What is Lean?

Continuous Improvement Strategy

What is Lean? Lean Methodology focuses on empowering team members to simplify processes and identify non-value added process steps. These steps are then either eliminated or reduced to improve overall lead time. The focus with Lean is to eliminate waste from the processes.

There are 8 commonly accepted forms of waste:

-          Transportation

-          Inventory

-          Motion

-          Under-utilization

-          Waiting

-          Over-production

-          Over-processing

-          Defects

The implementation of Lean Methodology provides many simultaneous benefits such as increased quality, improved ergonomics, lower operating costs, and many others. Through implementation, an organization will identify value added activities, value enabling activities (sometimes called required waste), and pure waste.

Primarily there are four basic notions of Lean that have been identified:

1. Lean as a fixed state or goal (Being Lean)

 This is similar to the concept of being a Six Sigma company where companies set the ideal of being recognized and embraced as a Lean corporation as the ultimate goal.

2. Lean as a continuous change process (Becoming Lean)

This is where an organization identifies and applies to the methodology relentlessly as a continuous change or improvement approach with the goal of identifying and eliminating all wastes from the process and delivering as per customer demand a defect free product or service.

3. Lean as a set of tools or methods (Doing Lean / Toolbox Lean)

 Here Lean is more of a tool rather than a company’s culture or way of doing continuous improvement. A typical example would be where a team is working on improving a process and would apply some elements, like Value Stream Mapping, to identify steps that can be eliminated from the process.

4. Lean as a philosophy (Lean Thinking)

This is probably the most difficult to achieve for an organization. The whole culture of the organization needs to change so that Lean becomes the way the employees do their work and Lean gets embedded as a philosophy within the company.


The Lean Process: As laid out from the book Lean Transformation by Bruce Henderson and Jorge Larco.

1. The first step of Lean starts with mapping the process for the area that needs to be transformed.

2, Once this is completed, the area is cleaned, organized, and all items that are not needed for the production process, or service, are removed from the area.

3. Next, continuous flow of material or information is installed and then a Kanban pull scheduling system is implemented to link production to customer order cadence.

4. Setup times and batch sizes are then reduced and any defects in the manufacturing process are removed through root-cause identification and problem solving.

5. Finally the end goal of defect free parts flowing from the suppliers to the customers in accordance with customers demand is achieved.