What is Lean?

Lean is an approach for waste eliminating within a variety of processes. A Lean organisation cares about the customer value and focuses on increasing it continuously. The ultimate goal is to deliver perfect value to the customers through a process that has no waste! Simply – maximizing customer value and eliminating waste.

It has two main intentions: to satisfy the customers and to do so profitably. The customer satisfaction is what Lean focuses on at all times. If what they do does not provide value to the customer, it’s a waste! Lean’s practitioners often make a wasteful process more efficient and end up getting better at other tasks that they didn’t even consider at first.

What Is Waste?

This is a good question since the majority of the “product” is in the minds of employees. In Lean, waste is defined as activity, product, or process that does not enhance value to the customer. Some sources of waste are:

  •  Unused employee ability: Not involving employees in process developments
  • Overproduction: Generating tests, reports, and other unnecessary analyses
  • Defects: Rework due to mistaken requirements or inputs; mistakes in trying to fix the problem
  • Waiting: Waiting for input, feedback, or decisions,
  • Inventory: Uncompleted analyses, tests, and reports
  • Over-processing: Needless tasks, activities, and processes

Employing Lean to any organisation can boost productivity, provide a systematic method for process improvement, and reduce uncertainty.

Lean Development

The history of Lean goes back many years. Lean Manufacturing is a name that has been around for a while now, originally created within the book The Machine That Changed the World by James Womack, Daniel Jones, and Daniel Roos.

Lean originated with Henry Ford and his storied assembly line. However, the philosophy we know today really starts with Taiichi Ohno who methodized the Lean Management Philosophy and Practices into the Toyota Production System.

Toyota set out to be better than the rest of the US Automobile Industry. They achieved their success particularly through the application of Lean Manufacturing Tools and the Lean Principles. So, it’s safe to say that Lean begins with Toyota and the expansion of the TPS. The term was actually coined to describe Toyota’s business by the research team headed by Womack.

What Is Lean Really for?

To understand what Lean really is, you first need to understand why it was developed. Lean was developed to improve efficiency by simplifying the operational structure to understand, manage, and perform the work environment. Lean emphasizes the significance of optimizing workflow through strategic procedures while eliminating waste and being adjustable. All these concepts have to be approved by employees who create the products and start processes that provide value.

Every process contains some element of waste if it has not gone through Lean multiple times. If done properly, Lean can create vast improvements in productivity, material costs, and cycle time. Reducing waste along whole value streams produces processes that need less space, capital, and time. This leads to services and products with lower costs and fewer defects when compared with traditional business systems.

The companies are then capable to answer the changing desires of the customer with high quality and variety, low cost, and fast turnaround. In addition, information management becomes more accurate and simpler.

Although Lean developed mainly within manufacturing, it is not restricted to it. Today, it is applied to almost every industry. It is evenly applicable to service industries like healthcare or within office-based administrative functions. It can improve client interaction, inventory management, and teamwork.

Lean for Production and Services

So, it is a common misconception that Lean is fitted only for manufacturing. It is suited for every business and production process. Lean is a way of thinking and acting for the organisations, not just a cost reduction program. Lean thinking can structure the organisations from the ground up. Nowadays, the teams, companies, and organisations are encouraged to seek third-party experts who can offer coaching and advice.

Lean is used by businesses in all services and industries, including governments and healthcare. For example, American healthcare organisations such as Virginia Mason Medical Center and ThedaCare, have been working on their “Lean transformation journey” for over 10 years. Many others are in their early stages of applying Lean to improving doctor offices, hospitals, and dental practices.

Lean is the way a company operates, not just a short-term cost reduction program. The term Lean Transformation is used to brand an organisation moving from an old way of thinking to Lean thinking. It transforms the whole way on how a company manages a business. It is about making problems noticeable and widening your team members’ critical thinking ability, which will help them solve the problems and enhance work processes.

Lean can be used to manage several other office processes for manufacturing companies, like cutting the time for closing the books at the end of each quarter. Thus, the management aspects of Lean are possibly more important than the actual methodologies or tools of production themselves.

Lean Software Development

Lean has also been adapted to the software world, including “agile” software development and the wider term “Lean software development.” This led to the “Lean Startup” program that uses Lean Principles not just to the software and technology development efforts, but also to the design and constant development of the business aspect of a company.

What is more, Lean is even being used in financial services firms and law firms. It is also used in military, state, city, and federal government levels. Lean is also being used in universities and public schools.

Lean Engineering

Lean engineering helps organisations become more competitive and original while optimizing resource proficiency and saving money. It is an approach to engineering that influences

  • creation and management of engineering intelligence
  • team structures and processes
  • technologies used to optimize for proficiency, and
  • leadership practices within engineering organisations.

It eliminates waste while creating more value for the customer.

Lean is a constantly developing philosophy and because its function is different for each company. The good news is that every company has a great opportunity to advance using the Lean techniques.


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