Three of the most significant elements in Lean Manufacturing

In previous posts, we have talked about Lean Manufacturing and some of its elements and characteristics. This important concept is being used in multiple industries and companies, making them more competitive and productive. Today, those organizations who are applying Lean Manufacturing are giving to their customers what they want, adding value and satisfying their needs.

In all those elements that we have explained in other articles, we can find the 5 S concept, the different waste types, Kaizen or the Toyota Production System. All these terms leverage the Lean Manufacturing concept and all those elements which it involves.

In this article, we will talk about another very important concept called Lean Thinking and three terms that support it through the Kaizen and Lean Manufacturing philosophy; the 3 Mu or Mura, Muri, Muda. To understand these concepts, we must define what Lean Thinking is, understanding that all these terms have their roots in Japan, more specifically in Toyota.

Lean Thinking

This concept basically refers to all those activities that companies could implement for reducing waste in their businesses and manufacturing processes, with the main purpose of giving to customers what they want and need. In other words, Lean Thinking is the way how organizations can eliminate all those things which make their production procedures heavier and not very effective, letting them be more fruitful in a simpler and easier way, reducing costs and times.

Lean Thinking not only pursues for waste reduction, but also for satisfying customers needs in the best way for them. Put differently, this philosophy seeks to produce not only some product or service but to manufacture those elements what they particularly need and want.

Related: What you need to know about the Toyota Production System by David Kiger

The 3 Mu

This significant concept is formed by three different components as we mentioned above; Mura, Muri, and Muda. They are the basis for all the elements in what Lean Thinking works, giving to companies the possibility for applying it in their procedures.

These three elements are focused on the reduction of all those things which not add value to a specific product or service and they must work together for getting the desired results.


This Japanese word means irregularity or uniformity. This expression refers to all the activities within a production system which are unequal, making it unproductive and unbalanced. That is to say, that if the manufacturing environment is not steady, the production will be more expensive and weak.

One of the most important characteristics for avoiding Mura is the pull concept, which refers to all those activities related to offer and demand. In other words, the pull idea is to understand in an accurate way the market needs, so organizations can adapt, regulate and balance their processes to produce what is demanded, not more not less.

The Mura concept also lets companies identify in every stage of a particular process those activities what are destabilizing it, so organizations can know where they have to intervene to avoid these irregularities for improving it.

Image courtesy of Patrick Mayon at


Its meaning is excessiveness or heavier. In manufacturing processes, this concept refers to all those activities what are considered dense or with a high effort to do them. To avoid this, organizations should standardize every phase in their processes, improving their production times.

It is important to say, that Muri makes that companies have dead times in their manufacturing system, which increase production costs. Besides, if their processes are not standardized, workers can repeat similar tasks, which downs productivity and effectiveness.

To avoid Muri, companies not only must homogenize and regulate their production methods but make better workspaces for employees, so they can feel more comfortable in their activities and be more successful in what they do.


This concept means wastefulness and is maybe the most known of the 3 Mu. Basically, Muda is what consumes company’s resources without adding value to customers. In other words, it is every manufacturing activity considered useless and unnecessary.

For avoiding Muda, organizations must identify in their processes what is making them incur in needless costs and which are all those activities that do not add value to customers. Put differently, for preventing Muda, companies must see what events are really indispensable and required to satisfy consumers needs, being more competitive and detecting how to add value in what they fabricate.

It is very important to say that the organizations that want to avoid Muda, should identify all those actions what are making them incur in reprocesses and over costs.

In conclusion, this manufacturing paradigm is focused on giving to customers a product or service what they are willing to pay for, due to the added value they receive, but this implies time and dedication for getting the best results. This philosophy must be implemented in the long term and organizations should adapt all their resources to reach what Lean Thinking and their 3 Mu’s propose.


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