What is Lean?

Many people have heard of Lean Manufacturing and you might have experienced ‘Lean’ if you have worked in a factory. But is it only for manufacturing and can it help me in my business?

Lean means: Define precisely what you do for your customers that they really value, ie Value Adding activities. Everything else is ‘Non-Value Adding’ or Waste. Lean techniques enable you to reduce or eliminate many of the ‘non-value adding’ activities.

Lean started in the early days of the car industry, and was famously developed during the post-war Japanese Miracle when Japan rapidly became the world’s second largest economy. Toyota created the Toyota Production System (TPS) which demonstrated how to produce cars at vastly lower cost that were more reliable than their western competitors.

Most manufacturers have adopted Lean, because it is essential to thrive in the competitive markets most companies operate in. The automotive systems have to be adapted to suit other industries, especially in smaller companies, to work well for them.

Why do Lean at-all?

Because it is the most powerful set of techniques to examine the effectiveness of a business’s operation and to plan and implement improvements. Productivity benefits can be huge, 20-30% improvements are routinely achieved.

Do I need to be a manufacturer?

No, Lean can work for any organisation. We have done projects in Education, Drugs testing, Aircraft Maintenance and Oil Exploration. Lean has been implemented successfully in parts of the NHS to eliminate waste and provide an improved patient experience. Many other sectors could benefit from Lean, for example financial services, local authority systems., motorway roadworks. Has anybody not noticed the incredibly long-winded and ‘un-Lean’ way motorway projects are carried out? They are crying out for a Lean approach but I don’t think Highways England and the contractors have begun to grasp this!

The more complexity that is involved, the more there is to be gained. Companies with upwards of 10 employees are most likely to benefit. A company with 50 or more employees should certainly be considering Lean.

Should I do Lean in my business?

The short answer is YES! How well it will work depends on using the right techniques, adapted for your situation. Companies get bitten by the lean bug when they realise how much there is to be gained. Cost savings, making work more productive and satisfying, creating a better working environment can all be expected.

3 things You need to do:

1. Read about Lean – there’s loads on the ‘net

2. Define Customer Value in your business

3. Measure Customer Value and do an Action Plan to maximise Value and minimise Waste

Next issue: Value Stream Mapping – how to do a Value Analysis in your business and turn it into an Action Plan to improve your productivity.

For further information or advice, contact Nick on 07932 190802 or email info@lean-management.org.uk

Nick Oliver - Owner of Nick Oliver Associates
Nick Oliver - Owner of Nick Oliver Associates Visit Nick Oliver Associates' website