A New Benchmark For Manufacturers:

Lean Operation Standard Published by SAE

For the first time, the auto industry has a common definition for lean operation, as SAE has published "Identification and Measurement of Best Practice in Implementation of Lean Operation" (SAE J4000), a new document which can be used to identify and measure implementation of lean operation in manufacturing companies.

According to Roy Trent, director of the SAE's Best Manufacturing Practices (BMP) Automotive Manufacturing Initiative (AMI), the new SAE J4000 and the incorporation of lean operation can assist manufacturers to achieve significant cost and time savings through the elimination of waste in an organization's value stream.

"Now automotive and manufacturing companies will have a common definition of 'lean' and a yardstick to measure their lean status, as well as a methodology to compare their operations with the most successful lean operating systems," Trent said. "As SAE expands its focus across the vehicle's total life cycle � including manufacturing � this document is one of many resources that will be made available to help companies improve operations. It may also be useful to automotive suppliers in meeting the continuous improvement program requirements in QS-9000."

The SAE J4000 document covers six lean implementation areas: management/trust; people; information; supplier/organization/customer chain; product; and process/flow. It also lists 52 components, which provide measurable points of reference for successful lean implementation.

To assist users in interpreting and applying the standard, SAE also has developed SAE J4001 "Implementation of Lean Operation Users Manual," and a research report documenting examples of current best practices entitled "Best Practices in the Implementation of Lean Operation Among Manufacturers." This research report represents the first of its kind, most comprehensive and objective study of its kind on lean operations, spanning 12 months and involving lean experts from automakers and academia.

SAE is also currently developing a number of other resources � including lean assessor training and lean assessor certification � to support the standard document.

SAE J4000 is available now by contacting SAE at 1-877-606-7323 (U.S. and Canada only) or 724/776-4970 (outside the U.S. and Canada) or email: publications@sae.org. Orders are also accepted for the more recently completed SAE J4001.

Result of Lean Survey

The new standard, according to Trent, is the result of an on-going SAE's Best Manufacturing Practices survey program. Lean operation was chosen as the focus of the first AMI best manufacturing practices survey last year, after the vice presidents of manufacturing for six major automakers cited lean manufacturing as the most important success factor in the competitiveness of the auto industry for the next several years.

The SAE J4000 standard evolved from the template created for and used in the best manufacturing practices survey. The survey evaluated operations at companies recognized as lean models: Donnelly Corp., Freudenberg-NOK, Johnson Controls Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., Raytheon Co. and The Timken Co. These companies, both from within and outside the automotive industry, were selected based upon input from automaker executives, industry analysts and academics, as well as independent research.

The mission of SAE/BMP's Automotive Manufacturing Initiative, started in February of 1998, is to identify, document and establish models for a wide range of best practices currently used for integrated product design and manufacturing processes that are applicable to the automotive supply chain. Future studies will be conducted in other key areas including computer simulation, supply chain development and body technology.

Funded by the BMP Center of Excellence and SAE, the Automotive Manufacturing Initiative has gained the support and involvement of a number of government agencies, universities, auto executives and manufacturing experts.

The AMI is headquartered at the SAE Best Manufacturing Practices Satellite Center located in the SAE Automotive Headquarters at 755 West Big Beaver Rd., Suite 1600, Troy, MI 48084-4900, Phone 248/273-2455.

* SAE's affiliate, PRI, is currently offering Lean Manufacturing Seminars. For more information, click here.