In order to achieve higher productivity and flexibility, manufacturing industry is turning increasingly to robotics based lean automation systems. This lean approach presents a series of new challenges for the control, operation and programming of robotic hardware implemented to carry out a range of manufacturing processes. This paper reviews relevant path planning methodologies alongside a specific set of requirements for a manipulator operating in a lean automation workcell. Then, new challenges to path planning for a lean automation system are presented. Finally, a framework for a new path planner is developed and its performance is compared to existing methods. © (2012) Trans Tech Publications, Switzerland.