Lean manufacturing is a business model that emphasizes eliminating waste while delivering quality products at the least cost to the manufacturer and customers. In the U.S., lean implementation began in the 1980s.
Lean thinking focuses on three objectives:
Reducing production resource requirements by minimizing inventory, equipment, storage and production space, and materials;
Increasing manufacturing velocity and flexibility; and
Improving quality and eliminate defects.
An October 2003 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report examined the relationship between lean and the environment. Some key findings were that lean manufacturing produces an operational and cultural environment that is highly conducive to waste minimization and pollution prevention. Significant environmental benefits typically ride the coattails of lean initiatives. The powerful economic and competitiveness drivers behind lean drive a willingness to undertake substantial operational and cultural changes, many of which have important environmental performance implications.
Lean typically results in less material use, less scrap, reduced water and energy use, and decreased number and amount of chemicals used.