What is Lean?

Lean is a methodology proven to increase efficiency and production in the workplace.

The originator of Lean is Toyota. Lean is synonymous with the Toyota production system. Toyota has been refining the methodology and toolset post World War Two.

It is a management philosophy focusing on the reduction of seven wastes (Over-production, Waiting time, Transportation, Processing, Inventory, Motion and Scrap). This philosophy was originated in the early days of the Toyota Production System and, as such, reflects the demands of a small manufacturer entering a mature industry. Through such focused waste reduction, Toyota has become a leader in automobile assemblage and quality, making it a world leader and world-class manufacturing operation. Lean thinking brings to bear a set of disciplines that can be very powerful in the realm of operations analysis. Lean thinking is more of an operations process improvement instrument rather than a means of re-engineering or designing new processes.

The Key Principles of Lean

Good organisations develop and review checklists to review product designs. Lean thinking is theoretically based and has been practised in both government and commercial, manufacturing and service sectors. The key principles are:

  • Perfect first-time quality – the quest for zero defects, revealing & solving problems at the source
  • Waste minimisation – eliminating all activities that do not add value and safety nets, maximise use of scarce resources (capital, people and land)
  • Continuous improvement – reducing costs, improving quality, increasing productivity and information sharing
  • Pull processing – products/services are pulled from the consumer end, not pushed from the production end
  • Flexibility – producing different mixes or a greater diversity of products quickly, without sacrificing efficiency at lower volumes of production
  • Building and maintaining a long-term relationship with suppliers through collaborative risk-sharing, cost-sharing and information-sharing arrangements. 

It is basically all about getting the right things, to the right place, at the right time, in the right quantity while minimising waste and being flexible and open to change. “Lean is a philosophy which shortens the time between the customer order and the product build/shipment by eliminating sources of waste”.

More Resources: 

Source: Business Process Management Common Body of Knowledge (BPM CBOK, 2009), The Association of Business Process Management Professionals