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Lean Methodology

Lean methodology or lean manufacturing is centered around maximizing productivity and minimizing waste during the manufacturing process. The core idea of lean is that waste is anything that doesn’t add value to customers, which they are willing to pay for.

The manufacturing industry certainly generates a significant amount of waste. Whether it’s idle workers, inadequate production lines, or unused materials that can’t be recycled or remanufactured, the results are the same: compromised productivity. Lean methodology focuses on optimizing the manufacturing process to provide the highest possible value to customers.

Let’s understand lean methodology, its benefits, why it is important, and how to apply it in your business.

What is Lean Methodology?

According to the Lean Enterprise Research Centre, only 5% of business activities generate genuine value, while 60% contribute nothing, and the remaining 35%, although not valuable either, are necessary.

This business management approach involves eliminating waste and non-value-adding activities to improve overall processes.

This work philosophy originated in Japan in the post-war years. At that time, Japan was a devastated country with far lower production than any other leading nation in the world.

The concept was first implemented at the Toyota Company, founded by Kiichiro Toyoda, to conserve resources and eliminate waste. However, its origin dates back to the Fordist system. In fact, as early as 1920, Henry Ford argued that “everything that does not add value is waste.”

In the late 1930s, Japanese industrial engineer Taiichi Ohno, director of Toyota, traveled to the United States and was amazed by their organizations’ efficiency in eliminating waste and generating value for the customer on a small scale. However, American companies were focused on producing large quantities of products rather than diversifying production.

Facing resource constraints, Taiichi Ohno and others at Toyota developed the Toyota Production System (TPS), which emphasized eliminating waste and maximizing customer value. This focus on continuous improvement and just-in-time inventory became the core of Lean.

The term itself was coined in 1988 and later popularized by James Womack and Daniel Jones in their book “The Machine That Changed the World.” Lean has since grown beyond manufacturing and applied to various industries, with the core principles remaining the foundation for eliminating waste and creating a smooth flow of value.

Initially, implementing “Lean Manufacturing” faced many setbacks, and it took some time to see positive results. However, in the 1990s, it began to work effectively, and today, it has become a widely accepted practice in businesses, workplaces, and other knowledge-driven settings around the world.

Benefits of Lean methodology

Lean methodology, or lean manufacturing or management, is a systematic approach to process improvement that eliminates waste and maximizes customer value. It originated in manufacturing but has since been adopted in various sectors, including healthcare, software development, and service industries.

The benefits of implementing lean methodologies can vary. For some, it is a means of increasing company profits, while others believe it focuses on creating customer value and increasing satisfaction. Regardless, some common benefits include:

  • Quality Improvement: To remain competitive, companies must prioritize quality improvement by designing processes that meet customers’ changing expectations and requirements.
  • Inventory Management: Thanks to just-in-time production methods, lean manufacturing minimizes excess inventory, lowering costs and reducing production problems.
  • Process Improvement: Lean production systems are constantly improving, thanks to the principle of continuous improvement. Value stream mapping plays a crucial role in this process.
  • Eliminate Waste: Eliminating waste is critical for cost-effective and efficient production. Waste does not contribute any value and by getting rid of waste, a lean manufacturing system can create superior products at lower expenses.
  • Reduce Time: Time is money, and wasting time is a waste of money. This is especially true for the manufacturing industry. Reducing the time it takes to start and finish a project will create value by improving overall efficiency.
  • Save Money: Effective management can eliminate the costs and waste associated with overproduction, excess materials, overhiring, and bottlenecks, ultimately improving the company’s financial performance.

Challenges of Lean methodology

Despite having many advantages,this strategy can present certain challenges that businesses should recognize and learn to overcome. Here are some key difficulties organizations may encounter when implementing lean management methodology.

  • Lack of Support from Management: Managers who are not supportive can hinder the progress of a lean project methodology. Gaining the team’s agreement and demonstrating how Lean can help is important.
  • Lack of Training: A team that hasn’t received proper training can have a negative impact on their performance. If the team is unfamiliar with the Lean project management methodology, it will be difficult for them to adapt to it smoothly. To address this issue, it is important to provide sufficient training on Lean manufacturing during the team onboarding process.
  • Prioritize Tools Over People: Neglecting your team’s needs reduces their motivation. Overemphasizing tools can undermine the human aspect and diminish the significance of your team and their contributions. Team members are less likely to perform at their best when they don’t feel appreciated. Instead, foster a culture of trust by embracing Lean’s principle of ongoing improvement. Regularly offering feedback and creating opportunities for personal and professional growth demonstrates your genuine interest in your team’s development.
  • Importance of Metrics: Metrics are crucial in improving team performance in lean. By paying attention to relevant metrics, you can assess project success and identify areas for improvement, which in turn helps develop your team.

 

Why Choose Lean Methodology?

The lean methodology is accessible and can be learned relatively quickly. Learning it is valuable because although its applications are wide, it can easily be misconstrued and misapplied without deep engagement with its tools and strategies.

In modern businesses, leaders must focus on improving product quality, reducing costs, and shortening supply chain processes. Lean is a business model that can help organizations achieve these goals and more.

Its purpose is to transform an organization’s culture into one that values continuous improvement over the long term. Employees can become self-sufficient experts at solving even the most challenging problems within a Lean  framework.

This model is valuable for business leaders because it provides a method for evaluating and understanding their business performance. It allows leaders to observe who is actively involved in improving the culture, what projects are being undertaken, and whether these efforts align with the organization’s overall purpose and strategic goals.

Conclusion

As you can see, the Lean methodology is a valuable tool for aligning your business with what your customers are actually looking for. It can be applied throughout a project’s lifecycle to successfully create a strong and profitable business model.

The main objective is to reduce waste, and his can be accomplished by simplifying processes, removing steps that do not add value, and ensuring that the essential tasks are carried out in the best manner possible. By reducing waste, startups and businesses can ensure that they use their resources effectively, thus helping them maximize their chances of success. Moreover, reducing waste helps companies save money on production expenses, allowing them to allocate those resources to other business areas.

By implementing this methodology, businesses can maximize the efficiency of their resources and minimize the risks associated with launching new products or services.

Additional Resources