22 Lean Manufacturing Quotes to Inspire Your Team

Daniel Sanchez
April 9, 2020
22 Lean Manufacturing Quotes to Inspire Your Team

Why create an entire blog centered around manufacturing quotes and insights?

Well, there are times I find the words of others express my thoughts better than anything I could say or write. It actually happens more than I’d like to admit, but that’s neither here nor there.

Helping professionals in the industrial manufacturing industry promote their unique insights through The Manufacturing Show has inspired me to collect a few manufacturing quotes that might inspire them.

I’ve decided to focus on certain aspects of lean manufacturing.

What is lean manufacturing? Lean manufacturing is a sustainable approach to the production of materials. Lean strategies can include:

  1. improving efficiency 
  2. cutting down on waste 
  3. optimizing production times
  4. encouraging innovation
  5. looking for process improvement opportunities

By curating this list of lean manufacturing quotes and applicable advice, I hope I can help manufacturing teams feel motivated to continue working towards excellence. These 22 quotes are organized into three categories:

  1. Increasing production efficiency
  2. Decreasing time waste in manufacturing
  3. Innovation in manufacturing

If you find this blog helpful, feel free to subscribe to The Manufacturing Show on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Increasing production efficiency

Increasing the efficiency of manufacturing practices is like that of no other industry. In manufacturing and production, you can directly see the results of your efforts.

Although increasing production efficiency is a rather broad goal, it’s one that’s present for any kind of manufacturer. Who doesn’t want to increase efficiency? Sometimes, though, we get weighed down by the daily to-dos and it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s at this time you turn to the wise words of successful professionals: people who have been exactly where you’re standing and journeyed on in perseverance.

1) “The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.”– Shigeo Shingo, leading expert on the Toyota Production System

Apply it: Recognizing the inefficiencies is the first step. Luckily, with new advances in IoT and machine learning, waste in production is becoming easier to detect. Once you uncover the waste, move toward a logical solution.

2) “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”– Peter F. Drucker, management consultant, educator, and author

Apply it: Is the process you’re looking to optimize even worth the effort? Perhaps you should be searching for an updated approach rather than focusing on one part of the whole.

3) “A bad system will beat a good person every time.”– W. Edwards Deming, engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant

Apply it: Don’t let outdated processes or technology get the best of you. Work on obtaining buy-in from your organization to update or optimize the systems you’re operating in.

4) “Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi, American football player, coach, and executive

Apply it: Your machines are never going to be 100% efficient — we learn that in industrial tech. However, striving for perfection can help your team reach unparalleled productivity.

5) “To be competitive, we have to look for every opportunity to improve efficiencies and productivity while increasing quality. Lean manufacturing principles have improved every aspect of our processes.” —  Cynthia Fanning, product general manager for dishwasher products at GE

Apply it: Want to stay competitive? Follow Cynthia’s advice and continuously look for opportunities to improve. By accomplishing efficiencies little by little, soon you will see that the whole has progressed.

6) “Manufacturers are wise to embrace lean manufacturing.” — Robert Niemiec, managing partner at Twisthink

Apply it: Sometimes, it’s as simple as that! If your leadership has yet to adopt a lean manufacturing approach, try referring them to The Machine That Changed the World. It will change the way you think about efficient production forever.

7) “If you need a new process and don’t install it, you pay for it without getting it.” — Ken Stork, Motorola

Apply it: Yikes! We all learn about opportunity cost in economics class. The alternative to implementing needed updates is paying for all the maintenance of your outdated process. Basically, you’re spending the same amount (or more) fixing your old system as you would investing in a new one.

Productivity is a huge player in the manufacturing game. Make sure you’re continuously checking in on your systems to ensure you won’t need a total overhaul in the future.

Decreasing time waste in manufacturing

Our world moves fast and we want our production to operate just as quickly. Decreasing wasted time is an objective for most businesses, but for manufacturers, it can mean the difference between a renewed contract and a loss of millions in revenue.

To encourage valuable time-saving methods, see what these experts had to say.

8) “Time waste differs from material waste in that there can be no salvage. The easiest of all wastes and the hardest to correct is the waste of time, because wasted time does not litter the floor like wasted material.” – Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company

Apply it: Our most valuable resource as humans isn’t money — it’s time. The father of Ford is right in saying the waste of time is impeccably harder to correct than material waste because it’s intangible. Fortunately, there are solutions out there that make cutting down on wasted time easier.

9) “The more we retain our people, the less time we need to commit to recruiting new people.” — Christine Thatcher, VP of Human Resources at TW Metals 

Apply it: People are one resource we don’t think about enough in manufacturing. But, if we’re good to our people, it actually saves us time in the end. Working to retain employees is exponentially more sustainable than overworking them and having to replace them. Want to save time? Be good to your employees.

10) “Don’t spend a lot of time on trying to cobble together a fully-integrated solution if the systems aren’t designed to play well together.” — Chris Kuntz, VP of Marketing at Augmentir 

Apply it: Also referred to as jimmy-rigging, attempting to mash together two incompatible components oftentimes ends in wasted time. Recruiting a business partner that can supply you with interchangeable solutions will save you a ton of time and headaches. 

11) “When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves.” — Anthony J. D’Angelo, American author

Apply it: Running into technical or managerial problems in manufacturing can be dire to production. Acting quickly to solve the root of the problem will save time and drama for your organization. Putting a temporary bandage on an issue typically wastes time in the long-run. 

12) “If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution.” – Steve Jobs, Apple

Apply it: Accurately identifying the issue helps to decrease wasted time. With new IoT technology, distinguishing problems in production has never been easier. To maintain a competitive edge in your industry and save time and money over the long term, consider investing in the latest problem-identifying tech.

Time is our most valuable resource. Whether it be in manufacturing or another aspect of life, cutting down on wasted time is key to achieving your goals.

Innovation in manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is about staying current with trends and best practices in the market. Sometimes that means bringing in a consultant who can help optimize production. 

It’s also important to encourage an organizational culture of innovation — help your team become comfortable with being uncomfortable (metaphorically speaking).

Use the following quotes to support a culture of modernization and fresh ideas.

13)  “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” – Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company

Apply it: If you’re not willing to change up your approach, don’t expect to get better results. Some traditions can be useful, but if they’re being prioritized over needed changes, your competition will take advantage.

14) “We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.” – Max DePree, Herman Miller

Apply it: If you want your business to move into the future, your methods will also need to evolve. This doesn’t mean your values need to change. Your company culture, however, needs to be comfortable with learning new strategies and modernizing outdated systems.

15) “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh, Dutch artist

Apply it: Didn’t think a painter would have any applicable lean manufacturing advice, did you? Vince offers some great insight here. When it comes to innovation in manufacturing, don’t become overwhelmed by everything that needs to be updated. Take it piece by piece, and soon enough you’ll see a brand new whole.

16) “A relentless barrage of “why’s” is the best way to prepare your mind to pierce the clouded veil of thinking caused by the status quo. Use it often.” – Shigeo Shingo, leading expert on the Toyota Production System

Apply it: Questioning the status quo is an excellent strategy for fostering innovation in your company. Encourage your team to think about how operations can be approached differently. With the whole organization questioning current strategies, fresh ideas are bound to come up.

17) “Sometimes no problem is a sign of a different problem.” – Mark Rosenthal, author of The Lean Thinker

Apply it: Finding success through innovation is a never-ending journey. If there isn’t always something your team can be improving on, there may be a bigger, organizational change to make.

18) “Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” —  Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist

Apply it: There may be no one better to take innovation advice from than Mr. Einstein. Thinking of production dilemmas as opportunities is the best way for lean manufacturing to move forward. Besides, it’s hardly ever that we find new solutions when things are going smoothly.

19) “We always need to sharpen our skills and look for new opportunities.” — Bill SchmidVP & GM at TW Metals

Apply it: Making it a goal to never stop learning will encourage your team to constantly be considering new possibilities. It’s only when we think we know everything that we fall victim to our competitors.

20) “If everybody else seems to be doing it one way, there might be more opportunity the other way.” — Andrew Scheuermann, CEO & Co-Founder of Arch Systems

Apply it: Don’t assume the status quo is law. Respect your goal of becoming a truly lean manufacturer and search for other ways to approach a problem than what has just been done before.

21) “If you don’t rock the boat, folks, guess who’s going to do it? Your competitors.” — Todd Hockenberry, CEO of Top Line Results

Apply it: It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. If your team isn’t the one mixing things up, another one will. That’s why supporting a culture of innovation is so crucial in lean manufacturing. There is a lot of opportunity for optimization in this particular industry — be the first to do something ground-breaking!

22) “There’s a lot of opportunity in the void of innovation.” — Rob Williams, host of The Innovative iPM Podcast

Apply it: Industrial manufacturing hasn’t necessarily been the poster child of innovation in the last few decades. This creates a substantial amount of open water for your organization to claim. Determine the things your team does really well and look for an opportunity to capitalize on it (because there’s probably more than one).

Leanness is an objective for most manufacturers but not all of them are willing to put in the work to achieve it. By encouraging efficiency, time-saving strategies, and innovation in your company culture, you’re on the right track to optimized production.

I hope these 22 manufacturing quotes and pieces of advice help your team take advantage of its unique skills and insights.

For more manufacturing insights, subscribe to The Manufacturing Show on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or here.

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