Explaining the reasons for embarking on this journey include return on investments and process efficiency, value and reductions in waste accomplished and customer satisfaction.
Understanding the Lean philosophy, putting your priorities and lean plan into action, and making a commitment to it in your organization is a considerable investment. It requires executive sponsorship, buy-in from the rank and file, internal team training for the business implementing lean. This should include lean role and responsibility definition, timelines and expectations.
- Value stream map your current and future state process.
- Organize your work and team environment (ie. 5S)
- Create kaizen, audit and change management teams.
- Create visual management tools.
- Review and communicate kaizens, VSM, team roles and goals, action items and follow up.
- Communicate results, ongoing efforts and next steps.
- Celebrate successes! Record and report metrics
Kaizen: A philosophy of ongoing improvementAs disciples of continuous improvement, practitioners train themselves to guard against complacency and remain vigilant in identifying and solving breakdowns in their processes. Although many companies have applied the methodology to manufacturing, few have adopted it within a business process, where advocates say similar success can be achieved
VSM (Value Stream Mapping): a roadmap for the Lean journeyIn essence, Lean is a philosophy in which practitioners commit to continuous improvements using critical tools to help them identify and eliminate waste and irregularities in their processes. It all starts with Value Stream Mapping (VSM), a process by which managers examine all activities that take place to produce a product or service. As part of the Lean philosophy, tasks that do not create value for the customer are considered wasteful, so in drawing up a VSM, practitioners identify “waste” to be targeted for elimination.
The 5s: gas for the road
These are five essential principles for operating in a Lean environment to help ensure process consistency. They are:
- Sort– separation of necessary items from unnecessary items (identifying waste)
- Straighten – arrange items according to how they will be used (an enabler of efficiency)
- Shine – maintain work area for sorted and set-in-order items (maintaining workplace hygiene)
- Standardize – ensure sort, set-in-order, and shine steps are consistently followed (reducing process variations)
- Sustain – maintain and improve sort, set-in-order, shine, and standardize steps (ensuring Lean efforts are ongoing)
These five principles set the foundation on which Lean organizations execute their operational plans. Each step helps to ensure that workflow is not compromised by unanticipated problems. And when issues do arise, all team members pitch in to resolve them.
KANBAN: A card used to visually flag a problem
As the 5 Ss are implemented, organizations typically assemble kaizen teams—stakeholders who help sustain and administer continuous improvements. Kaizen (improvement in Japanese), is the practice of making changes, monitoring results, and making adjustments as needed.
Because of the collaborative environment it creates, Lean encourages transparency into every team member’s role, so others can weigh in with suggestions on how to resolve a particular colleague’s difficult issues. The culture is less about blame than about problem-solving. It also allows for best practices to be more visible, and thus shared more readily.
When a problem is identified, a kanban, or card is used to visually flag the problem and a kaizen team member documents the nature of the problem, frequency of occurrence, the triggering mechanism, and other relevant information. The kaizen team undertakes a three-step approach to resolving the issue, including problem identification, resolution brainstorming, and validation of the solution.