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What is Lean?

The term 'lean methodology' has now been around nearly 30 years, having first been introduced by the book The Machine That Changed the World (1990) by James P. Womack, Daniel Roos, and Daniel T. Jones. The principles and philosophies it describes have, however, been around much longer.

Whilst the core of what lean most closely represents today are the manufacturing philosophies developed and employed by Toyota (Toyota Production System – TPS) in the 1930s and 40s, its origins can be traced back beyond even Henry Ford’s revolutionary practices in the 1910s and even today it is a philosophy that continues to develop. Whilst developed primarily from TPS, lean has been known over the years as WCM (world class manufacturing), stock-less production, and CFM (continuous flow manufacturing) to name but a few. More recently the trend has edged towards agile manufacturing, but to negative connotations with the word ‘lean’. Fundamentally, however, each of them is built on the same core principles:

  • Identify the value as stated by the customer.
  • Identify the value stream.
  • Remove / reduce non value adding processes and improve value adding processes.
  • Undertake continuous improvements to continue to reduce the number of steps required to create the value required.

Why Employ Lean Methodologies?

Employing lean manufacturing methodologies can make a big difference to your business whether you are a manufacturer or service provider. Methods like 5S, SMED, Visual Management, Value Stream Mapping and Gemba can provide relatively high return on investments. Lean methodologies can allow a company to increase its capabilities and capacity at the same time costs are reduced.

Companies employing lean methodologies are fundamentally better at producing and delivering high quality products and services at a lower cost than the competition. They are more capable of meeting fluctuating and changing market demands, more capable of reacting to client requirements, maintaining lower inventories requiring less manufacturing footprint, and converting effort into cash more efficiently.

How do we go about implementing Lean?

First and foremost, it is important to take a structured and collaborative approach. Lean is a philosophy with collaboration at its core: it is not a process that is dictated to employees, it is a working methodology that must inform the way in which employees go about their day to day jobs.

Phase I

  1. Develop an understanding of the business:
  • What are the long-term objectives, challenges and opportunities?
  • What does value look like according to the customer?
  1. Develop a current state value stream map.
  • What processes contribute to the customer perception of value?
  • What processes add zero value? (wastes)
  1. Develop a picture of what utopia looks like.
  2. Break the ideal state into manageable weekly, monthly and quarterly objectives

Phase II

  1. Begin kaizen (continuous improvement) sprints to achieve short, medium and long term objectives.
  2. Review and refine future state goals frequently to ensure long-term success.

Working with Executive Compass

We provide practical, hands on consulting to work alongside your existing team in order to develop a sustainable continuous improvement strategy at a pace suitable for your needs.

Whether you have a factory floor or office-based environment, we utilise lean principles to provide the framework for identifying and eliminating wastes, ultimately improving the efficiency and capacity of your business.


Related Content

Lean – Common Terms and Tools

Lean Services

The Machine That Changed the World

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