You may be thinking about implementing a Lean Strategy in your organization. Or maybe you just you haven't heard much about lean and you want to find out what everyone is talking about.
Wherever you are on your journey here are a few of the most common reasons organizations and individuals embark on the "lean journey".
Some of the small and medium sized organizations have realized that in today's global market it is not only tough to compete but very hard to survive. With the internet now reaching all around the world our competitors can research and access information with the click of a button. Along with the digital power of the internet many markets have been forced to be cheaper and quicker with no spared expense of quality. This means long lead times, safety stock, batches of inventory and excessive queue times must be eliminated. Whether you're in manufacturing or service the solution is lean. Lean is a continuous improvement strategy that a company embarks on to maximize customer value and minimize waste. The term "Lean" was first used in the book The Machine That Changed the World by James Womack. A lean organization focuses on providing complete value or Value added activities to their customers. Lean truly enables a company to focus on what customers want, while increasing satisfaction, improving a company's competitive market and ultimately enabling anybody to change for the better. What are those changes that we refer to as better?
Here are four changes you can expect as a result of a lean implementation:
1. The first and most obvious reason we will list is that a Lean Strategy Removes waste. Lean places a strong focus on what is known as Muda and the elimination of the 8 forms of waste. Those 8 forms of waste are Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over Processing, Over Production, Defects and underutilized Skills. By eliminating waste a company spends more time creating value and less time on wasteful activities. Let's look at an example. Valentine's day you're looking to go out to dinner with your family. When you place your wallet in your pocket do you put it their to wait in line? probably not. How about for the restaurant to rework your food? Hopefully not. No you probably put your wallet in your pocket to purchase food that you're going to eat and contribute to the transformation of the ingredients into the food you're going to eat. Those activities that you the customer are not willing to pay for are what we call waste. Lean works to drive these hidden costs out of processes.
2. Lean Brings People together. In order to build a lean organization a company must recognize the need for change. The strategy requires buy in from every level of an organization and asks that all team members are focused on doing their part. Principle number 10 in The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles, Dr. Jeffrey Liker writes: "use cross-functional teams to improve quality and productivity and enhance flow by solving difficult technical problems." He goes on to say: "empowerment occurs when people use the company's tools to improve the company." While it's true individuals create value the simple idea that lean tools require interaction and teamwork helps us begin to understand why the development of people and healthy culture is so important to the strategies success.
3. The Pursuit of Perfection. One of the best part about a continuous improvement strategy like lean is the continued focus on improving. The term kaizen suggests that it is through small incremental improvements that breakthrough results are created. If we look into the North American definition of kaizen we see the word "continuous" used alongside the word improvement. One synonym for the word continuous is constant. Constant means to happened all the time or very often over a period of time. By understanding this definition, we understand that Kaizen or continuous improvement is not so much an activity or a project as it is a part of our work ethic and culture that helps us to pursuit perfection and never give up.
4. Streamlines Processes, implementing lean helps companies dramatically streamline their processes. This includes office functions, manufacturing tasks, educational organizations and healthcare environments. If you have a process it can be improved, if you don’t it can be created and standardized. This enables companies to work to their full potential which results in a reduced operational expenditure along with increased speed and service to the market.
In Short a Lean Strategy really is the improvement strategy. Although these are only four reasons a company might embark on a lean journey, there really is no question that if you are looking to grow, transform and survive in today's global market lean must be a part of your organization or skill set.
What reasons can you think of that may cause a company or an individual to shy away from lean?