Lean is a buzzword of modern times and a very prominent one at that. You’ll find businesses around the world, big and small, using the lean methodology to improve efficiency and reduce waste. But what really is the lean methodology? If you’re just starting in this sphere and would like to know more about the unique advantages lean brings to the table for your business, stay tuned!
Lean has its origins in the manufacturing industry so you’ll see a lot of parallels in the lean DNA with that sector. That said, the principles of lean are extremely versatile and apply to businesses in diverse industries. If there’s one thing at the very core of lean, it has to be continuous improvement. That’s really what lean is all about.
Understanding the Customer
It is crucial to understand the needs of the consumers before we set out to improve processes. Referred also as the customer value, this is how much your customer is willing to pay for your products or services. There are several ways to identify customer value, such as using analytics and interviews. Once complete, this exercise will leave you with a better idea of who your customers are and what they really want.
Once the customer value is identified, it’s time to look out for activities and processes that can be deemed ‘waste’ and removed for the better. In general, those activities that do not contribute anything to increase value for the customer are considered wastes. Businesses should strive to eliminate waste as much as possible or keep it at the absolute minimum.
Ensure Seamless Flow
The third step involves creating a seamless and smooth flow from one value-adding activity to another. This typically involves removing all roadblocks and interruptions between processes that contribute value. Consider breaking down processes into smaller, more manageable ones, and training your workforce so they can add more value.
Any business must strive to reduce their stores of inventory as much as possible. This is a great way to reduce waste. Called a pull-based system, this technique ensures just-in-time delivery which means your services/products will only be produced at the precise moment when they’re actually needed, thereby minimizing any excess waste.
Every cog in the machinery of your business should work towards achieving perfection as closely as possible. This will reduce errors and help increase value for your customers. Start with one process at a time and work upwards until you reach the very top of the hierarchy. While this might seem complex and overwhelming, it’s really an incremental process where you get better and better at what you do, one day at a time.
Waste is one of the ideas central to the lean methodology. Let’s try to understand waste a little better in this section. Lean has very structured ideas about what waste means. For instance, if people or materials move around a lot during manufacturing without a significant value increase for the customer, it’s better to minimize such motion.
Similarly, if you have a lot of inventory, it’s time to cut down on the same and only produce as much as is needed at the right time. It’s also important to study how processes interface with each other. If they’re not in sync, one process will produce an output without the other one being ready to receive its input. This will lead to unnecessary waiting and thus, waste. Keeping processes in sync is one of the central goals when it comes to reducing waste.
Errors in quality, also called defects, are also a type of waste. If a lot of unnecessary transport of goods or materials is involved from production to consumption, that’s considered a waste too.
Lean methodology is one of the most groundbreaking philosophies with far-reaching implications across sectors. Lean helps reduce waste, improves quality and efficiency, and helps in the maximal utilization of the resources at hand in a sustainable manner.
No matter which industry sector you operate in, lean can help make a big difference to your business and bring you a step closer to the desired business outcomes. What’s more, lean helps improve value for the customer, which bolsters customer satisfaction in profound ways. This ensures your customers stay happy and keep returning for your products and services.
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