A breakdown of our process:
The Improvement Practice can help you and your organisation by facilitating Lean Training within your organisation to help build a sustainable Continuous Improvement culture based around the key principles of Lean, described below, and the main tools of the Lean Methodology. For an explanation of any of these terms, please visit our Improvement Terms Glossary.
The word ‘Lean’ in connection with Continuous Improvement was first used in the book “Lean Thinking” (Womack & Jones) in 1996. The concept of Lean was presented as a concept based on a number of key principles:
This is identifying what it is that the customer values about the products or services you provide, not what you think they want. This avoids improved mousetrap syndrome – giving customers things they don’t want or need. This is not always price. Consistency of product or delivery may be as or more important to them. Do they need special documentation like Certificates of Analysis that they may pay for? A thorough understanding of what a customer truly values can help considerably in understanding what an organisation needs to do to meet the needs of the customer.
2 The Value Stream
Identify all of the steps that your organisation takes to produce the Value that your customer wants. In manufacturing this would be all of the physical steps in processing the materials that go to make the product. In an administrative function these would be the steps taken in processing a form or information for the customer that gives them the service or outcome they require. Value Stream Mapping can be used to visualise the overall process and associated information flows.
In most business processes there are breaks in the flow of information or physical products. Often this results from having ‘Functional Villages’ where only one operation is carried out. e.g. Painting or welding in manufacturing or data input or form checking in administration. This results in inventory of the product or data between the villages which increases lead times. In Lean the idea is to make the process flow with the minimum of stoppages between activities so that product or the outputs do not wait. Ultimately the aim is for the value to flow through the organisation to deliver the customer value. This is the Value Stream within the business.
In many manufacturing businesses product is made in advance of customer orders due to the nature of their planning and/or manufacturing processes, against a forecast of anticipated demand. In the worst case this could mean that inventory has to be scrapped because the demand does not materialise. In administration or support services there is often activity carried out in advance which often leads to rework when the full information is known. This is pushing product or outputs into the value stream. The principle of Lean is that activity only occurs when the customer Pulls, or demands the output of the organisation. This minimises the potential for wasted effort and product as only what is demanded by the customer is produced or acted upon.
By understanding what the customer values it is then possible to create a vision of the ‘perfect’ organisation, systems and processes that would meet these requirements. This then gives direction to Improvement activities. Striving for Perfection is the basis of sustained Continuous Improvement that an Organisation needs to carry out to move towards this ‘perfect’ state. It is accepted that the perfect state may never be reached but that every improvement made that moves closer to the ideal means that it becomes easier to deliver the value that the customer expects from your organisation.
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