lean-principlesLean manufacturinglean enterprise, or lean production, often simply, “lean thinking“, is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. Working from the perspective of the customer who consumes a product or service, “value” is defined as any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for. Essentially, lean is centered on preserving value with less work. Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy that focuses on reduction of the original seven wastes to improve overall customer value, but there are varying perspectives on how this is best achieved. Lean Implementation, and Training for Lean is therefore focused on getting the right things to the right place at the right time in the right quantity to achieve perfect work flow, while minimizing waste and being flexible and able to change. These concepts of flexibility and change are principally required to allow production leveling, using tools like SMED, but have their analogues in other processes such as research and development (R&D). The flexibility and ability to change are within bounds and not open-ended, and therefore often not expensive capability requirements. More importantly, all of these concepts have to be understood, appreciated, and embraced by the actual employees who build the products and therefore own the processes that deliver the value. The cultural and managerial aspects of lean are possibly more important than the actual tools or methodologies of production itself. There are many examples of lean tool implementation without sustained benefit, and these are often blamed on weak understanding of lean throughout the whole organization.

Lean Services

Lean, as a concept or brand, has captured the imagination of many in different spheres of activity. Lean principles have been successfully applied to call center services to improve live agent call handling. By combining Agent-assisted Automation and lean’s waste reduction practices, a company reduced handle time, reduced between agent variability, reduced accent barriers, and attained near perfect process adherence.

Lean thinking principles have also found application in software application development and maintenance and other areas of information technology (IT). More generally, the use of lean in information technology has become known as Lean IT. The challenge in moving lean thinking to services is the lack of widely available reference implementations to allow people to see how directly applying lean thinking tools and practices can work and the impact it does have. This makes it more difficult to build the level of belief seen as necessary for strong implementation. However, some research does relate widely recognized examples of success in retail and even airlines to the underlying principles of lean. Despite this, it remains the case that the direct manufacturing examples of ‘techniques’ or ‘tools’ need to be better ‘translated’ into a service context to support the more prominent approaches of implementation, which has not yet received the level of work or publicity that would give starting points for implementors. The upshot of this is that each implementation often ‘feels its way’ along. 

The 8 Types of Waste


Defects Whenever defects occur, extra costs are incurred reworking the part, rescheduling production, etc. This results in labor costs, more time in the “Work-in-progress”. Defects in practice can sometimes double the cost of one single product. This should not be passed on to the consumer and should be taken as a loss.

Over-production –occurs when more product is produced than is required at that time by your customers. One common practice that leads to this muda is the production of large batches, as often consumer needs change over the long times large batches require. Overproduction is considered the worst muda because it hides and/or generates all the others. Overproduction leads to excess inventory, which then requires the expenditure of resources on storage space and preservation, activities that do not benefit the customer.

Waiting – Whenever goods are not in transport or being processed, they are waiting. In traditional processes, a large part of an individual product’s life is spent waiting to be worked on.

Under Utilized Talent – Whenever employees are not effectively utilized or engaged in a process that they could contribute to.

Transportation  -Each time a product is moved it stands the risk of being damaged, lost, delayed, etc. as well as being a cost for no added value. Transportation does not make any transformation to the product that the consumer is willing to pay for.

Inventory – be it in the form of raw materials, work-in-progress (WIP), or finished goods, represents a capital outlay that has not yet produced an income either by the producer or for the consumer. Any of these three items not being actively processed to add value is waste.

Motion – In contrast to transportation, which refers to damage to products and transaction costs associated with moving them, motion refers to the damage that the production process inflicts on the entity that creates the product, either over time (wear and tear for equipment and repetitive strain injuries for workers) or during discrete events (accidents that damage equipment and/or injure workers).

Over-processing – occurs any time more work is done on a piece than is required by the customer. This also includes using components that are more precise, complex, higher quality or expensive than absolutely required.