Lean Principles are Good for Business


Lean is a problem-solving approach for continuous improvement. Most organizations are under pressure to reduce costs while improving service and minimizing errors. Implementing Lean principles and using Lean tools can lead to an immediate positive impact. These benefits include improved quality, increased operational flexibility, reduced cycle time within processes, more efficient use of space, consistent service delivery, reduced lead times and reduced operating costs.

Lean is not simply a set of tools. Lean is a problem solving approach for continuous daily improvement.  Any activity or process that consumes resources or adds cost or time without creating value is a target for elimination.

Some of the Lean tools you may have heard of include value stream mapping, 5S, Poka-Yoke and Kanban. The 5S process is where most organizations begin with Lean. The 5S components are sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain which reduce waste through organization, visual communication and general cleanliness.

I like using the practical example of cleaning your garage to understand 5S:

There are steps you take to get started on cleaning your garage.  The first is to open the door, back out the cars and pull everything out that you can move. You make piles of things you will keep, things you will sell in a garage sale, things to return to your neighbor that you borrowed them from, things do donate and things to throw away. This is the first step of the 5S process, sort.

The next step is to put away the things that you will keep – not where you found them – but in a specific location: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Some things will end up on a shadow board where you draw an outline of the tool on the board.  When you look at the board in the future you will know exactly what location to return the tools to, and easily identify missing tools by the empty shape on the board.   Next you install hooks for the bikes to hang from the ceiling and clamps for brooms and shovels. This 5S step is called shine.

Stand back and enjoy the neatness. Everything is clean and organized – you can find what you are looking for. Beware – you will be repeating this again in a few months if you do not implement the 5S steps of standardize and sustain.  Standardize means to create the rules for sort, set in order, and shine and then to actually follow those rules. Sustain is having the discipline to keep the 5S rules in everything you do in the garage.

By implementing all of the 5S components you can transform your garage into a neat, orderly and safe place. Think about the benefits of doing this in your business whether it is a hospital, an office, a repair shop, a manufacturing facility or an organization processing clients/customers/students.

Simply cleaning up the workplace with 5S in isolation is not as effective as when it is combined with other Lean tools. Lean is a problem-solving approach to eliminate waste and increase efficiency by creating flow and working in a pull system value stream.

Interested in learning more about Lean for your business?  Join the interactive 3 day Lean certification program being offered by Roane State Community College at the CBI June 25-27.

Click here to register. Registration ends Friday June 13th.  Call Bonnie at 931-456-4910 today. Class size is limited.