The 5 Tenets of Lean
December 12, 2013
If you’re considering implementing Lean Manufacturing, here’s an opportunity to become more familiar with the tenets of Lean.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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