What is Lean?
In a nutshell, lean techniques maximise the customer's value while reducing process waste thus creating more value for customers with fewer resources.
An organisation which practices lean truly understands what the customer wants and constantly strives to perfect this. Lean thinking changes the focus of management from optimising in cells and isolation to optimising the entire process flow through value streams flowing horizontally across all departments to customers.
Eliminating waste is key instead of waste removal at isolated points we eliminate waste across a value stream this will create processes that require reduced human effort, reduction of area required, less investment, and a vast reduction in production time with fewer defects on the way.
The benefits for any lean company are listed above however an element is an improved response time. These companies are more efficient and able to deal with change. This allows them to cover a high variety of services and products running at a high quality rate with low costs, information flow simplifies and as a result becomes efficient with an increased accuracy.
Lean works for everyone
You may have heard that lean only works in a manufacturing environment, this is untrue. Lean is transferable across every business small or large and any process within them. Lean is not a program that can be switched off and on when required, it is a mind-set and behaviour change, a way of thinking across the entire company.
Lean can be called many different things as the Toyota Production System, continuous improvement or Kiazen to name a few. But they all follow the basic principles and use the same lean tools found in the lean toolbox.
As costs increase large businesses are implementing lean to reduce the internal costs by reducing the waste. This allows them to remain competitive, companies that will not consider lean will struggle to compete with them and there is a high probability they will close at some point.
As lean starts to show dividends for large companies small companies will have to try and understand the lean concept to survive also. Lean is still a trade secret used mainly by the big boys in business, this is the time small businesses could benefit.
As lean becomes a go to tool for individuals and businesses alike, are we losing sight why we need it?
For years Lean was a hidden tool only a few understood. It is fast becoming a new training phenomenon. However is it becoming a CV Booster or improvement tool?
Six Sigma is regarded as the industry standard, which is fantastic. Developed by Motorola in the 80s, it seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects. However are we missing a gap between Zero lean knowledge vs the ability to succeed in a Six Sigma green belt course?
Understanding lean and getting the point will make an individual a strong advocate for the process. Their enthusiasm and belief for Lean will encourage all around them. This is the biggest hurdle a lean implementation faces. If a company, team or individual has not “brought in” will it be a success? 70% of lean implantation’s fail, why? We know the process works, so it can only mean the drive for change has faltered…
Only training a leader to understand lean is common practice, it saves money. Then there will be an expectation for the leader to come back to the work place and make changes straight away. To successfully use the lean tools takes time to coach and develop individuals in the process.
If we were to start the learning process with an Introduction to lean, using small courses coaching and encouraging lean awareness, would we see a reduction in implementation failures? Surely the possibility of “buy in” would increase with the individual, company or teams?
We then come back to the original question, Lean Awareness vs Six Sigma? Both have a place in the development of Lean in all businesses large or small. However improved lean awareness and practical experience gained before embarking on a Green belt training course will improve the chance of success for the individual.
My last thought, if an individual has the mental capability to be successful at any Six Sigma level, But does not have the buy in, awareness or the practical experience, has it become a CV exercise? And will this devalue Lean and its methods over time?
Make sure you structure your lean learning journey.