The idea of the lean or Six Sigma project approach is to identify and eliminate problems or defects in the production process. Lean focuses on improving the speed and quality of the process rather than the number of items or the overall output. Lean focuses on improving productivity, eliminating waste and reducing errors and risk. In addition, it strives to build a strong and sustainable relationship between the customer and the business.
Lean processes and tools have a long history going back to Toyota Production System (TPS), which was introduced in 1948. In the United States, lean management has had a steady influence on the increased automation of many manufacturing processes. Lean manufacturing focuses on improving the speed, quality and consistency of processes to improve overall manufacturing productivity and ultimately improve quality. Lean processes and tools have also been implemented in different parts of the world including Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.
Lean strategies and tools are designed to reduce cycle times, improve throughput, increase throughput capacity, eliminate waste and reduce errors. The primary objective of lean processes is to reduce costs, shorten cycle times, improve control and reduction of errors and waste. Lean emphasizes the involvement of all people - from the top down - in the decision making process and the use of tools, techniques and processes that foster continual improvement and continuous learning. Some of the tools used in lean strategies and processes include elimination of waste, knowledge work grouping, and knowledge collection. Knowledge work grouping is a strategy and concept of lean that focus on the integration of "all the work" in an activity to create knowledge and reduce the gap between knowledge and its application.
There are four primary components of lean management, each of which is important in its own right: four different strategies and tools; knowledge work grouping; the elimination of waste; and the improvement of productivity. These four concepts are essential to the achievement of lean management and its ability to eliminate or significantly reduce the factors causing waste and improvement in the productivity of an organization. Among these, the seven wastes or aspects of lean processes are:
The concept of lean focuses on reducing wastes in an activity through improving all the factors that are involved in the activity. In order to achieve this, lean strategies and practices have to be implemented carefully and in the right way. First, the focus should be on eliminating the waste that is not required by the customer, as well as improving the production of the required output. Waste is always present, but with proper lean practices, wastes can be significantly reduced. When there are no wastes in an activity, it means there has been improvement in customer value, or the product has been delivered according to the expectations of the customer.
Another aspect of lean strategies and lean practices involves the improvement of the workflow. In a system that uses correct and efficient workflow, there are fewer mistakes and it ensures that the required workflow is in place before beginning work. Also, lean strategies involve the possibility of getting rid of some forms of non-value added activities such as travel time when going from one point to another. This is done so that there is no unnecessary movement and that the workflow can move smoothly and without problems. There should also be opportunities for improvement, and the improvement process should be given much priority than any other process.
Continuous improvement is also an aspect of lean management. This aspect involves keeping track of improvements that have been made in the system, so that they can be used for future reference. If this continuous improvement continues, it will lead to significant improvements in the quality of the outputs, and the systems will become more efficient in the end. In lean management, it is always important to keep track of the progress of the improvement process. When this is done, the chances of finding more problems and defects in the system is lower, and continuous improvement ensures that the problems are solved as soon as they occur.
Lean processes and lean management are two of the most important elements for the success of any type of business management approach. The combination of these two elements guarantees the success of the business that uses the approach. In order to use the best form of these two processes, the business must adopt continuous improvement practices. Continuous improvement is very useful for increasing customer value and reducing process improvement time.