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Lean, Lean thinking, Lean Enterprise and Lean Manufacturing are all terms that have come to represent a method for improvement created by Toyota over 50 years ago. James Womack coined the term Lean when he tried to name the principles and approach he observed in that company. He saw that Lean training leads to continuous, customer-focused improvement.
Lean is about creating a culture where every person is thinking about the customer. Lean is focusing on improvement for the customer, to improve internal processes and reduce waste.
To achieve this takes time and effort, starting with effective Lean training. It is only by understanding the principles that people can put them into action. Every member of staff must be encouraged to identify and remove waste, without fear of blame. Failing to provide staff with at least some level of Lean training can hold back the cultural change you need for success.
But, what is Lean?
Removal of waste is the principle at the heart of Lean. Waste is anything that does not add value to the customer. So, Lean is about improving customer value without increasing the available resources.
To understand what Lean is, we must first understand waste. To help us identify waste in our own businesses, the list of 8 Wastes was created:
What is Lean - The 8 Wastes
- Waiting (Employee or equipment idle time)
- Transportation (Any movement that does not add value)
- Over-processing (Doing more work than necessary)
- Motion (Wasted walking or movement)
- Poor quality (Defects, errors or rework)
- Inventory (Storing excess inventory or materials)
- Overproduction (Servicing more, sooner, faster than required by the next step in the process)
- Talent (skills not used, or used for the wrong task).
To achieve zero waste organisations must focus on their processes and how they flow through the business. These flows are known as Value streams.
In most companies when these value streams are first identified and documented there are many problems within them. This can include poor measures of performance, duplication of effort, lack of customer focus, poor quality and lack of care.
By removing this waste you will create processes that need less human effort, less space, less capital, and less time. You’ll be able to make products and services at lower cost and with fewer defects than you used to. Companies are able to respond to changing customer desires with high variety, high quality, low cost, and with low lead times.
Lean is used in all kinds of industries from Healthcare to government, and from manufacturing to charities. They have all recognised that improving their value streams to be more customer-focused and reduce waste is, without exception, a sensible course of action.
So, what is Lean? Lean is not a tactic or a method that can be implemented into a company in a few months. Lean is about a completely new way of behaving, a cultural change for most companies. Many companies that take Lean training give the Lean principles their own name but the backbone of what they develop has Lean at its heart.
Take a look at our Lean training courses to see how you can take the first step to a more productive and effective workplace. Lean training is available online, in a classroom or we can come to you!