Lean has become a “must-use” philosophy for businesses today. Lean manufacturing focuses on the elimination of waste in manufacturing operations. Similarly, companies have started using lean engineering to eliminate wastes from their engineering processes. Both lean manufacturing and lean engineering yield dramatic improvements in quality, cost, and delivery. However, the philosophy of lean (manufacturing and engineering) revolves around the continuous improvement of existing processes. Costs associated with continuous improvement can be significantly reduced by incorporating “lean” considerations when designing a product, process, or manufacturing system. This is known as design for lean manufacturing (DfLM). DfLM guides the design of a product, process, or a manufacturing system to enable lean operations when in production, just as design for assembly (DFA) guides the design of a product to allow easier assembly during production. Currently, there are no guidelines that would help a product or process designer in considering to lean operations during design. Note that usage of the word “product” in this paper must be interpreted in a literary sense and not as a “widget.” The “product” of a manufacturing engineering process is a complete manufacturing system. In this paper, we consider manufacturing system design and propose a novel set of structured DfLM guidelines for designing a manufacturing system. These guidelines will be a valuable resource for manufacturing engineers to guide manufacturing system design for new products to enable lean operations once the system is in production. DfLM guidelines for system design also will help plant engineers and rapid continuous improvement managers to assess existing manufacturing systems and identify and prioritize improvement efforts. The proposed DfLM guidelines are then validated for accuracy, completeness, and redundancy by using them to evaluate an existing benchmark manufacturing system. The initial DfLM guidelines show promise for use in designing manufacturing systems that are easy to manage, flexible, safe, build quality into the products, optimize material flow, fully utilize all resources, maximize throughput, and continuously produce what the customer wants just in time. Similar guidelines can be proposed for product and process design to further enhance the efficiency of operations and reduce the overhead of continuous improvement efforts.

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