NOTE: At the time of publication, the author FIRST & LAST NAME was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly.
Lean manufacturing has certainly been a hot topic lately for flexo printers and converters. It is rare to attend a conference or look through a trade magazine without seeing the subject as a central focus. Lean seems mysterious, almost Zen-like, partly because we use Japanese terms like muda, kanban, and kaizen instead of just using English translations. For many, we are just getting familiar with the concepts of Lean. Waste identification and reduction are certainly primary themes. Just-in-Time, 5S, Small-lot Production, and Setup Reduction are all recognizable Lean components. Some have seen improvements in their costs and efficiency, but others have been frustrated with their ability to sustain improvements.
So, it begs the questions: Is Lean just another fad? If not, why don't we see the big improvements sustained over long periods as promised? Is this something that only works in Japan? Just how Lean are we in the United States?