What is… Lean:
In this section you will be able to navigate through key Lean areas to help you effectively manage your Lean activity. Either work through step by step, jump direct to the acronym or term or utilise our Lean Calculators. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter for support direct to your inbox as you and your project progresses.
Lean is often said to have started with the Toyota Production System (TPS) with the term itself only truly coined in 1990.
A set of guiding principles for the lean methodology
1. identify value
The primary Lean principle is to identify customer value. Once you identify who your customer is understand what they need. Then the value of your service is defined by how it meets your customer needs.
2. current condition
Understand the situation ‘as-is’ today, by looking across the value stream end-to-end to where value for the customer is produced.
3. Create flow
In a Lean process work flows smoothly. This is through the elimination of ‘waste’.
4. introduce pull
Work is ‘pulled’ through rather than ‘pushed’. Pull systems work on the premise that the customer receives the product/service when they require it.
5. continuously improve
Seek perfection in the process. Today’s ‘Best Practice’ can be superseded by a better way of operating tomorrow. Continuously apply the tools and techniques to relentlessly drive value for the customer.
Lean Frequently Asked Questions
What is meant by Lean management?
Lean management when embedded within an organisation is more than just a programme of work – or a one off project. It becomes part of the organisational DNA whereby the organisation is driven by providing value for the customer and everybody is aligned to continuously improve. This is a long term approach which seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality for the customer. An organisation which is more developed in Lean ways of working will be considered to have a higher level of Lean maturity.
What are the 5 principles of Lean?
The 5 Principles of Lean are:
- Principle 1 – Identify Value
- Principle 2 – Current Condition (or the Value Stream)
- Principle 3 – Create Flow
- Principle 4 – Introduce Pull
- Principle 5 – Continuously Improve
The terms may differ slightly depending where you look – however, the overriding principle remains the same.
What is a Lean process?
A lean process starts and ends with the customer. The ultimate aim is for the process to provide full value to the customer – i.e. provide something they are willing to pay. In order to achieve this the process is ‘leaned’ to drive out ‘waste’. A perfect process would therefore have no waste and be 100% in adding value to the customer. In reality this is rarely achieved and why the process of continuous improvement is paramount within Lean.
What is the difference between Lean and Six-Sigma?
Lean and Six-Sigma are two complimenting improvement methodologies. Within an organisation you may have Lean and Six-Sigma occurring in tandem. Many of the tools and techniques transfer from one another and some organisations run Lean Six-Sigma as their improvement method of choice.
In simple terms the main difference is Lean focuses on the reduction of the 8 wastes and is a more collaborative approach applied as a way of working. Lean is more capable at resolving the ‘lower hanging fruit’.
Six-sigma on the other hand is a more data driven approach to improvement that utilises statistics to inform improvements.
What are the 5S of Lean?
- Sort (Seiri)
- Straighten (Seiton)
- Standardise (Seiso)
- Shine (Seiketsu)
- Sustain (Shitsuke)
5s originates from the Japanese organisation method (Japenese terms included in brackets).
5s is simple to understand and grasp and as with many tools within Lean can be seen as applying common sense. Despite this simplicity its application can often derive significant success.
The approach is to go through each step in turn and can be applied in all manner of settings beyond manufacturing and into a desk based service industry.
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