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These uncertain times have added an abundance of pressure to manufacturers looking to keep up with increased consumer demand. The problem is that this pandemic world has also led to dramatic decreases in workforce capabilities, leaving companies scrambling to increase their output without increasing their spending. Companies that have adopted Lean strategies, however, are far better off than their counterparts.

Here are a few Lean strategies you can implement with little to no capital increases:

1. Lean Assessments

If you don’t already utilize Lean strategies, consider hiring a Lean consultant to do an on-site walkthrough. If on-site isn’t possible right now, you can also offer to walk through the site virtually. During this assessment, the Lean consultant will identify any gaps in your processes and recommend solutions for streamlining and eliminating waste.

2. Standardize Operation Flow

Another simple step you can take is to standardize your workflow. Consider any potential time waste that might be taking place during a standard workday. Are workers making unnecessary trips for materials or consultation with others? If so, consider bringing materials closer to their designated use point and offer phones or two-way radios to eliminate wasted time. If workspaces are messy or chaotic, consider creating a standardized cleaning schedule that allows workspaces to remain operational and efficient throughout the day. These small adjustments cost nothing and can have a huge impact on your productivity.


If you are looking to dive into Lean strategies more intentionally, consider starting with a data-driven process that focuses on identifying project inefficiencies. DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. First, define your ideal output for a given process. Second, measure the current output for that process. You may need to look at last month’s numbers, your employees’ hours, and the length of time each process takes. Next, you will want to analyze any aspect of the process that might be holding production back from its ideal state. After you’ve analyzed your process thoroughly, it’s time to improve. This can include any number of things, from standardizing flow (as mentioned above) to eliminating wasteful practices. Finally, all of these improvements will need to be tested regularly to ensure they are working together towards the process’s ideal output. This will help control any process deviations and prevent regression.

4. TPM

TPM stands for Total Productive Maintenance. Essentially, this philosophy aims to achieve zero interruptions to a production process. This can be achieved through standardized, rigorous, and proactive equipment maintenance to maximize their capabilities. This includes regular maintenance checks, as well as training and education for equipment managers. Maintaining clean, functional equipment is a low-cost way to see big gains in production rates.


SMED stands for Single-Minute Exchange of Dies and refers to a system that reduces the time it takes to complete equipment changeovers by large percentages. There are two kinds of steps during any production run; internal steps (steps that need to happen while equipment isn’t running) and external steps (steps that can happen while equipment is running). The goal of a SMED system is to convert as many internal steps to external steps as possible.

To apply SMED in real life, consider the example of changing a car tire. For the average person, this can take several minutes. NASCAR races, however, don’t have that kind of time. They needed to find a faster way to change four tires so their drivers can get back in the race. They utilize several SMED strategies to decrease the time it takes to change a tire drastically. One strategy, for example, is to adequately prepare for the tire change before the car comes screeching into the pit. Another strategy is to use a coordinated team with the ability to complete multiple tasks concurrently. The key is to identify the internal steps in a process and identify ways to turn it into an external step. This might include more preparation upfront or modified equipment that enables multiple tasks at the same time. The goal is to streamline the process and reduce the total changeover time.

If your company is struggling to find innovative ways to improve output capacity without tapping into additional capital, consider using one or more of these techniques. These small, incremental changes can provide many benefits for companies looking to survive this pandemic world.

For more help with Lean strategies for capacity management, please contact the professionals at the Lean Learning Center for private consultation and coaching.