In its simplest form, Lean is about reducing waste and adding value.
The concept of ‘Lean’ grew from analysis of the Toyota Production System (TPS), which looked at how the Toyota Motor Company continually improved vehicle production. The same principles have been adapted and applied to many other types of organisations. Lean is a way of thinking, rather than a large toolbox which a consultant may bring along to your office.
Businesses apply Lean to improve their efficiency and performance. The focus is to identify the waste in an organisation and understand what value really means to your customers.
Defining what you class as waste can sometimes appear subjective. As a customer, consider what you are prepared to pay for. Are you happy paying for a Barista to spend five minutes chatting to a colleague as they make your morning coffee? Or would you rather they use their expertise to produce your Flat White to the quality and efficiency you expect? The Barista may have their reasons for the ad hoc conversation, but as a customer, you may feel this is waste – something which does not add any value to your transaction.
Knowing what your customers value can help identify waste more effectively. Knowing that your customers value speed and efficiency enables you to take a closer look at what is impacting this. It can also help identify where to make your current system more effective without losing the quality you and your customers expect.
Lean is not something you apply once. A true Lean organisation will have an ongoing cycle of continuous improvement to help reduce waste and increase value-adding activity.