Supply Chain Excellence – Lean Manufacturing Manager

Hunter Campbell’s Supply Chain Excellence Series profiles roles within the Supply Chain job family including jobs in demand, salaries, and employment prospects.

In this article, the role of Lean Manufacturing Manager is in the spotlight.

What is Lean? 

Lean is a popular approach to management that focuses on continuous improvement and aims to promote an efficient, productive culture that minimises waste and improves the customer experience. 

Organically developed by Toyota in the late 1980s, the philosophy is now applied within a wide range of industries from Manufacturing and Business Management through to Product Development and Design. 

Lean principles can be applied across a range of disciplines and for this purpose, we are focusing on Manufacturing and the role of Lean Manufacturing Manager. 

Purpose of the Role 

Lean thinking is fundamentally transforming the way organisations operate. The Lean principles of continuous improvement, respect for people, and a relentless focus on delivering customer value are making teams and organisations rethink practices that have guided them for decades. 

This approach requires a transformation in leadership as well. For Lean thinking to be truly effective, it needs effective Lean Management – to champion Lean principles, offer guidance, and ensure that Lean thinking is being used to optimise the entire organisational system for value delivery. 

Effectively practicing Lean Management requires leaders to trust in the skills, knowledge, and experience of their employees. This means hiring smart and ambitious team players, giving them the tools they need to be successful, and then most importantly, letting them get on with the job. 

The role of the Lean Manufacturing Manager is not to do the work or to micromanage the work, it is to lead teams toward prioritising the right work that will result in the most value for the customer. In order to maximise value delivery, they must understand how value flows through your organisation, from the moment work is requested until it is in the hands of the customer. 


While a company does not have to have anyone certified in Lean to implement Lean Manufacturing strategies, it will certainly help. The certification process requires the individual to gain real, hands on experience with Lean strategies. 

Individuals looking to study Lean can come from all sorts of backgrounds and disciplines. Typically, they come from the functional discipline they are looking to specialise in. For Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Engineering; Lean Specialists tend to come from positions such as Engineer, Production Manager, Logistics and Supply Chain Manager/Specialist. 

There are a number of different qualifications and tools a manager or company can employ to help implement the key principles of Lean including: 

  • 5S 
  • Kaizen 
  • Kanban 
  • KPIs 
  • Mistake Proofing 
  • SMART Goals 
  • Six Sigma 

Key Skills Required 

Managing Lean businesses requires a fresh approach that goes hand in hand with the core principles of Lean: focusing on optimising all aspects of the business and managers working as coaches, leaders and mentors rather than simply a ‘boss’. 

The key skills a Lean Manufacturing Manager needs include: 

Giving vision, focus and direction to the organisation 

As forward thinkers, leaders and motivators; Lean Manufacturing Managers provide vision to the business and identify long-term goals. Having the ability to set focused targets and continuously reassess goals enables managers to identify which areas of the business are on track and which require more work. Lean Manufacturing Managers should also be able to view failure to meet their targets as an opportunity to learn and refine underdeveloped processes. This is an essential part of learning which areas of the business have room to improve and grow. 

Active coach and problem solver 

Lean Manufacturing Managers are encouraged to spend more time in the working environment interacting with employees. This is needed to help them identify and solve workplace problems and enhance productivity confidently. 

Good relationship building skills 

It is important for Lean Manufacturing Managers to understand the behaviour of people and build positive relationships with their employees. The aim is to build rapport, motivate and empower staff to take on increased responsibility, leading to more engaged teams and increased productivity levels. Conscientious customers will also opt for companies which have good internal relationships. Businesses with a reliable, likeable and enthusiastic manager are more likely to attract loyal customers. 

Strive for development and improvement 

A good Lean Manufacturing Manager is constantly searching for new ways to optimise the business so it does not stand still or move backwards, but continues to progress. 

Customer focus and value systems 

Lean thinking prioritises customer value in all business processes, as it helps to establish positive relationships and ongoing customer loyalty. Good Lean Manufacturing Managers know their customers and use insights to shape significant decisions. 

Ongoing process improvement and waste reduction enables a reduction in costs and greater value to customers. Managers should also encourage employees to adopt the same dedication to high quality and customer value, so that the business remains customer focused throughout. 

Career Prospects 

Since the principles of Lean were formalised in the late 1980s, it has helped to increase efficiencies across a wide range of industries throughout the world. 

Although particularly helpful for Lean Specialists, project managers and product owners; Lean is useful for teams in almost any business. Getting Lean qualified can lead to career progression in a wide range of different sectors including Engineering, FMCG, Manufacturing and Supply Chain. Alternate career pathways exist as a Lean Consultant or Lean Manufacturing Manager with responsibility across the entire functions of a business. 

Recruitment Forecast 

Businesses are increasingly aware of the importance to minimise risk and safeguard their future through reducing waste, improving productivity and ensuring optimal customer service and delivery. 

Experienced and qualified Lean professionals are relatively scarce in New Zealand, and with the ability to access overseas talent limited, Lean Specialists are in high demand. We expect this trend to continue for some time to come. 

It is clear that Lean Manufacturing is more essential today than at any other time, giving companies an ideal system for navigating a global business landscape that has been forever altered. Utilising Lean in combination with new tools and technologies can help businesses iterate, solve problems and adapt to keep up with the unprecedented pace of change. The increasing emphasis on big data is particularly compatible with Lean: it provides metric and outcome monitoring and guarantees a more accurate view of gaps and strengths. 

Salary Guide 

This information is anecdotal and based on roles Hunter Campbell is currently recruiting or has previously recruited and relate to base salaries. They do not include any additional bonuses or benefits. 

Graduate and entry level role with up to two years’ experience: $60,000 – $75,000 

Junior: $75,000 – $90,000 

Intermediate: $100,000 – $130,000 

Senior: $130,000 – $160,000 

Management/Leadership: $160,000 + 

Salaries for roles can vary considerably depending on the size of the team, scope of the role, as well as the complexity of the business focus. The salary guides are similar for internal Lean Specialists and external Lean Consultants. 

If you would like to find out more about the role of a Lean Manufacturing Manager, please contact Senior Consultant John Boyle. John specialises in specialises the recruitment of Operations and Engineering. For more news and views, visit our website by clicking here, see what opportunities we have available here or follow us on LinkedIn.


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