The Four Drivers of the Lean Enterprise

A simple Model for Transforming your Organization

Lean Manufacturing or Just in Time, was originally developed at Toyota. The main thrust of Lean Manufacturing is to identify and eliminate waste at all levels of the production process. Waste can be defined as any activity that does not add value to the finished product or service, such as excess inventory, unnecessary movements or operations, scrap, rework, or transportation. Reducing wasteful activities frees up resources to concentrate on those activities that add value to the product or service.

In traditional manufacturing, the overall organization must grow, both value added and non value added operations, in order to grow production and profits. In Lean, the reduction of nonvalue added activities transfers efforts to other value added operations, thus growing both
production and profits.

There are four drivers for lean operations: Workplace Organization, Uninterrupted Flow, Error
Free Processing, and Single Minute Exchange of Die (quick setups):

  • Workplace Organization ensures that each operator has a clean, safe, workstation equipped with all the tools, information, and materials she needs to perform her operation. There is no clutter or unneeded materials, and work instructions are in clear view. Visual systems drive work. Work is standardized and audited, and each worker is responsible for her own quality.
  • Uninterrupted Flow minimizes the interruptions and workplace inventory. As much equipment as possible is placed “in line” to ensure a constant flow in production (or of
    information, patients, etc.) and minimize bottlenecks. The fewer the parts on the line, the less rework and obsolescence. The fewer steps in the process and the fewer interruptions, the less possible sources of error.
  • Error Free Processing ensures quality in every operation, for both internal and external customers. We employ poke yoke, or mistake-proofing devices throughout the workplace to ensure parts and information are processed correctly. An example of a common poke yoke device is a floppy disk for a computer. It is designed to only enter one way in a computer – it simply won’t enter the computer if it is not oriented correctly. Another example is simplified forms using check boxes or even pre-populated sections.
  • Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) ensures a maximum flexibility in processing, so that any number of products can be made in any combination, in any quantities. As orders are received, we can load entire orders rather than grouping by part number.

The principle tool in waste elimination is called kaizen.  From the Japanese, kaizen means continuous improvement.  A kaizen event is simply a meeting involving managers, operators, and technical people about any given process. All of the process steps are evaluated in terms of what adds value and what does not and then focus our efforts to eliminate those non-value added steps. The process is repeated over and over again, in every department and discipline. This continuous review and simplification of processes yields continues improvements, which, taken over time, produce great benefits for the entire organization.
These drivers can be applied at any time and work in any organization, be they service or product oriented, old or new, but they should be applied in order. Get organized first using Work Place Organization (check out books on 5S), and then get the flow organized. These activities will identify bottlenecks and problem area, which you can work on next. Only after you are clean and organized, get your processes flowing and free from major defects can you start to improve your flexibility and drive down lot sizes to match order size. Once you have achieved this, working capital and flexibility will abound, allowing you to take on more business and give better and better service levels. The sky is the limit!

copyright 2012 Paul Yandell.  All rights reserved.

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2 thoughts on “The Four Drivers of the Lean Enterprise

  1. Pingback: Building Lean Momentum with Workplace Organization | paulyandell

  2. Pingback: Kaizen Progression and Continuous Improvement | paulyandell

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