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What is Lean?

Taiichi Ohno, who is considered to be the father of the Toyota Production System, once said:

“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 the time line by reducing the non-value adding wastes”

Since its establishment in 1937, Toyota has developed the improvement system, the ”Toyota Production System”.

This was the system that inspired researchers at the end of the 1980s to define what we know today as the Lean philosophy.

In brief, Lean is meant to simplify operations, eliminate waste, and to carry out more value-creating activities by developing people and processes.

Eliminating waste is one of the most central themes in the Lean philosophy. Everything that cannot be characterized as directly value-adding for the end-user customer is to be regarded as waste.

Key Principles

In ”Lean Thinking”, there are five principles towards a lean enterprise. These are:

  • Identify Value
    • Specify value from the standpoint of the end customer by product family.
  • Map the Value Stream
    • Identify all the steps in the value stream for each product family, eliminating whenever possible those steps that do not create value.
  • Create Flow
    • Make the value-creating steps occur in tight sequence so the product will flow smoothly toward the customer.
  • Establish Pull
    • As flow is introduced, let customers pull value from the next upstream activity.
  • Seek Perfection
    • As value is specified, value streams are identified, wasted steps are removed, and flow and pull are introduced, begin the process again and continue it until a state of perfection is reached in which perfect value is created with no waste.

Basic Lean tools

There are countless tools that are used in the Lean philosophy. We can mention SMED, morning meetings, process control, Kanban, Just-In-Time, Value stream analysis, One-point lessons, Pareto analysis, Fishbone diagrams, Kaizen, Standardization, 5S, 5 whys, Value stream mapping, and A3, to name a few.