Lean tools and techniques are helping companies across the globe to address competitiveness issues within their businesses, building the capability of their people to identify issues and improve their operations.
Lean is shorthand for focusing on effectiveness and efficiency across all areas of a business. Lean works most effectively where it has become the way of doing business, where it is a fundamental part of the business strategy and not just “using some tools”. Lean was defined by the Americans based on what they saw in the Toyota Production System. The Americans were trying to understand what the Japanese were doing that made them so competitive. They tried to identify the trick, the magic wand that allowed the Japanese to produce and sell products at high quality and at reasonable prices. The truth of the matter is that Lean is based on an Absolutely Focused and Relentless pursuit of efficiency and effectiveness. Successful Lean implementation requires the engagement of people to realise the potential of a business.
What is Lean?
Lean is about being effective and efficient. It is about doing what is right and doing it as well as can be done. It starts from the point of knowing what a customer wants, values and needs and works to find the best way to deliver that to them. Lean is focused on providing customers with the best possible products at the best possible prices, at the best possible quality levels and at the best possible delivery times. Lean needs to be integrated into the strategy of a company if it is to deliver the true results from a Lean effort. Lean started in the manufacturing area and has spread right along the value chain from sales through logistics, manufacturing, purchasing, administration, product design and development and back to sales. This holistic approach is becoming known as Lean Business.
Becoming Lean is about becoming competitive. Becoming competitive can often mean that a business can grow its sales with the same number of staff, and this is why the Lean Business approach includes the areas of sales, design, support and administration, to help the business grow. The objective of Lean is to build sustainable competitive businesses, not to cut job numbers.
John Mannion – Manager of Mohill Enterprise centre and Lean Business Expert