Why are so many organizations choosing to go 'Lean'? An enterprise that is Lean is competitive, effective, and better-positioned to endure shifting economic trends. Of course, there are no guarantees, but Lean methods eliminate waste in the workplace and add value to the customer, while creating an environment where frustration, fatigue and burn-out do not plague employees.
What is Lean? It's not a system that tells people how to do their jobs more effectively. It is an approach to business process that allows individuals at all levels to play an active part in establishing a streamlined workflow. How things are accomplished in a Lean enterprise is controlled by the workers, which leads to greater job satisfaction and company loyalty. For the end customer, the optimal result is the highest quality products and services possible, with zero defects, delivered on-time at the best price possible.
How does this all happen? Whether in a manufacturing plant or in an office, Lean thinking labels any expenditure of time or resource as 'waste' if it does not add value for the end customer. Thus, 'value' is defined as any action or process that a customer is willing to pay for.
One of the key elements of the Lean method is to examine all process activities in order to identify and categorize them as steps that add customer value (value) and steps that do not (waste). Value added steps are targeted for improvement. Waste is divided into 'required, but non-value added' waste and 'pure' waste. Defining waste in this manner is critical to identifying and challenging the assumptions and beliefs behind current work processes. The objective is to minimize waste and create a flowing stream of value-add activity (value stream), using ongoing process refinements (kaizens) that fundamentally and continually transform every aspect of the organization. A Lean enterprise delivers on-time, as expected, with quality and efficiency.
Going Lean isn't simple. It requires a commitment from everyone at every level, and time to train in the method. To go Lean requires a change of direction. To become Lean requires a change in thinking. To stay Lean and effective requires a coherent Lean strategy across the entire organization - not merely choosing certain areas to make "lean".
The amazing success of Lean in manufacturing environments over the years has driven it into administrative offices. Lean Manufacturing and Lean Office methods work across every aspect of any kind of enterprise. The great news is that, once Lean thinking begins to take hold in an organization, it creates a momentum and enthusiasm that drives it onward and keeps it robust and alive. The best news is that an organization that is end-to-end Lean is a well-oiled machine — and its customers are highly satisfied.