The term “Lean” in the context of production and management originated from the evolution of manufacturing processes, primarily attributed to key figures such as Henry Ford and the Toyota team.
Henry Ford played a pivotal role in transforming production with the introduction of the ‘moving assembly line’ in 1913 at Highland Park, MI, while revolutionizing the manufacturing of the Ford Model-T. However, Ford’s system faced a challenge in providing variation as the demand for diverse products increased.
Recognizing the need for both process flow continuity and a broad range of product offerings, they innovatively revised Ford’s original concept, giving birth to the Toyota Production System.
Womack and Daniel Jones, intrigued by the success of the Japanese management style, visited Japan to unravel its secrets. Their findings culminated in the widely acclaimed book, “The Machine That Changed the World.” Despite the remarkable success of the Toyota Production System, the Japanese managers hadn’t coined a term for their systematic approach.
It was Womack and Jones who coined the term “Lean” to encapsulate this efficient and systematic way of working, as they lacked a better term at the time. The term “Lean” has since become synonymous with a philosophy that emphasizes efficiency, waste reduction, and continuous improvement in various industries worldwide.
What does the term “Lean” signify?
“Lean” is not an abbreviation, acronym, or the result of a predetermined naming process for a production system. However, beyond its nomenclature, the significance of Lean is noteworthy.
It serves as a comprehensive management philosophy, influencing the approach to managing processes within companies. Lean is more than a label; it encapsulates a distinct way of thinking and working.
This approach entails a unique perspective on processes, enabling the identification and elimination of wasteful elements. Additionally, Lean emphasizes a respectful approach to engaging with employees, fostering a conducive environment for them to make informed decisions and contribute positively.
Furthermore, Lean acknowledges the customer’s role in determining the optimal solution to their problem, shaping the underlying processes accordingly. It promotes a culture of asking questions and perceiving without immediate judgment, steering away from providing instant answers or solutions.
As a methodology, Lean transforms the way work is conducted, making it more enjoyable, simpler, and more effective. It also serves as a communication method for addressing problems, encouraging collaborative and solution-oriented discussions.
Ultimately, Lean embodies a commitment to perfection, both for the customer and the company, instigating a continuous journey of improvement and excellence.
How is Lean implemented?
To make a process fully lean, there are five Lean model steps that are crucial to follow:
- What does the process’s customer desire, and who is the customer?
- How does the procedure appear? Using a value stream map, for instance, to map the procedure
- How can the process be made more fluid?
- Which stages of the process add value? In what way will you add value?
- Where in the process are there wastes and where is there a lack of flow?
aiming for excellence and ongoing development
- The aforementioned lean concepts support thoughtful process organization and ongoing process improvement. These five fundamental ideas of lean management are outlined and explained in more detail in another post.
A lean company
“Lean Thinkers require a vision before picking up our Lean tools, just as a carpenter needs a vision of what to create in order to fully profit from a hammer. The secret to achieving this is to give goal, procedure, and individuals careful thought.
Womack and Jones advise considering three core business concerns that ought to direct the organization’s whole change. This is intended especially for executives and managers that wish to adopt a lean transformation:
Objective: Which client issues will the business resolve in order to fulfill its own success objectives?
Process: How does the organization assess each major value stream to ensure that each step is valuable, capable, available, sufficient, flexible, and that all steps are linked by flow, pull and leveling?
People: How can the organization ensure that in every important process, someone is responsible for continuously evaluating the value stream regarding business purpose and lean process? How can anyone who touches the value stream be actively involved in the correct operation and continuous improvement?
Six Sigma and Lean
Lean aims to increase flow and add value. The goal of Six Sigma is an efficient and stable process. Together, they make a great complement. The DMAIC paradigm of Six Sigma and the five fundamentals of Lean have been used to establish a sustainable and verifiable process improvement.