Join Steven Brown for an in-depth discussion in this video Why Lean?, part of Lean Six Sigma Foundations.
- "We will not put into our establishment "anything that is useless." That's a pretty good definition for what we call today the Lean approach, and when we think of Lean, most of us think of the Toyota production system, because that's what made Lean famous. Interestingly enough, however, that quote is from Henry Ford, Sr. You see the principles of Lean production, were first established at Ford Motor Company, and they were recorded in several books Mr. Ford wrote in the 1920's.
Lean, and Just In Time, are inventions of Henry Ford. These principles were updated and refined by Toyota after the second World War, and they helped Japan to become a manufacturing powerhouse. Lean concepts were reintroduced to America in the 1980's as U.S. auto manufacturers were being seriously challenged by Toyota, and other Japanese car makers. At that time, there was a lot of pressure, to improve quality and to reduce costs, and that's what Lean is all about.
Lean is defined as the elimination of all non value added activities, or waste, although most people associate Lean with the production floor, the principles apply equally well to all parts of the organization, and it's supply chain. Examples of waste within the organization include unnecessary steps or activities, rework, waiting time, unnecessary movement of people or material, and excess inventory.
The goal of Lean is to find those areas of waste, and to permanently eliminate them. Lean efforts are greatly enabled by a strong focus on continual improvements and performance measurements. Lean is facilitated by such things as, employees who are empowered to make decisions, and solve their own problems, highly cross trained workers operating flexible equipment, efficient layout of floor space, standard processes, just in time delivery, and rapid machine set up and changeover.
We see the benefits of Lean efficiencies through reduced cycle times, greater production output, decreased inventories, and higher levels of quality in all aspects of our work. It's not easy to implement Lean and Just In Time principles into your everyday business operations. It takes time, and a lot of hard work. The focus must be on discipline, and attention to detail. I mentioned a minute ago that the goal of Lean is to permanently eliminate the sources of waste.
That goal directly connects Lean to managing, and continuously improving processes. Lean organizations have simple processes that are under continuous review for improvement opportunities. To permanently eliminate waste, they work towards error proofing processes and strategies. They use simple tools and simple methods that can be applied to any process, whether it's on the office floor or the shop floor. Above all else, Lean depends upon establishing simple processes.
In fact simplicity is at the heart of the Toyota production system. At Toyota University, managers are trained to seek what the company calls, The Elegant Solution. At Toyota, the most elegant solution, is the simplest solution. To truly understand Lean, and how to apply it's principles at your company, you must first understand waste. Do you see any signs of waste in your organization? Long and complicated processes for example, that might result in missed schedules.
Or perhaps you find something as straightforward as a high rework rate, for one particular product in your factory. As you prepare for the implementation of Lean Six Sigma, this is a really good place to start.
Steven outlines the process stages in Six Sigma (define, measure, analyze, improve, and control), along with the Lean toolkit: the 5s principles, kanban (scheduling), downtime, poka-yoke (error proofing), and kaizen (continuous improvement). He also explains how leadership works within Lean Six Sigma, the principles of project execution, and how Lean Six Sigma is applied to the service sector and supply chain management. Make sure to watch the "Next steps" video at the end of the course for further resources.
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- Why Lean Six Sigma?
- Understanding the five steps of Six Sigma
- Understanding the 5 Ss of Lean
- Leading a Lean Six Sigma project
- Controlling a Lean Six Sigma project
- Using Lean Six Sigma for services and supply chain management