What is Lean?

Lean is a popular approach to streamlining both manufacturing and transactional processes by eliminating waste and optimizing flow while continuing to deliver value to customers.

Lean Methodology

Systematic Approach

In other words, Lean is a systematic approach that enforces the reduction or elimination of activities that don’t add value to a process. Therefore it emphasizes removing wasteful steps in a process and utilizing only value added steps. The Lean method ensures high quality and customer satisfaction.

It helps in

  • reducing process cycle time,
  • improving product or service delivery time,
  • reducing or eliminating the chance of defect generation,
  • reducing the inventory levels and
  • optimizing resources for key improvements among other things.

It is a never-ending approach to waste removal, thus promoting a continuous chain of improvements.

The Goal of Lean

It is focused on enabling and supporting employees in their efforts to eliminate waste. Employee efforts are spent addressing unnecessary, outdated or unproductive process in order to remove steps that block process flow and waste people’s time.

A Lean process:

  • Flows faster
  • Is more efficient and economical
  • Delivers on customer expectations

The Origins of Lean

Taiichi Ohno, who developed the Toyota Production System in the 1940s, is considered the father of what is known as Lean Manufacturing. Lean makes use of PDCA as a process improvement method—Plan, Do, Check Act/Adjust—which was originally developed by Walter Shewhart and championed by Dr. Edwards Deming.

What Lean Is Not

Many process improvement methods are erroneously branded as shorthand for reducing the size of a workforce. LEAN does not stand for “Less Employees Are Needed.” The goal is never to eliminate people from an organization.

If leadership uses Lean as a way to reduce headcount, their deployment will inevitably fail. They may achieve one round of improvement, but once layoffs take place, employees take notice and the transformation dies.

In contrast, a key “pillar” is respect for people. People are an organization’s most valuable asset and the core of the problem-solving culture.

The Tools of Lean

It is associated with toolkit full of techniques such as the 8 Wastes, the 5 Whys and Standard Work. Although it is widely known as an effective way to apply tools and methods to improve processes, it’s not just a set of tools. It’s also a way to build a culture where process improvement can thrive.

Lean Culture (also known as Lean Management) is the foundation of Lean. With a Lean Culture, improvement becomes an employee mindset. Process improvement is more sustainable and continuous improvement can flourish.

It is a powerful combination of defining customer value, aligning around a common purpose, striving for perfection while at the same time respecting and developing people.

Learn more about the benefits and how combining it with Six Sigma provides the most robust system of improvement possible. This powerful combination of continuous improvement approaches builds a culture of problem solving and system of operational excellence.