A quick definition of Lean Manufacturing, a derivative of the Toyota Production System (TPS), is that it is a set of principles and tools that helps to eliminate process activities that don't add value and to create "flow" in a process.
A Lean process is defined as one that uses only the absolute minimum of resources to add value to the service or product. In a Lean process, no people, equipment, or space are dedicated to rework. Lead times are minimal and everybody involved in the process performs only value-added tasks.
Processes in Lean methods are thought of as value streams. Lead time reduction and the flow of the value streams are the major areas of focus. Value-stream mapping helps teams understand the flow of material and information as the product is being processed through the organization, creating a vision of the entire system.
Lean methods, then, should be thought of as:
- A way to understand "value" from the viewpoint of the customer and eliminate activities that don't add value
- A methodology to create a continuous flow of value-adding activities, pulled by the customer
- A set of tools to continuously improve this flow.
Lean principles and tactics include Pull instead of Push, Continuous Flow, Eliminating Waste, Takt Time, Quick Changeovers, Mistakeproofing (poka-yoke) and Standardization, Visual Management, Value-Stream Mapping, and Kaizen (intensive events where small teams facilitate implementation of Lean principles). They can be applied to manufacturing, service and transactional environments.
Combining Six Sigma and Lean methods can be very powerful if one uses a process management framework to identify opportunities for projects and if management understands how Six Sigma and Lean work together.
Rath & Strong - First to Bring Lean Manufacturing from Japan and First to Apply Lean to Service and Transactional environments
Rath & Strong is among one of the first firms that brought Lean Manufacturing from Japan, and we pioneered in combining process and operations improvement with organizational effectiveness and leadership development.
Rath & Strong and the Roots of Lean Manufacturing
By the early 1980s, Rath & Strong had studied the Toyota Production System (TPS) and recognized in Just-in-Time (JIT) a true multidisciplinary approach to manufacturing. The Just-in-Time Breakthrough, written by Rath & Strong consultant Ed Hay, was a milestone in bringing Japanese-style manufacturing techniques to U.S. companies. Rath & Strong also pioneered Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP II), applying it and precursors of Lean to processes outside of manufacturing very early. Extending breakthrough work by Rath & Strong colleagues in MRP II, Rath & Strong consultants introduced Value Added Flow Analysis and redefined Value Add in ways that advanced the original Japanese insights. As a leader in areas such as Total Quality Management (TQM) and Just-in-Time, we were at the forefront of bringing innovative process improvement methodologies to our clients.
Learn more about Rath & Strong's Lean Offerings.