How can we get more leverage from the Five Principles of Lean?
Having been involved with helping people in organisations implement Lean over a period of 20 years, we have spent a lot of time talking about the 5 Principles of Lean popularised by Womack and Jones in their book “Lean Thinking”. So important within this current global pandemic, the principles can help you maintain a key focus on the customer and ensure relentless elimination of waste and excellence in quality.
Ensure we understand “value” from the customer’s perspective and be careful to take the time to explore this with our customers, so that we do not fall into the trap of making inaccurate assumptions.
2. Value Stream
Identify the process steps that create the value identified in the first principle. It is here that we start to recognise waste or non-value-added steps in our process. This principle is achieved using a process known as Value Stream Mapping which is a method used to understand and record all material and information flow required to bring our product or service to the customer.
This principle uses a variety of continuous improvement tools and techniques to eliminate anything in the process that results in waste and delays. This principle is about working towards a process that delivers maximum “value” with the most effective use of our resources.
Once we have improved the way our processes create value, and shortened the lead time of those processes, we are then able to link our process more closely to actual customer demand. The objective here is to get as close as we can to producing only to customer demand with little or no inventory in our systems. Inventory can be physical materials, work in progress or finished goods, or paperwork and electronic inventory such as emails and other documents.
The last principle describes the need for continuous incremental improvement working ever closer towards the “perfect” process with zero waste. This is achieved by continually removing successive layers of waste as they are uncovered by our metrics and visual systems.
How well do these 5 principles really help people understand how to best adapt the Toyota Production System (TPS) for their own organisations? The Womack and Jones 5 principles are valuable in that they provide a structure for implementing Lean which starts by ensuring our processes are improved in line with creating the most value for our customers, and therefore providing a profitable future for our company.