Consultants in Lean Manufacturing Á Manufacturing Strategy

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Lean Manufacturing As A System

the "Systems thinking" Perspective 

Systems Thinking LogoLean Manufacturing systems have interrelated elements that form a system or Manufacturing Strategy. The graphic shows how these elements work together and reinforce each other. Each arrow indicates a positive influence or relationship. For example, Fast Setups enable small batches, and small batches result in smoother material flows. Note the number of circular loops. Such loops continuously reinforce each other driving the system to higher and higher levels of performance--like a snowball rolling downhill. 

These effects are part of a body of knowledge known as "System Dynamics", "Industrial Dynamics", or just "Systems Theory". A factory system has both technical and human elements which immensely complicates theoretical analysis. Moreover, such systems may exhibit very strange behavior such as instability and chaos. Lean Manufacturing addresses many of the elements that reduce chaotic effects such as variability, time delays and complexity.

It is difficult to study such systems directly since their complexity makes modeling difficult. Our understanding generally comes from working with simpler models and extrapolating the results through intuition and general principles. For a complete discussion of these systems and related phenomena, go to "Principia Cybernetica Web".

System Thinking In Lean

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