In the defense industry, efficiency is critical. LEAN manufacturing, a methodology focused on eliminating waste and promoting continuous improvement, is rapidly being adopted by defense contractors and the DoD. By embracing the core principles of LEAN, defense contractors can streamline operations and reduce costs – delivering higher-quality products and services to their clients. But why is adopting LEAN principles essential for defense contractors seeking to stay ahead in this dynamic landscape? Let’s dive in.


History of LEAN Manufacturing

LEAN ManufacturingFirst, it is important to understand a quick background of LEAN manufacturing. Toyota developed the Toyota Production System (TPS) in the mid-20th century as a groundbreaking pursuit to increase efficiency and production. At its core, LEAN is centered on the relentless pursuit of efficiency by identifying and eliminating waste or non-value-added activities in a company’s processes. The methodology is built upon three key concepts: creating value for the customer, eliminating waste, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

TPS laid the groundwork for the modern LEAN approach by introducing several principles, including just-in-time production, standardized work, and built-in quality. By focusing on these principles, organizations can enhance operations, minimize resource consumption, and deliver products and services that consistently meet customer expectations. These innovations revolutionized the automotive industry and have been adapted and applied across many sectors.


Benefits of implementation of LEAN

Implementing LEAN principles in defense contracting offers many benefits that directly contribute to a company’s bottom line. One of the most significant advantages is cost reduction, as LEAN methodologies aim to eliminate waste and optimize resource utilization. A team at Purdue University studied a LEAN team at Boeing in 2010, and through implementing LEAN principles toward building interceptors for the U.S. Army, Boeing realized some significant advantages. The Purdue team reported a 45% reduction in cycle time, a 28% reduction in labor cost, and an 89% efficiency rating.

In the above mentioned study, Boeing reduced the projected cost by $1.7 million for the next fiscal year. In addition to cost reduction, defense contractors can reap other substantial benefits from implementing LEAN methodologies. Enhanced productivity and resource utilization enable companies to allocate their workforce more effectively, maximizing output and reducing lead times. Further, the focus on continuous improvement and built-in quality ensures that defense contractors consistently deliver services and products that meet or exceed customer expectations, leading to higher satisfaction levels and long-term client relationships.


Overcoming Challenges/Balancing Tradeoffs

Implementing LEAN principles in defense contracting is challenging, and overcoming these obstacles is crucial to achieving success. One big hurdle that many face is employee resistance to change and ingrained organizational culture. Companies should foster a culture of continuous improvement and open communication to address this issue. Companies can generate buy-in from employees by educating them about the benefits of LEAN and letting them actively participate in the transformation.

Defense contractors must maintain security and compliance when implementing LEAN practices. This can involve ensuring that classified information remains protected and that all regulations are followed throughout the LEAN transformation. Another challenge lies in balancing standardizing processes with flexibility, providing companies can quickly adapt to changing customer requirements, market conditions, and emerging technologies.

Evaluating the impact of LEAN on decision-making is vital to ensure the organization remains agile and responsive to new challenges and opportunities. By addressing these challenges and balancing the tradeoffs, companies can successfully implement LEAN principles and unlock their full potential for efficiency and growth!


Case Study

The EPA reports that Lockheed Martin has implemented LEAN production techniques since the late 1990s through their “LM21 Operating Excellence” initiative. At last count, the industry was responsible for over $5 billion in net savings across the corporation, which resulted in streamlined operations, reduced overhead, better quality, and improved productivity. The Manassas, Virginia, plant provides a compelling case study of the successful application of LEAN principles in the defense industry. The plant focused on applying LEAN tools to improve internal environmental management business processes, leading to significant cost and resource savings.

In 1995, the Manassas plant applied LEAN thinking to chemical and waste management activities, driven by the need to reduce costs, space, and staffing after a significant reduction in the manufacturing scope of the facility. The LEAN event aimed to move toward a just-in-time chemical management system, eliminating a chemical warehouse and replacing it with point-of-use storage cabinets and right-sized containers of chemical supplies. This change dramatically reduced chemical inventories, increased chemical utilization rates, and reduced chemical storage space from 64,000 square feet to 1,200 square feet. Additionally, the LEAN event eliminated the need for an RCRA Part B permit, resulting in significant savings by reducing regulatory requirements.

Implementing LEAN at Lockheed Martin’s Manassas plant led to various environmental and cost-saving benefits. Chemical inventory reductions decreased the likelihood of spills and accidents, while improved chemical authorization processes increased attentiveness to chemical use and risk-reduction opportunities. This case study exemplifies the transformative potential of adopting LEAN principles in defense contracting, improving efficiency and competitiveness in a dynamic industry landscape.




In conclusion, adopting LEAN principles presents a significant opportunity for defense contractors to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and deliver higher-quality products and services to the Defense Department. Successful case studies demonstrate that implementing LEAN methodologies can lead to transformative results and establish a solid foundation for long-term growth and competitiveness. By embracing LEAN practices, defense contractors can improve their operations and contribute to a more efficient and effective defense industry.

Whether or not your company decides to implement LEAN methodologies into your business, Odyssey Defense Contracting Solutions is ready to help get your product or service to the Defense Department through our automated contracting solutions. Contact us to schedule a demo and see how we can help!