Introduction to Lean

2387 reads

six_sigma.jpg
Six Sigma is a well know term today, but another very powerful initiative is Lean. There are many companies which have adopted lean techniques and in many organizations just like in ours, the sigma training curriculum has lean concepts and tools as well.  If Six Sigma is focused on reducing variation; lean focuses on speeding the action.
 
The simplest definition of lean is, "Cycle time reduction through Waste Elimination".
 
Toyota Production System is the basis for "lean production". In lean manufacturing the focus is on making the product flow through value-adding processes without interruption (one-piece flow), and a "pull" system based on customer demand; thereby replenishing only what the next operation takes away at short intervals.  Most importantly, this is a culture in which everyone strives to improve continuously.  
 
Taiichi Ohno, founder of Toyota Production System says "All we are doing is looking at the time line from the moment the customer gives us an order to the point when we collect the cash.  And we are reducing that time line by removing the non-value- added wastes. 
 
I wouldn't attempt to elaborate on the entire context of lean in this short article. I was shocked to read in the book "The Toyota Way" by Jeffrey K. Liker, that most attempts to implement lean in organizations have been fairly superficial.  He says he has visited hundreds of companies in the US, that claim to be advanced practitioners of lean methods but find that they haven't really made that cultural transformation that Toyota has made.  He says that companies proudly show off their pet lean project and they have mistaken a particular set of lean tools for a deep "lean thinking" 
 
However, that should not be an excuse for organizations for not implementing lean techniques.  It's better to be like a toddler learning to walk, rising each time it falls and slowly but surely mastering the ability to walk. 
 
Under the umbrella of lean tools there are many tools which many of us are already familiar with, viz., Value Stream Maps, 5S, JIT, Visual Displays, Kanban, Quick Changeover, Error Proofing etc. 
 
The question one would have in mind is "Where to start"?  Well, organizations which are planning to become lean would go in for a large scale implementation, but if we are just beginning to learn about lean and would like to use some of the concepts, my opinion would be to look at waste and eliminate it.
 
This is a culture in which everyone strives to improve continuously
 
The next obvious question is- what is waste? Any thing that doesn't add value is called waste. By walking through a process and mapping it, it is quite easy to identify waste in a process. Let's discuss further on the types of wastes.  We can classify wastes into 8 different types-
 
1. Defective Products
2. Over Production
3. Transportation
4. Waiting
5. Inventory
6. Motion
7. Processing
8. Unused Creativity
 
These wastes need not necessarily be in a production environment, we could see them in any transaction, even in an office environment. To get the concept clear, let's look at few non manufacturing examples under each category- 
 
1. Defective Products- Errors in information and documentation; decisions not based on facts. A wrongly processed invoice or purchase order could have big financial implications. Defective products cause re-work or scrap leading to loss in time and money, like the defective roads that need potholes filling every now and then.
 
2. Over Production- Extra reports and additional and unnecessary information on reports.  Decision made sooner than needed is also over production, like the median constructed on the middle of the road and then removed to install electric poles.
 
3. Transportation- Hand carrying information, mailing, faxing. In a city like Bangalore which is so well e-connected, it is always better to click a mouse rather than to use the car; to pay a utility bill- speed increases and traffic jam reduces.
 
4. Waiting- Waiting for decisions, waiting in meeting for your turn, waiting in ques in banks. Waiting at the signal points is the biggest waste of time, fuel, money, in the city of Bangalore
 
5. Inventory- Work in process in the in-tray, in-box; excess stationary, greeting cards and dairies ordered. One may want to look at the emails we receive, read and reply on daily basis just to clear the inventory rather than gather and transmit any useful information.
 
6. Motion- Searching for things in the office, slow typing due to unfamiliar key strokes. Clear identification of files ( either hard or soft)with an indexing mechanism, can reduce unnecessary motion
 
7. Processing- Extra approval and documentation that does not add value to the customer. Issue of tokens in the bank, and the cash withdrawal form being processed, while the customer waits.  In our company we eliminated  printing of salary slips, instead we use the intranet
 
8. Unused Creativity- People not adhering to procedures, looking at short cuts and getting bored doing routine jobs. The management of any organization will have to look at ways to get the best out of their people.
 
Elimination of these wastes speeds up the process, thereby reducing cycle time.  There are many methods that could be adopted to drive waste reduction, which is beyond the scope of this article. 
 
Pradeep Kumar E. T. A Master Black Belt in Six Sigma, is Manager- Quality Assurance with Tyco Electronics Corporation  India Pvt Ltd. Feedback can be emailed to pradeep@businessgyan.com
 
Issue BG59 Feb06 
 

Trending

194
adamgrant's picture

Most Personality Quizzes Are Junk Science. I Found One That Isn’t.

Most Personality Quizzes Are Junk Science. I Found One That Isn't."The MBTI is astrology for nerds." Say it with me again: personality types are a myth, traits are on a continuum, and the major dimensions include extravert-introvert, agreeable-
205
changethis's picture

What If Sellers Behaved as Leaders?

“It is time we start making a shift. Research shows you can make more sales by abandoning sales-y behaviors buyers resist and replacing them with leadership behaviors buyers desire. Sellers do extraordinary things when they stop pushing people to
264
adamgrant's picture

Is Curiosity As Good at Predicting Children’s Reading, Math Success as Self-Control? Study Says Yes

The joy of discovery matters as much as self-control, and matters even more for low-income children. We need to encourage kids to ask novel questions, not just give familiar answers.Ever since the landmark "marshmallow test" highlighted the
212
danielhpink's picture

PINKCAST: This is when to quit your job

Should you stay or should you go? After a few years at the same job, many of us begin asking that question.In the latest Pinkcast, former Wall Street analyst and venture capitalist Whitney Johnson offers the answer. You can watch the 136-second
213
changethis's picture

The Speed Trap: When Taking Your Time (Really) Matters

“Speed-for-speed’s-sake is about the most counterproductive* approach imaginable. (*I use counterproductive because it’s impolite to use “stupid”—which is what I really believe.)While we must indeed evolve and experiment rapidly, the process of
318
adamgrant's picture

How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You)

This is a post about something I’ve been wanting to write about forever: careers. Society tells us a lot of things about what we should want in a career and what the possibilities are—which is weird because I’m pretty sure society knows very little
252
danielhpink's picture

WHAT TO LISTEN TO: Some audiobooks are more equal than others

“Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the popholes.”So begins Animal Farm, George Orwell’s classic novella. I’ve read Animal Farm many times. But now, for the first time, I’m
245
changethis's picture

Beyond Business Results: Achieving Sustainable Success

“For most of my career, I focused on my next professional opportunity rather than on my present situation. I was committed to serving patients and to helping my company meet its goals; I was always looking down the line to what was coming next. What
262
danielhpink's picture

WHAT TO WATCH: The Happiest Guy in the World

Two decades ago, Mario Salcedo retired from his job and went on a cruise. He never came back. Mario wasn’t lost at sea. For more than 20 years, he's been a permanent resident on Royal Caribbean Cruises. You read that right. “Super Mario” has