Friday, February 6, 2009

Lean is All About Continuous Improvement

“Lean” is a concept involving the elimination of waste and the concentration on value added activities and is rooted in the idea of continuous improvement. Although it has primarily been associated with and developed by the manufacturing sector, it is becoming apparent to many that the concepts of lean apply to much more than manufacturing. For example, in our practice at Peak Enterprise Solutions, we have applied our lean methodology to help manufacturers improve the processes of the front office and have helped a junior college improve their admissions process of accepting applications. In another example, the healthcare industry has been using the concepts of lean for quite a while.

In my previous note, I spoke about a 5 step cycle for continuous improvement. Although this cycle can be used to address specific problems or opportunities, there is a higher level process that should occur in order for an organization to take the path of “Going Lean”.

For an organization to become lean, we use a two phase approach – Planning and Implementation – each of which has five steps (why five? I don’t know, but it works!). This approach is customizable to a particular situation or client, but if we were to take someone through the entire process, the approach would be as follows:

Assess Lean Readiness
Develop a Lean Strategy
Analyze Opportunities
Address education and Training
Create a Plan of Implementation

Implement Rapid Change
Manage the Culture Change
Transform the Information System
Integrate the Supply Chain
Measure Continuous Improvement

In the next few notes, I will address each of these steps individually as a roadmap to going lean. Even if used only in part, along with the 5 step cycle for continuous improvement, the methodology vastly improves the chances of success from a shotgun approach used by many who attempt the effort. It is also key to the idea of “Being Lean” and not just “Doing Lean”. Please stay tuned or contact us for more information and please feel free to pass this on to others who may be interested.

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