AbstractMany wood product manufacturers are trying to increase competitiveness by implementing continuous improvement programs such as lean manufacturing. However, the lumber drying process can significantly affect manufacturing time and inventory size, thus limiting how “lean” the entire process can become. The goal of this research was to determine how vacuum drying technology could support lean manufacturing concepts relative to conventional drying technology in hardwood manufacturing. Two flooring manufacturers with drying operations were modeled, and simulations were used to determine differences in cycle time and work-in-process inventory. The total cycle time of vacuum drying was 78% and 90% less than conventional drying. Work-in-process inventory was reduced by 57% and 52%. The reduction of work-in-process inventory in the drying process represents a potential cost savings of $7.3 million and $13.6 million per year for each manufacturer, respectively. The reduction in inventory carrying costs, faster drying rates, and reduced cycle time demonstrate that vacuum drying could significantly improve the competitiveness of hardwood flooring manufacturers.