Little, David and McKinna, A. (2005) A lean manufacturing assessment tool for use in SMEs. In: Proceedings of the Seventh SMESME International Conference : Stimulating Manufacturing Excellence in Small & Medium Enterprises: 12-15 June 2005 University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. University of Strathclyde, Scottish School of Further Education. ISBN 0947649379

Whilst lean manufacturing is a topic of high current interest to manufacturing companies, most of the methodologies for lean implementation in existence in the literature and in the field have evolved from work carried out in large companies; notable examples being Toyota, Black and Decker and Kawasaki among others (Toyota Motor Corporation, 1995; Yonemitsu, 1999). However, within the UK, the majority of manufacture is now undertaken by SMEs, (Small Medium Sized Enterprise) who have neither the resources nor the expertise to follow these approaches and find difficulty in knowing how to start a lean implementation.
An additional problem is that SMEs are not a coherent population but vary widely not only in their market sectors, but also in the manufacturing strategies, tools and techniques which they employ. Any lean implementation approach must, therefore, be tailored to the specific needs of each SME.
The authors are part of an SME Support Network which has worked to assist over 600 manufacturing SMEs since 1997 supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and has successfully implemented lean manufacturing within a number of SMEs, sometimes using MAS and ERDF support.
Because the method targets SMEs typically of less than 50 employees, no apology is made for the straightforward approach we have adopted which follows the established KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid).
This paper describes a practically-based lean implementation approach for SMEs developed by the authors based on their experience and supported by a simple lean assessment tool to identify the most appropriate lean tools for use by a specific company. It presents case studies of the application of the method within both textile and engineering sectors using both a visual factory approach and simple lean mapping and audit tools such as 5S.

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