A Lean process is defined as one that uses only the absolute minimum of resources to add value to a service or product. Applied in a transactional environment, Lean helps organizations eliminate waste and focus on understanding “value” from the standpoint of the customer. Organizations can thereby improve process times, reduce costs and become more customer-focused. While Lean is well-recognized in the manufacturing industry, it can be equally applied in service and transactional environments resulting in quick and effective results. Whether your transaction is a sales, marketing, financial, human resource or other type of transaction applying the principles of Lean will result in improved turnaround times and cost reductions. It is no wonder that many service industries are adopting Lean and Lean Six Sigma as their strategic weapon.
Processes in Lean methods are thought of as value streams – whether they are transactional processes or manufacturing processes. Value-stream mapping
helps teams understand the flow of information as the transaction 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).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.