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  • Lean was invented by Taiichi Ohno and evolved at Toyota over the last 50 years

  • Its goal is to eliminate waste and continuously improve productivity in every area of work, including customer relations, product design, supplier networks and factory management

  • Wikipedia says Lean aims ‘to produce less low-value human effort, less inventory, less time to develop products, and become highly responsive to customer demand while producing top quality, error-proofed products in the most efficient and economical manner’

  • There are five principles which define the Lean process:

    • Provide what the customer wants, defect free

    • Provide what’s required on demand, exactly as requested

    • Provide an immediate response to problems or required changes

    • Provide what’s required with a minimum of waste

    • Provide what’s required safely, both for the customer and the supplier


  • Lean is said to address seven deadly wastes:

    • Overproduction – production getting ahead of demand

    • Transportation – moving things unnecessarily

    • Waiting – for the next production step

    • Inventory – when not being processed

    • Motion – moving more than necessary to complete a process

    • Over-processing – due to poor tool or product design

    • Defects – the effort involved in inspecting for or fixing defects

  • Lean also seeks to improve the flow (smoothness) of work by production levelling:

    • UK car manufacturers used to forecast demand, make to stock, sell what was in stock and then deliver as best they could

    • By contrast, Toyota total up their actual demand, turn their output volume controls to suit, meet all the variety demanded and deliver fast

  • However, critics say Lean practitioners tend to focus on cutting specific task times and costs – and that could even increase overall costs – if many of those tasks are unnecessary for adding value for the customer, cutting their costs by 10% say would make little sense

  • Hence, one must always focus on why and how you do things for customers, and the overall Order Cycle Time – OCT – big cost reductions tend to follow when you put customers first


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