Guest Post: What is Lean?

Joe Wilson has worked in a variety of continuous improvement, problem solving and engineering roles in manufacturing and distribution functions  in the automotive, electronics, and food/grocery industries. He was responsible for site leadership of Lean implementation during the launch and ramp up of becoming a supplier to Toyota and was able to work directly with their personnel and the Toyota Supplier Support Center.   His training background includes courses in Lean/TPS through TSSC and the University of Kentucky’s Lean Systems program.  He is a Six Sigma Black Belt and a Shainin Red X Journeyman in addition to training in Kepner-Tregoe problem solving techniques.  Joe also has a BS degree in Engineering Management from the University of Missouri-Rolla.

If you are asked to explain Lean in simple terms to the uninitiated, how do you do that?  Here’s my take:

As a tookit, Lean is about establishing methods to define and solve problems in your business.

As a business philosophy, Lean is about providing your customers the best possible value for their money (Quality, Cost, Delivery) while maximizing the company’s profitability (or viability for a NFP) for the short and long term.

As a mindset, Lean is about constantly striving to (or believing that) you can be better at everything that you are doing than you are right now.

What do you say?  Am I oversimplifying this or leaving something out?  Is this straightforward enough to make people want to learn more or at least not reject it out of hand?

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Posted on March 11, 2011, in Guest Post, Other and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I think this is too general. Any method, mindset or tool promises the same things. Who would say “this tool intends to substantially delay delivering value to customers and make the employees feel they are worthless”

    So lean gets things done in a way which works but the goal it strives for is shared with all others

    My definition for lean would be

    “lean is a system where we strive to produce maximum ROI using least possible Investment over a time period, and striving to increase this ROI over time”

  2. I think that sums it up nicely. I especially like the separation of Lean as a toolkit vs Lean as a philosophy. Lean as a philosophy is a great approach for a smaller company with a collaborative culture, for a larger company, ‘selling lean’ as a toolkit is much more likely to resonate.

  3. Here’s my definition…

    Lean is a constant and structured innovation process that lead to wastes reduction. To achieve such a thing, Lean use practices, toolkits, culture and organisational structure to support the change. All these concepts are use to maximise value in the global value chain of an enterprise in regard with the need of the clients.

    Hope it help !

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