What is Lean? What is Continuous Flow?
Lean (also called Toyota Production System) techniques help organizations' engage their people in improving their work and customer service by promoting positive changes to the business processes. It supports the alignment of business plans and strategy to the abilities of the business processes.
Lean is a systematic methodology and set of principles and tools that reduces internal process and product costs, reduces processing time; improves product quality; while increasing customer and employee satisfaction.
Lean is a philosophy that needs to be integrated into your business efforts to create true process flow. Lean helps your organization to create continuous flow. Having the right amount of people, machines and materials - Just in Time - is needed for continuous flow. Lean is the flow of materials- through your process - moving continuously and flowing- never stopping until the product reaches the customer.
It is the flow of the people as they work, the flow of the operations by the design of layout, the flow of your information in your offices and on your shop floors, the flow of the materials- in small, manageable, planned amounts - all creating the flow of your organization.
Flow reduces costs by eliminating waste- waiting (waste of time), overproduction, excess production, rework, transportation, inventory, poor use of people's talents and time and utilizes creative thinking.
Flow is never easy to achieve. It is however what your competitors are striving to achieve. Creating flow is what will retain your customers and earn new ones by reducing costs and prices, improving quality, and reducing time.
Is it difficult to learn the tools of Lean?
Anyone can make process changes, but making the right changes at the right time is the key to lower costs, higher customer satisfaction, and speed to market. Lean has simple tools that anyone can learn and use to make improvement efforts easier and more accurate.
Why would a business need to have these Lean skills?
A national survey by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) found that 58% of all small businesses, and 82% of all large companies are using the Lean tools to improve quality, cost and time. Simply put, Lean is now an entry ticket to effectively compete in business. If a business isn't using these Lean principles and practices to improve then it will loose the race against its competitors by loosing customers.