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The Lean Approach in Food Manufacturing

12 Aug, 2021 | Business Tips

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Lean manufacturing was introduced in the early 1990s by Henry Ford and came to further notice after rebuilding the industry in post-WWII Japan. Since lean manufacturing has caught everyone’s eye and is a common thing in the United States.

A lean approach systematically reduces non-value-adding or wasteful activities to increase productivity, efficiency, and employee morale. Good Inventory Management Software is the key for implementing lean approach in food manufacturing.

The food industry in the U.S. has not been able to gain the benefits of the lean approach as other manufacturing industries. But, the food industry is rapidly demonstrating the versatility and effectiveness of the lean method today.

What is the Lean Approach?

Lean is a methodology for reducing waste in any manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity. The customer defines the value in terms of what they would pay for the service or product.

What adds value through a lean approach is evident by removing or reducing everything that doesn’t add value.

Aim of Lean Approach

Lean production methods aim to keep waste to an absolute minimum and increase the speed of the product reaching the customer. The food industry is the perfect industry for lean methods as food products are perishable and must be delivered on time by nature.

As inventory waste of finished goods is rarely a problem in the food industry due to its perishable nature, food manufacturing benefits greatly from a lean approach. Some have a misconception that lean is not necessary for the food industry as it avoids wastage.

Food Processing Specialist Jeff Kronenberg says, “Waste isn’t as easy to see as in other industries as in the food industry.” A University partnership named TechHelp has recently identified eight types of waste in the food industry.

Represented as D-O-W-N-T-I-M-E, TechHelp identified factors like Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-value-added processing, Transportation, Inventory, Motion, and Employee knowledge. They demonstrate the utility of the lean approach in the food industry.

Read more: 10 Inventory Management Best Practices for Improving Your Business

Why is Food Industry Going Lean

The food industry is huge and serves hundreds of millions of people every year and more than any other industry. The complex industry includes:

  • Agriculture: crops, livestock, and seafood.
  • Manufacturing: construction of facilities, farm, and processing equipment, and supplies
  • Food processing: manufacturing and preparation of food for the markets.
  • Food distribution: storage and transportation of food
  • Foodservice: fast food, catering, restaurants, etc.
  • Retail markets: farmers’ markets, grocery stores, etc.

Due to the complex nature and arguably the most significant consumer base, the food industry is taxed to keep up with trends, like gluten-free and organic products. Consumers expect the products to be fresh, safe for consumption, and free from defects to make things harder.

To meet the challenges, the food industry turns to lean manufacturing tools like Value Stream Mapping (VSM) and 5S to value the customers’ needs and improve the quality.

Benefits of Lean Approach

Adopting the lean approach in the food industry would create profitability and lead to an efficient workforce. Improving the profitability may also mean making space for more employees, making the work easier for staff. It would help to boost morale and contribute to a happier workforce overall.

Similarly, the lean approach eliminates unnecessary equipment, condenses work cells, or combines various operations, leading to additional floor space, bringing more production capabilities to a given facility. Also, it improves productivity and profitability.

Read about: The Truth About DEAR Inventory: Who It’s for and How it Helps Them

Adopting the Lean Approach

Adopting the approach requires education at each level in the manufacturing process. It includes top-level managers and process line employees for each staff member to be in the loop and on the same page as minor issues can cause several problems. 

The food industry may be slow to adopt lean principles, yet most lean experts agree that lean plays an essential role in present-day food manufacturing.

DEAR Systems and Lean Manufacturing

The use of lean manufacturing techniques will make the factory a better workplace. Workers will have more control of the process to meet high performance and delivery demands consistently. Things will be more organized and less frustrating, making it easier to get things done.

A Food Inventory Management Software can automate your purchase orders when you reach the reorder point. It paves the way to easy inventory receiving, implementing batch tracking to reduce spoilage, and optimizing the working capital for the long-term growth of the restaurant. 

DEAR systems inventory management software will help your restaurant meet the inventory KPIs, reduce lead time, and run the front-end of your restaurant without worrying about the back-end.  

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