Understanding Lean Principles

The lean manufacturing philosophy centers around five guiding concepts which are used to drive the behaviors of an organization. These five principles can help people at all levels of a company to understand what it is they should be doing and how it should be done. Of course, these lean principles aren’t going to layout the specifics of someone’s job, but rather give instruction on how the specifics of a job should be determined.

The following five lean principles, when properly understood, can help any organization or facility improve the way their business gets done:

  • Specify Value – Identifying what customers’ value about the product or service you are creating is essential. When you know what it is that is valuable, it is possible to focus more energy on that specific thing. Many companies don’t truly understand what it is their customers’ value, so they spend significant resources on creating things their customers don’t actually want. Specifying the value of a facility will help the facility focus resources where they can create the most value.
  • Understand how Value is Created – Once you’ve learned what the customers’ value most from your products or services, you need to understand how you can best deliver that value. The process of taking the raw materials you have, and turning them into the valuable product your customers want is known as a value stream, and it is something every company should be very familiar with.
  • Creating Flow – Creating a process where work moves from one area to another seamlessly will help eliminate waste. Something as simple as moving two machines closer together so there is less wasted time and energy resulting from transporting the parts back and forth can help reduce waste and improve value.
  • Utilize Pull – Pull is the lean concept where work is only sent to an area when it is requested by the downstream operator. This is a complex principal, but when implemented correctly it can dramatically reduce the waste in the form of excess inventory and the storage of materials before they are needed. It can also reduce the amount of time that is wasted waiting for materials because the production lines will always call for additional materials when they reach a pre-determined level, so they don’t run out.
  • Pursue Perfection – While it is impossible to ever attain perfection, it should be the goal of every company. By constantly working on improving processes, eliminating waste, and doing things better every day, it can keep everyone’s focus on improvement. Just because perfection may not be possible, significant improvement can be made by its constant pursuit, which is why it is one of the five guiding principles of lean.

Helping everyone in a facility to learn more about lean, and the five guiding lean principles, can have an incredible impact on the way business is done. Lean logistics and strategies help keep the entire organization focused on improving the way things are done, and refocusing effort on things that are most important for the organization. Whether through structured training classes, or by changing the culture of the company, these five lean principles should be part of every company’s lean strategies.

Additional Resources