What is Lean?

Most often, when we associate “lean” with start ups, but it is a methodology which has been widely adopted by businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Lean methodology can be traced back to the late 1940’s and Toyota, who in reducing processes which didn’t bring value to the end product, achieved significant improvements in productivity, efficiency, cycle time, and cost-efficiency.

The core of lean methodology is a simple idea that “as waste is eliminated, quality improves while the production time and cost are reduced.’

The 3 types of waste elimination:

Originating from Japanese, Lean focuses on the reduction of three kinds of waste; Muda, Mura and Muri.

Muda

Any activity or process, which does not add value to the end product/service.

Mura

Eliminating variances in processes at an operational level so that everything flows evenly.

Muri

Removing work overload and bottlenecks so that the nothing slows down.

Muda

Muda is essentially any activity or process, which does not add value to the end product/service. This can be waste in the form of time spent, or physical waste and encompasses:

  1. Transport: The movement of product between operations and locations.
  2. Inventory: The work in progress (WIP) and stocks of finished goods and raw materials that a company holds.
  3. Motion: The physical movement of a person or machine whilst conducting an operation.
  4. Waiting: The act of waiting for a machine to finish, for a product to arrive, or any other cause.
  5. Overproduction: Over producing product beyond what the customer has ordered.
  6. Over-processing: Conducting operations beyond those that customer requires.
  7. Defects: Product rejects and reworks within your processes.’

Mura

Mura is about eliminating variances in processes at an operational level so that everything flows evenly. Mura actually means unevenness, non-uniformity, and irregularity. For example, in a manufacturing line, products need to pass through several workstations during the assembly process. When the capacity of one station is greater than the other stations, you will see an accumulation of waste in the form of overproduction, waiting, etc. The goal of a Lean production system is to level out the workload so that there is no unevenness or waste accumulation.

muri

Muri means overburden, beyond one’s power, excessiveness, impossible or unreasonableness. Muri is about removing overload so that the nothing slows down. It refers to managers imposing unnecessary stress on their employees and processes due to poor organisation, unclear ways of working, and use of incorrect tools. Muri also exists when machines or operators are utilized for more than 100% capability to complete a task or in an unsustainable way.

Over a period of time can result in employee absenteeism, illness, and breakdowns of machines. In order to eliminate Muri, it is critical to design work processes that evenly distribute the workload and not overburden any particular employee or equipment.

Apply Lean Methodology to:

Instead of implementing certain processes, Lean is more about adhering to a set of principles. The five main principles are; specify value by the customer, identify steps in the value stream, make product flow continuously, allow customers pull value from the next upstream activity, and manage towards removing unnecessary steps.

Although Lean has its roots in manufacturing, Lean can be applied to virtually any business vertical or unit. Where process improvement can deliver optimisation at a granular level, lean can transform how you conduct business as a whole.

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