DEARBORN, MI—Only one in four small to midsized manufacturers in the Northeast are pursuing lean manufacturing, according to a survey by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

About half of the respondents said they were either not aware of the advantages of lean manufacturing, were not interested in it or did not believe they could use lean principles to help their organizations. Yet, when asked to prioritize where they had problems in their operations, they identified waste in areas that lean manufacturing specifically targets, including manufacturing processes, equipment effectiveness, setup and cycle time, general business planning, workforce development, production scheduling and inventory management.

The study also found differences between what professionals at various levels and disciplines know about lean manufacturing and the problems that lean manufacturing can help solve. The survey reported that:

  • 34 percent of manufacturers recognized the need for a lean approach or would like to implement lean principles but are not sure how to proceed.
  • 41 percent are either not familiar with lean or have read about it, but have not considered implementing it.
  • Midsized companies or original equipment manufacturers are likely to be more familiar with lean manufacturing and more likely to have lean systems in place.
  • Job shop owners and corporate executives are less familiar with lean concepts than manufacturing engineers and quality managers.