The 5 Tenets of Lean

December 12, 2013

by Matin Karbassioon

If you’re considering implementing Lean Manufacturing, here’s an opportunity to become more familiar with the tenets of Lean.

Identify Value

It’s a simple question, “What does the customer value?” But this is actually one of the toughest elements of Lean. Customers want quality products or services, delivered at the right time, in the right quantities, and obviously at the right price.

What is “value”? Anything that improves the form or function of the product you provide, and that the customer is willing to pay for. The challenge of Identifying Value is to define those details from the customer’s standpoint. Sometimes you’re too close to the process to do this objectively.

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Companies tend to think everything they’re doing is because the customer wants it done. In reality, there is a good chance some of your processes are costing customers more than what they actually value (i.e. extra inspections). Another important note: it’s important to apply this same principle to your internal customers as well.

Because Specifying Value truly drives the rest of the Lean principles, it is crucially important to overall success.

Map the Value Stream

You must be willing to take a hard look at all actions and activities, both value added and non-value added, that ultimately deliver your product to the customer. It’s challenging, but every process – the good, the bad, and the ugly – must be documented without judgment.


Once you have objectively defined what customers (external and internal) value, you can identify your Value Stream. What steps are required to provide the value customers seek?

Using Value Stream Mapping, we illustrate each step to identify which ones add value and which simply do not. Where do we see defects? Is there too much waiting? Excessive transportation? Value Stream Mapping lets us know, so we can make the improvements leading to better flow.

Create Flow

Remember, customers care most about whether you delivered the quality product they specified when they needed it. They don’t care who does what to make that happen, right?

Objectivity is Imperative

It’s key to optimize flow regardless of current responsibilities or organizational hierarchy. This means challenging existing paradigms within your organization, making value stream Flow one of the most difficult elements of Lean Thinking. Tasks may need to be reassigned, and people may start feeling uncomfortable. You have to keep your eye on the prize (leaner processes for more productivity and better profits).

Making significant changes to create Flow can really highlight the importance of an external consultant: CONNSTEP provides the necessary structure and objectivity for success, even when the task at hand is complicated and potentially emotionally charged.

Establish Pull

Remember when GM was building SUV’s at a record clip, and then gas prices rose? How many Hummers sat on GM’s lot, unwanted?

Be Flexible

To provide the right product or service within the required timeframe, your processes must be flexible to meet fluctuating customer demand, or “Pull.” Did you know, for instance, that roughly 50% of books printed are later sent back to publishers as scrap? There’s a very limited window for selling popular titles. Publishers need to respond quickly to customer pull to capitalize on present demand.

How do you link customer requirements to your value streams to respond flexibly to pull when it occurs? How can you lean that process out? Pull is tricky, requiring careful consideration and analysis – as well as some trial and error – to get it right.

Seek Perfection

As you start to improve your processes and make culture changes in your organization, you begin to absorb Lean as way more than a collection of sophisticated tools. It’s a mindset: an approach rooted in Perfection and Continuous Improvement.

Contact Continuous Improvement

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There is No “Finish Line”

You have to be in a mindset to welcome opportunities for future improvements, and remain open and receptive to total employee involvement, if you want Lean to succeed as it should. It takes a lot of passion to say to yourself, “We’re really never ‘done.’”

As you start examining your processes, you uncover more opportunities that cause you to again examine your processes. Improvements in one area spur you on to replicate benefits in other parts of your business.

Now you’re spreading the fire of continuous improvement. It’s a creative fire, though, not a destructive one! It’s a passion you want to encourage to spread throughout the organization.

CONNSTEP solved a huge problem for us and helped us bring our delivery rate to 100%. As a direct result of that, we have been awarded with an increase in business which, ultimately, will also benefit (our supplier) Har-Conn.”

CT manufacturer Pegaasus

Chris DePentima

CEO, Pegasus Manufacturing Inc.

“I see great value in the new experiences and perspectives CONNSTEP brings to our business, at reasonable prices. They’re not like consultants, they’re like partners in the business – willing to roll up their sleeves and help.”

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Mark Burzynski

President, Arthur G Russell Co

“CONNSTEP has proved to be a tremendous resource for ESI. CONNSTEP has helped us to adapt to today’s marketplace and remain a quality minded, competitive global player. Our ISO/TS16949 implementation process was efficient and rewarding. I look forward to our future projects with CONNSTEP.”

esi CT manufacturer

Ron Delfini

President, Engineering Specialties Inc.

“CONNSTEP worked with FuelCell Energy to educate and facilitate Lean initiatives and to help meet our needs to establish an overall production improvement plan. This plan has been utilized over a period of time as a ‘guiding light’ to spur numerous improvements that dramatically reduced our product cost.”

Tom Lucas

Manager, Fuel Cell Energy

“CONNSTEP is a valuable partner to Hologic, providing the expertise and ‘outside eyes’ everyone needs to keep their continuous improvement on track. We are now well-positioned on a dynamic growth path and look forward to a long-term relationship with CONNSTEP.”

Greg Safarik

VP Manufacturing Operations, Hologic

“Our experience working with CONNSTEP has brought us benefits we never expected. It’s a great team to work with!”

Bruce Wheeler

VP of Operations, Metal Finishing Technologies Inc.

“The goals of the team were to reduce manufacturing lead-time, reduce floor space utilized, and increase worker productivity. All the goals were met. CONNSTEP helped us to better compete.”

Tornik CT manufacturer

Dan Rubbo

General Manager, Tornik LLC

“The Business Growth Program is working well for us. We enhanced our website following the meetings to improve our SEO and become more visible to search engines. The segment on negotiating …  promoted changes in our thinking and improved how we interact with customers. The mentoring between sessions was helpful in boosting our progress.”

CT manufacturer Colonial Spring

Bill Lathrop

President, Colonial Spring Co.

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