Lean management has become something of a buzz term in recent years. The concept seemingly grew out of the lean manufacturing principles developed by the likes of Toyota and championed across the world. It exists as a way of applying waste saving principles to areas of business beyond manufacturing.
Although the idea of applying waste saving techniques to a waste industry may seem strange, the principles are associated more with subjects like time, energy and resources. The fundamental idea works on the idea that by improving efficiency, costs are reduced and capacity increased leading to bigger profits.
Some of the tools used in lean management include –
- Building cells
- The 5Ss
- Pull Systems
- Setup reduction
Flowcharting is used to gather information about processes, sequencing steps and then mapped out in diagram format. The idea then is standardise processes and make it easier to share across the organisation. The important thing is to review this information regularly to ensure it is being adhered to.
Building cells is the part of the system where processes are moved to the people rather than the other way around. Within this section process time should be calculated, potential bottlenecks identified and solutions found. When restructured the new process should then be documented.
The 5S’s were originally devised in Japan and when translated aren’t five S’s at all. They are –
- Sort and eliminate – Sort and remove anything that is no longer needed.
- Order – Establish a repeatable process.
- Clean – Make sure the workplace is clean and implement a regime of regular cleaning going forward
- Maintain – This is to implement the new way of working and ensure that it is adhered to going forward. It could also mean that maintenance measures for equipment should be installed.
- Discipline – This refers to the fact that implementing this kind of system requires discipline to make sure it continues to work and be of benefit.
Pull systems refers to providing a signal to action, synchronizing the flow through the process and limiting inventories. This is the call that begins each process and takes you through to conclusion. As with all of these ideas, the system was originally designed to be applicable to the Manufacturing industry so will sometimes need to be adapted to meet requirements.
Set up reduction looks to make efficiency savings by ensuring that things are in place and ready for tasks to be completed with a minimum of fuss. Working to the point that the workplace is organised and uncluttered with everything ready and available in its rightful place this seeks to cut out time setting up. Methods should be clear, and information available when required by those carrying out tasks.
This guide, although not extensive, was designed as a basic introduction into the methodology of lean management techniques. Some of the processes are specific to manufacturing and so do not fit easily into other sectors and industries. However, the basic principle of analysing business processes and creating work flows to ensure that efficiency is paramount makes sense for any company. Adapting the methodology to fit will most likely have benefits in any industry.
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