What is a Lean system?
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.
The essence of Lean is best described by two basic principles: continual improvement and elimination of redundant activities (wastes).
It is the elimination or reduction of processes that do not create value for the customer and the company by creating a culture of continual improvement within the organisation.
The implementation of Lean or the management of efficient processes is often compared with building a house, where strong foundations, pillars, roof and the man are most important.
Effective processes firstly require visual control so that each employee could evaluate, at any time, whether the process moves in the right direction and without interruption.
The next step is to standardise good practices, thus eliminating chaos and obtaining a positive result.
One of the pillars in the house is responsible for 100% quality in the next process and the other pillar – for timely deliveries (when needed, not before and not after).
The roof is a result of Lean manufacturing, which ensures value-generating products and processes for which the customer agrees to pay.
Of course, building a house or effective process management is impossible without the ever-evolving man. The employee is involved in the continual improvement of processes. Otherwise, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten”, Kenneth Blanchard.
All parts of this house or effective process management involve some Lean methods or tools: 5S, Kaizen, PDCA, Standardised work, SMED, TPM, Kanban, Hoshin Kanri, etc. Accidental application of these methods often does not produce the expected result, as they require systematic and consistent implementation.
The best Lean school is practice. As Taiichi Ohno, one of the Lean system creators, said: “Knowledge is something you buy with the money. Wisdom is something you acquire by doing it.”
The implementation of the Lean system starts with a performance evaluation, which consists of three parts:
- analysis of the key performance indicators of the company;
- Gemba audit (physical assessment of processes within the company);
- reporting (identifying benefits and drafting a Lean implementation plan).