Lean glossary

Ishikawa diagrams are used for finding the root cause. Causes are usually grouped into four main categories indicating sources of deviation:
people: all those involved in the process follow the standards set;
methods: how the process is progressing and what specific requirements, e.g. procedures, rules, regulations and laws, apply;
machine: any equipment, computers, tools, etc. required for the task;
materials: raw materials, parts, information, etc. used for creating a finished product or service.

5 Whys is a technique used for finding the root cause(s) of the problem by asking “why” five times (sometimes it can be fewer or more times than five). The problem may have more than one root cause. This method is also used as part of PDCA and Kaizen processes.

A method of creating a visual workplace using five Japanese words: seiri (sort), seiton (clean or set in order), stand (sanitation), seiketsu (standardise) and shitsuke (sustain or keep yourself in control). These steps show how to manage a workplace so that it works efficiently by identifying and maintaining only the necessary work tools, ensuring constant supervision and maintaining the new order. Employees are integrated into the standardisation of their workplace, which ensures their understanding and participation.

7 wastes are the cause of any activity which does not create added value in your organisation.
7 wastes are:
1. motion;
2. inventory;
3. transportation;
4. defects;
5. over-processing;
6. rework, overproduction;
7. waiting.
The worst of these 7 wastes is overproduction because it basically covers all other wastes. Eliminating this waste was the driving force behind the Toyota’s JIT system. They were smart enough to solve the problem and thus eliminate the remaining wastes.

A method allowing managers, appointed teams and employees plan their activities, achieve their goals and control the results.

A visual feedback system used in factories to notify the state of production, providing alerts for assistance and giving operators the right to stop the production process.

An information and problem escalation system managed by meetings. In Japanese “Asaichi” means “a morning fish market”. It represents the main idea of these meetings – to look at problems first thing in the morning.

Japanese for “load load”. Chaku chaku is an efficient style of production in which all the machines needed to make a part are situated in the correct sequence very close together.
The operator simply loads a part and moves on to the next operation. Each machine performs a different stage of production, such as turning, drilling, cleaning, testing or sandblasting.

It is the total time it takes to make one unit. It includes the time, during which a unit is acted upon to bring it closer to an output, and delay time, during which a unit of work is spent waiting to take the next action. The cycle time is the amount of manual, movement and maintenance time.

Japanese for “the real place”. It is a place where value is created, e.g. sales floor or production line.

A Japanese phrase meaning “go and see”. It is the main principle of the Toyota Production System. The phrase “genchi genbutsu” means that business decisions must be based on facts directly gathered, not on the opinion or experience of another person, because this person can be biased, have old information or be in the wrong. Problems are best understood and addressed in the place where they are encountered, i.e. gemba. Instead of looking at information from a distance, e.g. sitting in the office, managers should see for themselves what is going on.

It is a central idea in Japanese culture. It means to acknowledge one’s own mistake and to pledge improvement. The closest translation would be “Self-awareness is the first step to improvement”.

It is a production planning technique to reduce fluctuations in production by deliberately inserting small batches of different products.

Hoshin Kanri is a coherent strategic planning process that gives the opportunity to combine all levels of the organisation and sets a clear strategic direction. Visual process managing ensures that each department, unit and employee within the organisation knows the priorities and activities.

The diagram, named after its author Kaoru Ishikawa, is used for analysing the cause and effect. It uses facts and the process of 5 Whys to find root causes of the problem.

Yokoten is a process for sharing knowledge laterally across an organisation. It entails copying and improving Kaizen ideas that work. You can think of yokoten as “horizontal deployment” or “sideways expansion”.

Jidoka is a central principle of the Toyota Production System. It may be translated as “automation with a human touch”. This means that in the event of a problem in the production line, the worker can stop the process so that the defective product is not manufactured.

“Just-in-Sequence” is a higher level of “Just-in-Time”. During the supply of materials, the supplier ensures that the required materials are delivered timely and in the adequate quantity as well as that the materials are supplied in a sequence required by the production process.

A production process planning system to optimise the supply of materials, making only what is needed, when it is needed and in the amount needed.

Kaikaku is a rapid change event as opposed to Kaizen which is smaller incremental improvements. Kaikaku is revolutionary, while Kaizen is evolutionary.

A Japanese term for constant improvement. It consists of words “kai” (change) and “zen” (for better).

“Kaizen” is Japanese for “improvement” or “change for the better”, while “teian” is simply translated as “suggestion”. Together they describe a philosophy and system which dictate that small, incremental changes, routinely applied and sustained over a long period of time, result in significant benefits for a business.

As part of the Toyota Production System, kamishibai boards are used as a visual control for performing audits within a manufacturing process. A series of cards are placed on a board and selected at random or according to schedule. This ensures safety and cleanliness of the workplace is maintained and that quality checks are being performed. Kamishibai is a Japanese word that literally means “paper drama”. It is a type of storytelling that started in Buddhist temples around the 12th century, when Buddhist monks used emakimono (“picture rolls”) as pictorial aids for recounting their stories with moral lessons.

A Japanese term for “signboard”. It is one of the main tools of the Just-in-Time (JIT) manufacturing system. Usually a card containing specific information, such as details, brand name, description, quantity, etc., is used. This maintains a neat and efficient material flow throughout the production process, without any additional calculation and control.

The goal of the Lean system is to create a higher value for the customer by using fewer resources and to increase their competitive edge. This is achieved by eliminating or reducing processes that do not create value for the customer and the company and creating a culture of constant improvement within the organisation.

Milk run is the internal logistics route from the factory, which ensures the transportation of inventory and raw materials from the warehouse and between processes.

A Japanese term for “water spider”. It is a worker who has a prescribed set of tasks to keep materials in stock at the point of use in production areas. The term can also be used for trains transporting internal inventory.

Mean Time To Failure is a way to assess the reliability of equipment.

Mean Time To Repair is a basic measure of the maintainability of repairable items.

It is a Japanese word meaning “futility”, i.e. everything that does not create value for the customer.

It is a Japanese word for “unevenness, irregularity, lack of uniformity, inequality”. It is used to denote losses caused by unevenness in the process.

A Japanese word meaning “unreasonableness; impossible; beyond one’s power; too difficult”. It is used to define waste caused by irrational and too difficult operational method.

In Japanese it means an informal process of quietly laying the foundation for some proposed change or project, by talking to the people concerned, gathering support and feedback, etc. It is considered an important element in any major change, before any formal steps are taken, and successful nemawashi enables changes to be carried out with the consent of all sides. Nemawashi literally translates as “going around the roots” (“ne” means “root” and “mawasu” means “to go around [something]”). Its original meaning was literal: digging around the roots of a tree, to prepare it for a transplant.

Overall equipment efficiency measures losses of processes or equipment. Information is collected with the aim to increase the following three indicators: availability of equipment (reduced by downtime due to equipment failures), performance (reduced by minor stops and speed loss) and quality (reduced by production rejects).

Obeya is a room that is arranged according to a predefined model that allows you to visually control the whole process of innovation – from conception to industrialisation, from production to sales.

Plan-Do-Check-Act is a method that helps to find root causes of the problem and identify actions to eliminate these causes. It is also called the Deming Cycle.

It is mechanical protection against errors. It can draw the worker’s attention or correct the deviations, but the best poka-yoke is one that simply does not allow human errors to occur. This method was originally described as baka-yoke, but as this means “fool-proofing” (or “idiot-proofing”) the name was changed to the milder poka-yoke (“mistake-proofing”).

Parts per million is a method of measuring statistics that still allows you to monitor and seek to improve the quality level above 99%. For instance, 3,000 PPM means that 3,000 of 1,000,000 defective parts were made (99.7%).

It is a production flow management system based on the pull principle. It ensures that only the parts (products) that have been fully used are supplied to the next process from the previous process.

It is a method that ensures a rapid equipment changeover from one product to another in order to reduce production lot sizes and improve flow.

A path of the object or employee in a process, depicted by an unbroken line, which helps to identify inefficiently planned processes, an unnecessary distance between process steps and other wastes.

It is a process of developing and deploying best practices. Standardisation maximises the quality, safety and efficiency of processes and products.

In a factory process it is what a retail supermarket is to the customer. The customers sweep products they need off the shelves, and this can be detected by the supplier who then initiates a replenishment of that item. It was the observation that this way of working could be transferred from retail to manufacturing that is one of the cornerstones of the Toyota Production System (TPS).

It is a production rhythm, i.e. the time needed to make one part (deliver a service) to satisfy the customer’s demand.

Total productive maintenance is a different approach to maintenance. The focus is on proactive and preventive maintenance in order to maximise the life of the equipment. TPM reduces the gap between technicians and manufacturers. Particular emphasis is placed on the need for operators to have the capacity and ability to maintain the equipment they work with.

It is an integrated production management system created by Toyota and based on the organisation’s philosophy and practice.

A method used for analysing various administration processes (e.g. planning, purchasing, decision-making) in order to shorten the time of order execution and improve the quality of processes, services or products. The business process selected using the method is divided into different activities or steps. Each step is evaluated against four criteria: value creation, relevance, capacity and availability.

Visual management is a system of labels, information provision and tools for storing, managing, colour-coding and labelling. Simply put “a place for everything and everything in its place”. The visual management system allows even a random observer to instantly understand and assess standards, process progress and problems.

Value stream mapping is a method for documenting, analysing and improving information or material flows necessary for production or service. VSM aims at evaluating the relationship between value-generating processes and non-value added processes and improving flows based on this information.