Lean management trends, especially in manufacturing, have been burdened with greater challenges in the past two years. Identifying efficiencies in the current market may be a quick process, but finding viable solutions is certainly no easy feat. Here are some of the latest trends and obstacles in lean manufacturing. 

Establishing a Pull System
One of the main tenets in a successful production facility is low overhead. Lean management principles suggest ordering stock on demand. For many manufacturing centers, this quite literally means that stock is not ordered until an estimate becomes an approved order. Under normal operating conditions, this system allows the Purchasing Manager and the Director of Operations to keep costs low by avoiding excess inventory of unused products. Over time, the cyclical ebb and flow of material prices generally lead to a low average cost per unit. However, sometimes unexpected circumstances arise that impact normal production conditions. 

Ongoing Supply Chain Challenges
The current state of the global economy makes it difficult to establish a viable pull system. Raw material shortages and shipping delays have affected everything from holiday gifts to computer components, and organizations under the lean management system must make a difficult choice. Is it better to carry overhead and be prepared for ongoing challenges? When one particular stock or material can be used as an acceptable substitute for a variety of other materials, then it makes sense to keep this on hand.

Form and Groom Professional Relationships
Managers who implement a lean style fully understand the value of relationships. It is vital to understand how other industries are coping with the same challenges in economically difficult times. Trade magazines and electronic publications are one great way to gather ideas and information on how competitors are making the most of a bad situation. 

Personal relationships are even more important than public data. Reaching out to a fellow manager, even if they are not working in the same industry, brings a new perspective to a tough situation. Lean management places value on understanding small challenges from a wider perspective. Collaborating with leaders of other industries helps broaden perspective and create fresh ideas. There are many solutions that work in many industries, and having a strong network of effective lean managers will ensure that every obstacle has an answer.