On a consultant’s web page we get a list of principles and terminology definitions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says “Lean manufacturing is a business model and collection of tactical methods that emphasize eliminating non-value added activities (waste) while delivering quality products on time at least cost with greater efficiency.”
Tooling U defines “lean manufacturing” like this: “An approach to manufacturing that seeks to reduce the cycle time of processes, increase flexibility, and improve quality. Lean approaches help to eliminate waste in all its forms.”
Another consultancy has a PDF of “Lean Sigma Definitions” that includes Lean Manufacturing or Lean Production: “the philosophy of continually reducing waste in all areas and in all forms; an English phrase coined to summarize Japanese manufacturing techniques (specifically, the Toyota Production
Let’s Rewind a Bit
What all of these definitions have in common is they are attempting to describe some kind of end state.
Over the last 10 years or so we (meaning those of us who are doing top drawer research) have put together a pretty comprehensive picture of how Toyota’s management systems are intended to work. (I say “intended to” because we are always dealing with an idealized Toyota. They have issues as well, just like everyone.)
What we seem to try to do is try to create a generic context-free definition of what Toyota is doing today.
But they didn’t start out that way. Everything they are, and do, evolved out of necessity as they struggled to figure out how to take the next step.
Toyota didn’t engineer it, so I don’t think it is something we can reverse engineer. Toyota evolved it organically. They applied a common mindset (a dedication to figuring things out) to a specific goal (ideal flow to the customer) in a specific set of conditions.
So What is “Lean?”
Mike Rother makes a really interesting attempt at resetting the definition of “lean” as being about the drive and the mindset that resulted in Toyota’s management system.
Give it a read, then let’s discuss below. (Since you are going to see it – when he sent it around for input, I passed along a thought which he has added verbatim in the last slide. Maybe that will spark a little more discussion.)
OK, are you back?
I like this because I think anyone who adopts the mindset that they (and I mean “they” as a true plural here) must take it upon themselves to figure out what they do not know, figure out how to learn it, figure out how to apply it, all in a relentless pursuit of perfect flow will end up with a nimble, empowering, relentlessly improving, formidably competitive team of people.
Focus on the process of learning, focus on the people, and keep them focused on the customer, and you’ll get there.
In my experience, the differentiator between organizations that “get there” and those who don’t comes down to the willingness to work hard to learn it themselves vs. wait for someone to tell them the answers.
Thoughts? Maybe we can take the “most comments” record away from the “Takt Time Cycle Time” post. *smile*