One of the key factors of a competitive economy is creating a strong, internationally competitive SME sector. This essay is based on the fact that management tools used in the SME sector are insufficient. With the development of these tools, the competitiveness of companies could improve. According to the literature, using lean thinking has a positive influence on the company’s effectiveness, and also proved that lean approach can be successfully extended out of the car industry, into the limitedly resourced SME sector, too. Even though the topic of lean manufacturing is analysed by many studies, there is a lack of papers dealing with its usage in the SME sector. The originality of this paper lies in analysing the current status of using lean manufacturing practices among the Hungarian SMEs operating in the manufacturing industry. The paper includes an examination about how deeply the elements of lean thinking are present in the Hungarian SME sector, how large the development reserves are, and whether there is a difference between the usage of lean practices. A structured questionnaire was used for data collection. SMEs’ representatives, mostly CEOs and managers from the Hungarian manufacturing industry participated in the survey. The sample contained 128 observations. The study has two control variables, which are the size of the company and the relation to the lean management. The survey brought the following results. First of all, it shows that the level of using lean is low among the Hungarian SMEs. Furthermore, customer orientation is a key factor in the sector, however, there are considerable possibilities for progress by the inner processes and the handling and involvement of the suppliers. Firstly, a good basis to increase the effectiveness could be the creation of thinking in processes influencing the supply chain. Secondly, the development of the leadership and the involvement of the employees at some level are also significant. Key findings is that without state incitement and the involvement of outside experts, progress cannot be expected to spread on a broad scope. The background of the research method was created to fit the available literature and to capable to be used in other countries, too. Moreover, this way the available information can be expanded with a regional dimension, in case further studies are going to be made.
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