Lean was originally created by Toyota to eliminate waste and inefficiency in its manufacturing operations. The process became so successful that it has been embraced in manufacturing sectors around the world.
- The goal of lean is to eliminate waste—the non-value-added components in any process or service.
- By its very nature Lean utilises the efficient use of resources.
When done correctly, lean can create huge improvements in efficiency, cycle time, productivity, material costs, and scrap, leading to lower costs and improved competitiveness.
- Value. Value is always defined by the customer’s needs for a specific product. For example, what is the timeline for manufacturing and delivery? What is the price point? This information is vital for defining value.
- Value stream. Once the value (end goal) has been determined, the next step is mapping all the steps and processes involved in taking a specific product from raw materials and delivering the final product to the customer (Value stream). Value-stream mapping identifies all the actions that take a product or service through any process. That process can be in design, production, procurement, HR, administration, delivery, or customer service. The idea is to draw, on one page, a “map” of the flow of material/product through the process. The goal is to identify every step that does not create value and then find ways to eliminate those wasteful steps. Value-stream mapping is sometimes referred to as process re-engineering. Ultimately this exercise also results in a better understanding of the entire business operation.
- Flow. After the waste has been removed from the value stream, the next step is to be sure the remaining steps flow smoothly with no interruptions, delays, or bottlenecks.
- Pull. With improved flow, time to market (or time to customer) can be dramatically improved. This makes it much easier to deliver products as needed, as in “just in time” manufacturing or delivery. This means the customer can “pull” the product from you as needed saving on inventory costs and logistics.
- Perfection. Accomplishing Steps 1-4 is a great start, but the fifth step is perhaps the most important: making lean thinking and process improvement part of your corporate culture. As gains continue to pile up, it is important to remember lean is not a static system and requires constant effort and vigilance to perfect. Every employee should be involved in implementing lean.
For more information on how to implement lean, please contact us.
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