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Lean introduction and history

Lean A-ZLean Principles

Lean | An introduction…

Lean – is the elimination of waste and focuses on delivering activities which add value from a customer’s perspective. It is based on the following set of principles:

  1. Identify Value
  2. Current Condition
  3. Create Flow
  4. Introduce Pull
  5. Continuously Improve

These are often supported by a set of Lean Ways of Working (WoW) and / or a set of Lean ‘Lenses’, to enhance application. This is because Lean is heavily based on significant staff engagement. These additions therefore help to change the mindset of an organisation.

These principles (ways of working) and ‘lenses’ are then supported by a range of improvement tools and techniques. There is significant cross-over with the tools and techniques deployed with other improvement approaches such as Six-sigma, Business Process Re-engineering and Total Quality Management.



Lean is best deployed in the following situations:

  1. Where there is a commitment to strong staff engagement to drive sustainable business improvement
  2. Where ‘low hanging fruit’ exists and fast results are required (often organisations and teams can say all the low hanging fruit has been taken but in our experience this is rarely the case)
  3. Operations with a large number of front line staff working on similar activities
  4. Limited performance data

Lean deployed in the right way is a great method all organisations should deploy, irrelevant of type, industry or size. After all, who can argue with wanting to continuously improve and deliver value for the customer whilst eliminating unnecessary waste?

Lean | History…

Lean is often said to have started with the Toyota Production System (TPS) with the term itself only truly named in 1990. However, the origin of some of the Lean principles can be traced back much further:



Venetian Arsenal

Introduction of a production line to improve the output of ships from <1 per month to 1 per day



Fred Winslow Taylor

Standard work introduced for improvements in quality and efficiency


Pre-War 1900's

Henry Ford & TPS as an Infant

Henry Ford introduced production cycles, an integrated supply chain and worked on eliminating waste.

A little later the Toyota Production System started in a simplistic form



Second World War

During this period a conscious effort was made to improve the productivity within American factories supporting the war efforts through structured training.



Toyota Production System

From this period on-wards the Toyota Production System (TPS) is developed and is accredited with improving the fortunes of Toyota and TPS is implemented overseas. 



Lean term coined

Lean as a management philosophy derived mostly from the TPS Identified as “Lean” only in the 1990s



Service Sector

Lean principles are applied across a wider range of industries and it begins to make its way into the Service Sector for Finance and Insurance.

A few years later Lean begins to emerge in additional sectors such as Healthcare, Public Sector and Retail.

Lean FAQ’S

What are the 8 wastes?
Lean is all about the elimination of waste. Commonly there are 8 recognised wastes which can remembered by the acronym DOWNTIME:

D – Defect

O – Overproduction

W – Waiting

N – Non-Utilised Talent

T – Transprotation

I – Inventory

M – Motion

E – Extra Processing

What does VSM stand for?
VSM stands for Value Stream Mapping. This is an excellent tool for identifying waste. For more on Lean Acronyms and Glossary see the A-Z
What are the 'Voices' which Lean Six-Sigma projects listen to?
Six-Sigma and Lean projects necessitate that particular ‘voices’ are listened to. These are the ‘voices’ of:

  1. Voice of the Customer (VoC) central to building processes around the needs of customers
  2. Voice of the Business (VoB) ensuring business requirements are adhered to; commonly but not exclusive to financials
  3. Voice of the Employee (VoE) ensuring employees benefit also from project changes
  4. Voice of the Process (VoP) this is the performance of the process over time

A project may be defined as a win-win-win when the Customer, Business and Employee all benefits from its delivery.

Why Process Map?
Process mapping allows an improvement project to represent the process visually in a way that others find easier to understand

In addition it makes it easier to ensure all parts have been accurately captured

  • It also allows people to quickly understand where waste exists in the process and where the process has gaps
  • It gives the team a basis for representing their improvement ideas

Being laid out visually allows the team to move things around and more easily ask difficult or challenging ‘what if’ questions to the process.

Continue learning…

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