Top Lean Manufacturing Tools D2C Manufacturers Need

46% of SMB’s in the US don’t track their inventory or use outdated manual methods. Here, you can learn how to get ahead of them with lean manufacturing tools.

Woman packaging manufactured products.
Last updated: 02.05.2022

In this article, we are going to explore lean manufacturing tools, from techniques to software, which you can use to optimize your entire manufacturing process.

46% of SMB’s in the U.S. don’t track their inventory or use manual methods, such as using inefficient Excel spreadsheets.

That means by simply adopting an MRP system into your business will put you ahead of nearly half of all U.S. SMB’s.

With this much potential to overtake your competition, you can’t afford to waste time hesitating about using manufacturing process automation in your business.

That’s why we’ve put together this article on lean process thinking for D2C manufacturing and the lean manufacturing tools you can use to help you achieve a leaner workflow.

Maybe it is the case that upgrading to software might be too early because upgrading too early can be as devastating to your business as upgrading too late.

You’ll need to figure out your sweet spot to upgrade, and as soon as you do, this article is going to be key for understanding lean techniques and what lean tools are right for your business.

PRO TIP: One of the ways you can understand if you’re business is ready to operate at the next level is to examine your manufacturing inventory management.

So, without further ado, let’s delve straight into the topic by first looking at what are lean techniques.

What are Lean Techniques?

Lean tools will allow you to get more control over your production.

Lean techniques are strategies in which a business adopts workflows with the core value of eliminating waste while providing more value for the customer with fewer resources.

The use of fewer resources with lean inventory is not achieved by cutting corners, but by finding the most efficient production workflow.

In lean production, the manufacturer places the customer first and attempts to continuously provide the customer with more value to their product or service.

We’ll explore 5S lean manufacturing tools soon enough. But, according to Womack and Jones, lean production can be achieved by following these three steps: Purpose, Process, and People.


What is the problem your company is going to solve for your customers?


How is your company going to achieve the perfect manufacturing process by improving each process step to be valuable, capable, available, and flexible?


How is your business going to ensure that your team members are continually evaluating your processes to improve your production workflow?

If you implement lean production, you can benefit from:

— Lower manufacturing overheads;  

— Lower inventory carrying costs

— Shorter manufacturing lead times; and  

— A higher inventory turnover rate.  

The 5S Lean Manufacturing Tools

5s lean manufacturing tools are seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke.

5S lean manufacturing tools, originating from Japan, is a system designed to reduce waste and optimize productivity from maintaining an orderly workplace.

This methodology helps with organizing, cleaning, developing, and sustaining your manufacturing processes.

You can achieve this by following these 5S lean manufacturing tools:

Sort (Seiri)

Eliminate all your unnecessary items from the workplace by evaluating the necessity of your items. Once you’ve identified which items aren’t necessary for production, they can be moved away from the factory floor for disposal, recycling, or reassignment.

Doing this will help you reclaim valuable floor space and remove broken tools, scrap, and dead stock.

Set in Order (Seiton)

Now that you’ve identified your essential items, it’s time to figure out the optimal place for fulfilling their function. The goal is to establish a smooth workflow on your factory floor. You’ll need to work on your routing manufacturing and your inventory management, such as using the ABC inventory method.

Shine (Seiso)

Shine is the step where you perform your daily follow-up for cleaning to sustain these improvements. Working in a clean environment enables workers to identify malfunctions with equipment.

Standardize (Seiketsu)

Once you have the first three down, now you can standardize your new workflow to support the new practices and daily routine. At this point, team members know their responsibilities of sorting, organizing, and cleaning.

Sustain (Shitsuke)

Important, but difficult, when implementing these 5S lean manufacturing tools. At this stage, you make it a habit to properly maintain these steps until it becomes the standard way of working.

Implementing 5S lean manufacturing tools is tricky, and this is why we’ve decided to look into the software that can help you with lean manufacturing tools, techniques and how to use them.

PRO TIP: Manufacturers’ biggest challenge is handling their raw material inventory management. It’s important to find material requirements planning software that can help you manage your inventory.

1. Katana Smart Manufacturing Software

A production tool allows you to optimize your production lines.

Katana Smart Manufacturing Software is built by manufacturers, for scaling manufacturers, an all in one tool for getting more control over their entire business, from inventory management to floor-level control and even supply chain management.

Katana provides D2C manufacturers with the essential lean manufacturing tools, to help you optimize your:

— Finished goods, raw material, and WIP inventory management;

— Bill of materials;   

— Production planning;    

— Multichannel sales support;   

— Manufacturing floor-level control; and

— Manufacturing cost calculations. 

Lean manufacturing tools like Katana performs all the above functionalities automatically by providing manufacturers with a unique auto-booking engine.

So, let’s say you’re following the direct-to-consumer business model, selling on a Shopify store, and a customer places an order. That sales order is sent to Katana to have available finished goods allocated to the order. Allowing you to either immediately fulfill the sales order, generate a manufacturing order, or procure more materials to start production.

With Katana, you have the manufacturing tools necessary to help you achieve the leanest and smoothest workflow, by centralizing all aspects of your business into one, easy to ready, visual dashboard.

2. LeanKit

Enterprise Kanban for Engineers.

LeanKit is a Kanban system designed to give users a visualized overview of their progress and processes from start to finish.

LeanKit allows your team members in your business to have a visual work delivery tool to help them apply lean management principles to your workflows, so you and your colleagues can work smarter and faster.

LeanKit achieves this by providing you with:

Process and Work Visualization

Easily handle work using the Kanban boards with the flexibility to design your own workflows, regardless of complexity.

Real-Time Work Status

A drag-and-drop feature lets you easily move across lanes on a board, with custom categorization labels that represent different jobs, with live updates.

Identify Risks to Delivery

Be able to easily discover and address bottlenecks or blocks along your production line with the visual dashboard.

3. GoCanvas

Lean production will lower your manufacturing costs and improve customer satisfaction.

GoCanvas create templates and PDF building tools to help you create documents for your business, workforce, and customers.

However, the most notable app for manufacturers is the 5S Audit Form mobile app, which allows you to generate documents to help you implement the 5S lean manufacturing tools and identify strengths and weaknesses along your production lines.

GoCanvas helps you generate documents by:

1. Building

The GoCanvas app allows you to customize and populate documents with the information you need, either from scratch or using a pre-built template. Alternatively, you can send GoCanvas the form, and they’ll design a mobile version for you.

2. Designing

Generate a newly built PDF and email straight to colleagues and customers.

3. Collecting

Your team can use GoCanvas apps to fill out forms anywhere, online or offline, which will instantly and securely save documents to the GoCanvas account in the cloud.

PRO TIP: Lean manufacturing tools can help you operate certain areas in your business. However, if you really want to hit the ground running, be sure to find a tool that can help you with all manufacturing aspects of your business, from inventory management to production planning.

4. Snappii

Tools manufacturing is essential if you want to improve your workflows.

Snappii develops several apps that you can use to help you in different areas of your business, from expense reporting to work order assignments.

The essential one for D2C manufacturers looking for lean manufacturing tools is the Warehouse Management and Inspection app, which assists team members with running the warehouse.

This production tool helps users get more control over inventory management, track inventory movement, and perform inspections.

Using Snappii’s Warehouse Management and Inspection will allow you to:

— Capture data; 

— Increase productivity; 

— Lower costs; 

— Improve supply chain; and

— Improve customer satisfaction.  

5. Wrike

Lean techniques are essential to adopt into your business if you wish to go green manufacturing.

Wrike is a SaaS product management software that enables its users to manage and track their projects, deadlines, schedules, and all your other workflow processes.

The purpose of lean manufacturing tools such as Wrike is to help streamline your manufacturing processes so you and your team can focus on core tasks.

Wrike helps you implement lean techniques into your business by concentrating on two main areas:

Project Management

These features are designed to help your business track dates and objectives of projects, manage your assignments, resources, and monitor progress.

Team Collaboration

Unify all your departments to one system to make communication within your business simple and straightforward.

And there you have it our lean tools list for optimization, all of which are designed to provide you with lean techniques for different areas in your business.

If you’re still unsure if these tools are for you, be sure to check out the case study below, looking into how lean manufacturing tools benefited other D2C manufacturers.


Puppy Cake is a food production manufacturer who makes sweet (and safe) treats for your beloved pets.

According to Puppy Cake CEO, Kelly Costello, their biggest challenge was manufacturing and demand planning for purchasing ingredients and planning production.

By adopting Katana Smart Manufacturing Software, Puppy Cake was able to:

— Improve the efficiency of day-to-day operations to 100%; 

— Get more control of their material inventory with the auto-booking feature; 

— Develop a master production schedule with a clear overview of operations progress with a task list, so team members know what tasks are left to complete; and

— Save $20,000 in annual payroll.    

Find out how they did it with Katana and more here →


Manufacturing tools for optimizing your business will allow you to get ahead of your competition.

And there you have it, our five choices on lean manufacturing tools your business can use to optimize your workflows.

By following the 5S lean manufacturing tools above and adopting the software necessary for improving your business, you’ll quickly be on the right track to reducing your costs, manufacturing lead time, and improving customer satisfaction.

The software we explored in the lean tools list above will help you apply lean principles to optimizing productivity, scheduling, production, inventory, or supply chain management.

However, having to adopt multiple programs into your business is going to slow you down since you’ll need to navigate between different dashboards.

The trick is to find software that can help you apply lean techniques across your entire business.

Katana Smart Manufacturing Software not only helps you gain more control across your entire production line, but it can connect and synchronize with your favorite e-commerce platforms such as Shopify and WooCommerce, and your preferred accounting software like QuickBooks and Xero.

Smart Manufacturing Software gives you the smoothest workflow between your sales channels, manufacturing, and accounting, which is ultimately the winning formula for D2C manufacturers looking to get ahead.

Katana offers users a 14-day free trial, so you can explore the software and see for yourself how Smart Manufacturing Software can help you implement lean manufacturing tools into your business.

We hope that you’ve found this article useful if you have any questions feel free to drop us a comment below or contact us on our social media channels.

And until next time, happy manufacturing.

Katana ERP

Katana Team

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