What is Lean?

The term “lean” was used to describe the Toyota Production System in the late 1980s by a research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), explained in the book called “The Machine That Changed the World.” Here is an important quote from the book…

Lean production, a term coined by IMVP research John Krafcik, is lean because it uses less of everything, compared with mass production. Half the human effort in the factory, half the manufacturing space, half the investment in tools, half the engineering hours to develop a new product in half the time. Also, it requires keeping far less than half the needed inventory on site, results in many fewer defects, and produces a greater and ever-growing variety of products.

Learn more about the history of Lean at the Lean.org website.

Essentially, lean is a continuous improvement and employee engagement program, combined into one. The goal is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste for the products and services that an organization provides to their customers and stakeholders. Instead of laying off workers to save money, lean companies use the freed up resources to provide more value to customers, which will improve the business in the long term.

Companies that fully embrace lean concepts and principles can experience the following benefits:

  • Inventory reduction (why is inventory and batching bad?)
  • Floor space reduction and increase in capacity
  • Improved product and service flow and speed through your organization
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Quality/defect reduction
  • Cost avoidance (fewer capital purchases, fewer new hires, smaller problems to resolve)
  • Reduced labor costs
  • Reduced overtime costs
  • Better employee engagement
  • Improved visual management in each area (cleaner and more organized work spaces)
  • Less stress and heroics (“firefighting”)
  • Better environmental performance

To learn more, we highly recommend watching these videos below, the best we have found on the internet. It will be well worth the time invested!

Applying Lean to nonprofits – Toyota and the NY Food Bank

8 forms of waste

3P process at Boulder Associates for validating a new workspace area

2-bin system at St Clair hospital to better manage inventory

5S workplace organization event at MSICU to clean up the workspace

5S at Irving (TX) Water Utilities to better organize service trucks

5S event at Cuyahoga Community College to better organize graphic and repro office area

Boeing 737 Manufacturing video using lean principles

Envelope stuffing video – why one piece flow is better than batching

Personal kanban boards to control your work in progress (WIP)

2 Second Lean with Paul Akers (download free book) to make simple daily improvements

Point kaizen improvements at FastCap with Paul Akers to show rapid process improvements cutting dramatic time from a process

Kaizen events at Japanese companies

Want to learn more and participate in a fun simulation? Sign up for our FREE Lean Primer workshop in Portland, Oregon >>>

Don’t live near Portland? Consider taking the FREE Lean Six Sigma for the Environment online course >>>

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