiency. Nowadays many companies and industries seek management methodologies and philosophies to guide their internal processes in pursuit of these goals. 

In this broad universe, lean manufacturing is one of those philosophies that aim at growth and process organization based on a very well-known principle: only the essential is enough. 

Through it, this methodology promotes cultural and procedural changes, especially in industries, and, by extension, can also be applied in the fashion industry and clothing

Want to know more about the principles of lean manufacturing and how it works in practice? Follow this complete article from the Audaces blog and learn all about it: 

What is the concept of Lean Manufacturing? 

Lean manufacturing, or lean manufacturing, in translation, is a philosophy and a management system that seeks to increase production efficiency by eliminating bottlenecks and production redundancies. 

This means evaluating which processes are running lean, that is, using a sufficient amount of resources (personnel, inputs, time, etc.), and which are “redundant”, that is, consuming more than necessary. 

Despite being a philosophy of the last century, lean manufacturing gained more visibility with the rise of Industry 4.0 – the new phase in production modes that advocates cleaner, more sustainable, and technological production, which consequently makes it leaner. 

How and when did lean manufacturing emerge? 

As we said, lean manufacturing has existed as a philosophy since the Second World War, having its origins in Japan and, more specifically, in Toyota factories – a fact that made this practice known as the “Toyota Production System” in the beginning. 

The term lean manufacturing was created by researchers from the International Motor Vehicle Program (IMVP), linked to the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), in the late 1980s. Thanks to this study/research program, lean manufacturing came to be understood as an agile, flexible, innovative, and efficient production system.

What are the 6 principles of lean manufacturing? 

  1. As it is an old (but not obsolete) and consolidated methodology, lean manufacturing works based on 5 principles whose understanding is fundamental for the philosophy to be better understood: 
  1. Value: is the characteristic attributed to the customer’s needs, that is, what he considers important and that meets his needs in a given period of time; 
  1. Value Stream: is the entire production and process flow that takes the desired product to the customer. Later, we will understand why it is one of the main values to be analyzed and ‘downsized’; 
  1. Continuous Flow: this value presupposes production in stages (inheritance from contemporary models, such as Fordism, for example), but it can be adapted as the principle that the division of stages in production helps to eliminate waste; 
  1. Pull Production: here, we can understand this value as synonymous with a product “pushed” to the customer, that is, something offered without the real need or interest in it on the part of the consumer having been detected 
  1. Perfection: inherited from its Japanese origin, this value is the characteristic attributed to the process when it delivers the right value to the customer and is the result of production without waste. 

How does the lean manufacturing philosophy work in practice? 

  • In practice, lean manufacturing has a similar structure to management systems, being necessary to go to where the problem occurs, evaluate it, structure effective, practical, and lean solutions, apply and monitor them. 
  • Of course, this is not a simple process, especially in large companies and industries, where there are a lot of processes. That is why it is important to segment the analysis and have those responsible for it in each of the sectors. 
  • Employees are also an essential part of the lean methodology since they are the ones who have the most practical know-how of how processes take place – and, consequently, their failures. 
  • It is imperative to consider the customer perspective, too, especially in companies and industries that offer services as a core business. 
  • In summary, in practice, lean manufacturing considers: 
  • operationalize the workflow, maximizing production and reducing production obstacles; 
  • analyze all processes – internal and external – that result in process redundancies; 
  • manufacture only what is necessary and have full control over production (which is facilitated when the process is automated); 
  • analyze and determine the value stream, that is, what can be kept and excluded from the production process. 


As you know, the whole philosophy of lean production is based on the elimination of waste. However, there are 8 types of waste that must be fought in order to have a leaner production and, consequently, agile and profitable. 

To help you understand what they are and what their characteristics are, Blog Audaces has listed them below. Check out: 

1. Too many processes 

Overprocessing, or improper processing, is the first of the wastes that lean manufacturing seeks to eliminate. This is because, the more unnecessary and laborious processes, the greater the risk of errors and rework, which generates waste of resources, time, and supplies. 

This waste serves both for internal processes and for the processing of the product itself. Therefore, to solve it, it is necessary to carry out an internal scan of the processes, eliminate redundancies and not process the product beyond what the customer “requests”. 

2. Overproduction 

Another waste avoided by lean manufacturing is, precisely, overproduction – the opposite extreme of lean manufacturing, which advocates the production of the necessary and nothing more. This is because overproduction causes problems in several other sectors: inventory, logistics, distribution, and sales. 

3. Rework 

Rework is one of the major points of attention and, at the same time, one of the major responsible for the invisible costs in production, in addition to denoting the lack of well-defined strategic planning (PCP). 

4. Unnecessary transport 

In the industrial sector, all transport is a waste, since it does not add value to the merchandise (as in fashion collections, for example), but adds cost to the final product. Therefore, lean manufacturing seeks to make these transports strictly necessary or, in the last case, agile and automated. 

5. Movement of employees 

The physical movement of employees is also one of the problems identified by the philosophy of lean manufacturing. Here, we recall that the methodology emerged at the same time as the concept of the scale of production, which can be seen as a partially obsolete concept. 

In current terms, the movement of employees can be avoided thanks to automation and digital tools that allow the employee to control multiple functions of the operation from a single place. 

6. Inventory 

Os insumos e a matéria-prima correspondem a uma grande parte do orçamento de uma operação e esses custos são repassados ao valor final do produto. Então, imagine a adição de custos adicionais devido à matéria-prima, aos erros e retrabalhos, aos desperdícios mais custos invisíveis. 

O resultado é uma peça com um preço alto e não necessariamente atrativo ao cliente. 

7. Wait 

For the lean manufacturing philosophy, time is money! And with good reason: the time that the product is stopped, whether due to bottlenecks in the process or due to excess steps, is also added to the value of the product, but does not necessarily add value to it. 

Therefore, in addition to the first waste, the excess of processes, waiting becomes an obstacle to productive efficiency and must be eliminated. 

8. Defects 

Defects are a direct consequence of non-optimized production and are also directly responsible for rework. In this sense, they are the eighth source of waste according to the lean production method. 

Eliminating defects saves time that can be invested in making more products, making production scalable and profitable. 

What are the most used tools? 

  1. In practice, in a general context of action, lean manufacturing can be applied in parts, in whatever is most coherent for the current moment of production. 
  1. In addition, there are also other tools and methods that take advantage of the lean manufacturing philosophy to optimize production, such as: 
  1. Kaizen: this tool is focused on the quality of work and acts on waste related to human capital; 
  1. Just in time: right on time, in free translation, this is a methodology that avoids waste with stock and stopped supplies. 
  1. PDCA: it is a tool for controlling and verifying the effectiveness of an action or project based on 4 steps (P – plan/plan; D – do/execute; C – check/check and A – act/act); 
  1. MPT: Total Preventive Maintenance is focused on the operation of machinery and devices so that they are always in full operation; 
  1. KPIs: Key Performance Indicators are well known in the management universe and seek to establish performance goals and indicators for a given process. 

How to apply lean manufacturing in clothing? 

Apparel can greatly benefit from the implementation of tools or assessment processes based on lean manufacturing. Due to the manual tradition, most clothing companies work with obsolete processes that generate large amounts of waste during production. 

However, it is especially in the technical stages of cutting that clothing tends to generate the greatest waste – of time, inputs, stock, and the like. 

In the technical stage, for example, the construction of paper molds generates a large amount of waste, which, thanks to lean manufacturing, can be eliminated with automation software such as Audaces Moldes. 

Likewise, fitting and cutting patterns on fabrics are, of all, the processes with the greatest potential for optimization to achieve lean and, above all, automated production – the so-called 4.0 sewing. 

In it, these processes are optimized for maximum production efficiency, thanks to technologies that combine Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), lean manufacturing, and other agile tools for optimizing processes and products. 

As a result, you have a much more productive, error-free, and rework-free production, capable of producing collections in much less time and more profitable. 


During the development of production modes, many philosophies, tools, and methods were developed to solve a big problem: how to reach the maximum potential of a production chain? 

In response, lean manufacturing is one of them. Focused on eliminating redundancies, waste, and bottlenecks in the processes in order to deliver the final product to the consumer exactly according to their expectations and needs, the Japanese philosophy gives us 8 points of attention to make this process effective. 

As part of the principles of Industry 4.0, in which Audaces is a world reference, lean manufacturing is one of the aspects present in our solutions, especially for clothing companies that suffer from delays in the technical stage and waste in the use of inputs and creation of molds.  

Follow the Audaces blog and learn all about the universe of technologies for the Fashion Industry. To the next! 

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