A Simplified Introduction to the Lean Operation

In today’s business environment, maintaining or increasing market share has always been a challenge to companies. With ever changing customer demands, companies are constantly challenged to offer products and services that appeal to customers. On the other hand, companies are also fighting to reduce operational costs to stay competitive. Regardless of either offering attractive products or services or to maintain operational efficiency, lean operation can be very helpful in either case.

In the manufacturing perspective and as mentioned in Wikipedia, lean (or lean production) is a systematic method towards elimination of waste in the manufacturing system. It can be regarded as one of the approaches in continuous process improvement, together with concepts such as Just-in-time (JIT) and Toyota Production System (TPS). Both JIT and TPS are introduced by Toyota Motors Corporation. JIT is a concept of continuous and forced problem solving that is focused on improving overall production efficiency through streamlined production process and reduced inventory. TPS, on the other hand, is a socio-technical system that focused on standard work practices, respect for people and continuous improvements.

As we know it today, Toyota is the world’s largest automaker in global car sales figure and also ranks at number eight of world’s most valuable brands. The global success of Toyota Motors Corporation has showed how TPS and JIT can maintain great efficiency and responsiveness to the market. One very important feature of TPS and JIT is that while these two operations tend to have internal focus, lean production begins externally with an emphasis on customers. Similar to the “begin with the end in mind” thinking by Steven Covey, lean production starts with understanding what the customer wants and ensuring customer input and feedback are valued. In other words, the workflow is initiated from the customer’s perspective to ensure customer satisfaction.

When implemented as an integrated manufacturing strategy, JIT, TPS and lean production contributes towards overall organizational competitive advantage, better quality management and also increased overall revenue. Today, the term “lean operation” encompasses the aforementioned three strategies with specific focus on waste elimination, removing process variability and an improved throughput.

Wish to know more about which operations are categorized as waste? Do check our blog for more details. Alternatively, you are invited to join our course “Lean Journey to Productivity“, as we take you on a journey to lean.