If you’re here from a Google search, interested in what this whole Lean Manufacturing Training thing is about, I’ll try to do my best to explain what Lean means. Keep in mind, I’m just like you – I’m learning about Lean everyday so I’m no expert by any means. But I’ll do my best to help you as you begin your Lean journey. Following the Toyota House model, here are the key principles and terms in Lean:
So, What is Lean? Answering that question might be best done from reading from Lean Leaders themselves, but let me give it a shot.
The term “Lean” was coined by John Krafcik of MIT, while he was part of the International Motor Vehicle Program. During a study of Japanese companies, he observed that Toyota did “everything with half of everything”: half the people, half the space, half the inventory, half the resources, etc., yet with very high quality. Not knowing what to call the method or approach that Toyota followed in their Operations, Krafcik used the word “Lean”.
Well, the term Lean stuck.
It wasn’t until later that Krafcik, Womack, and others who were part of the International Motor Vehicle Program learned that what they observed was actually the Toyota Production System. They aimed to learn more about it.
Womack and team then culminated their findings in the watershed book The Machine that Changed the World. It was after the publishing of that book that Lean really gained some traction outside of Japan.
The Toyota House
Lean is based on principles that will help an organization with the “complete elimination of all waste”. That phrase is important, but there are several concepts at play that we won’t go into detail here. But, there are other articles on this website where you can deeper understanding.
Lean is based on several principles. I’ll now attempt to paint a picture of each of its parts and then bring it together into a more strategic whole.
Value is always from the perspective of the customer. The opposite of value is formally called Waste. In Lean, there are 7 common waste that Lean aims to prevent and actively eliminate. The idea is that if we eliminate waste, then what is left over for the customer is value.
Principles, Methods, and Tools
In order to eliminate waste and only deliver value to the customer, Lean and the Toyota Production System has various approaches, methods, tools to achieve that aim. These tools are all based on principles.
Each of the items in the Toyota House above deserve a topic of their own, but here’s the important thing to remember: one could get easily lost in all the tools, methods, and elements in the Toyota House. But the important thing to remember is that they are all aimed at eliminating waste and in helping the firm deliver value to the customer at the lowest possible cost. Many people get lost in their goal to learn a specific tool or approach. That is like focusing tree and not seeing the forest.
Some common terms you’ll hear as you learn more about Lean are the following. Over time, we’ll dedicate an article to each of the terms above, to the right and left of the Toyota House:
Respect for the Human
A critical element that is not discussed much is the notion of Respect for the Human or, is more commonly phrased outside of Japan, is Respect for People. At bottom, Lean recognizes the intrinsic value inherent in each person; their unique talents, gifts, and abilities. From the firm’s perspective, this means that recognizing the value in each individual, the firm’s goal then is to develop that through challenging assignments that align with the person’s interest, goals and needs of the firm, and the demands of the customer. The core of Respect for People is really human development.
What Lean is Not
One approach to defining Lean may be to show you what Lean is not. Here’s my attempt:
- Lean is not a set of tools only
- Lean is not a silver bullet or an easy transformation
- Lean is not part of Six Sigma
- Lean is not just a process improvement methodology
- Lean is not meant to use to drive layoffs
- Lean is not a bunch of projects
- Lean is not just about speed or efficiency – Lean is also about quality
- Lean is not just for front line staff
Remember, this is just the beginning. On this site, you’ll find hundreds of resources to help you gain a deeper and more fuller understanding of Lean. On this site, you can also gain a deeper understanding of specific topics in Lean.
Thanks for visiting and we’re honored you came here to begin your Lean journey.