A reader studying quality management and researching Lean recently asked me, what is Lean really about? In realizing that I have never fully defined my view of Lean on this blog I thought I should.
Let me preface this by saying it is difficult to succinctly define Lean in way that would capture the breadth and depth of knowledge. There are volumes and volumes of written text on many aspects and concepts of Lean. I have been studying in this field for a dozen years and my learning will never be done.
Lean is all about respecting people while eliminating Muri (overburdening), Mura (unevenness), and Muda (non value added activity) in all business processes. It is a philosophy which embodies a manufacturing culture of continuous improvement based on setting standards aimed at eliminating waste through participation of all employees.
The originators of Lean include thinkers like Henry Ford but its most notable and well studied collection of thinkers comes from
The Five Fundamental Principles:
1) Specify Value – End-use customer view
2) Indentify Value Stream – Activities that create value
3) Flow – Make value flow
4) Pull – Respond to customer demand
5) Perfection – Zero waste
The Lean Rules-in-Use:
1) Activity Rule – Specify all work to content, sequence, timing, and outcome.
2) Connection Rule – Customer-supplier connections must be direct & unambiguous.
3) Pathway Rule – Pathways for product/service must be simple & direct.
4) Improvement Rule – Improvements are made using scientific method (PDCA) at place of activity (Gemba) under the guidance of a teacher (Sensei)
It is the endless pursuit of perfection which I refer to in the title of this blog “A Lean Journey: A Quest for True North”. True North is making 1 by 1, defect free, on demand, immediately, safely, and at no cost. It is the ideal target condition not easily achieved. It is approached by eliminating waste, the opposite of value. Value-added activities are those activities that transform materials or information, increase the form or function of products or services, and the customer wants. All other activities are wasteful; add no value; and consume resources, time, and space. The eight wastes are characterized as:
This is only made possible by believing people are the cornerstone. You must engage all human resources and provide knowledge. These two elements are the key drivers to the speed of continuous improvement.
Lean is creating and implementing processes throughout the entire organization that are highly responsive and flexible to customer demand. Lean paves the way for delivery high quality products and services, at the right location, at the right time, all in a cost effective and profitable manner.
Here are some other resources for Lean definitions:
This is a post that I will continue to reflect on (hansei) and update throughout my Lean Journey.