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What is Lean?

The main idea behind a lean organization is maximizing customer value. Kaizen, as a part of lean, involves reducing and eliminating waste to help increase that value using the minimum amount of resources as possible. Basically, anything that your company does, that the customer does not pay for, is considered waste. The more waste in the processes – the less lean the organization is.

To obtain a lean culture within an organization, management must learn to identify the entire value stream from customer to supplier, and focus on removing the wastes caused by inefficient processes, misaligned departments, and archaic systems, etc. Focus on the horizontal flow of products and services must be captured in order to improve and optimize the value chain as it relates to the entire process. With kaizen as the main driver in a true lean transformation, focus is placed on the 8 wastes to help guide a company to reducing costs, defects, work space, human effort, and more.

Lean, as with kaizen, can be applied across multiple industries and businesses such as manufacturing, finance, healthcare, and more. Lean is not to be considered a quick-fix to any one particular problem – it is an entire change of focus that leads to a new way of thinking. Lean, when instituted correctly, changes the hearts and minds of all people within an organization into long-term consideration of how that company operates. Basically, in order to “go lean”, you must start by “thinking lean”. 

The 6 main elements of lean include:

  • 5S and 6S: Workplace safety, order and cleanliness
  • Just-In-Time production
  • Empowered people and teams
  • The Visual Workplace
  • 6-Sigma level quality
  • Constant vigilant progress