Inventory, JIT, Lead Time, Batch Size and so on --- We may hop on to the copter and try to discover the solutions to some of the maladies plaguing our operations setup. Yes we are well and truly on-board in trying to implement Lean. Mind you --- A full blown Lean implementation will need a lot of factors to fall in place, rather to be put in place by the company desiring to implement it. That for later --- For now, let us talk about the 5 core Lean principles that guide any Lean implementation from start to end.
The 5 Lean principles are:
One of the first foregone conclusions whenever someone talks about Lean in a company is who defines value. Most think it is the organization, which is a misplaced thought. It is always the customer of the product or the service that defines value for the product. It is the company’s duty to stay by the customer’s definition of value and always offer him a product or a service that adheres to the customer’s definition of value.
Value chain or Value Stream
Once the value factor has been defined by the customer, the next step is to draw a map which contains the exact flow of information, value as well as the product through the Operations cycle. Such a map is known as Value Stream Map and is one of the key elements of a Lean implementation. Shown above is the way how a Value Stream Map looks like. Drawing this is not tough as you would find a lot of ready templates that help you draw a VSM easily.
Simply drawing a Value Stream Map may not do the deal. There is plenty of analysis and times you need to work on, but I guess that can be spoken about later.
If you have not been able to establish flow in a typical Lean process, what have you done? The concept of flow is the actual blood and veins of any Lean implementation. What is Flow? --- Simple, the product or the service actually flows between steps of the process and doesn’t stop at any point. Lean practitioners refer to this concept as Continuous Flow.
Some jazzy jargon dealers work on the concept of One-Piece Flow or Single Piece Flow. As you can see, the common quotient in all of them is --- Flow. At the end of the day, when the product or the service flows between different steps in the process with minimum delays, waste is reduced or at the best of times, eliminated.
Want further proof of the power of flow --- Flow reduces inventory levels, reduces the mother of all wastes, Overproduction. Any questions?
Okay. Flow actually does a lot of things and one of them is it minimizes the throughput time. What next? Work on creating pull from the customers. This is the way how it should work. The customer should place an actual demand. The supermarket in the production line should be in a position to ship to the customer demand. Any shortfall would mean a KANBAN triggered via Production Control. On shipment of product to the customer, a production KANBAN must be initiated to keep the supermarket full, in case of a new withdrawal coming your way!
That being said, moving from a Perfect Push to a Complete Pull is subjecting the company to a major pitfall --- Disrupting the Balance and Harmony of the ecosystem in the company! Oh yes --- And this is one of the reasons why a lot of business owners decide against taking to Pull anyways!
Perfection is probably stretching it a bit far. I’d name it Continuous Improvement. The problem is with the four steps it is very easy for a company to go in a shell. No harm in that so long as you do not close your eyes to any future improvement opportunities. The moment you do that --- Your past Lean implementations don’t hold any good and you’d have to start all over again.
Kaizen is the buzzword. The company should be buzzing with Kaizen events all the while, which probably summarizes a perfect execution of the 5 Lean principles.
Companies think Lean is all about reducing inventory, lot sizes (which is the same as inventory anyways), reducing lead time and improving profits. Oh yes --- These are definitely in. But, these are anyways a given, if the Lean implementation adheres to the 5 Lean principles. No amount of mathematics and statistics can save a Lean implementation if it has decided to violate the spirit and the essence of these principles.
And then we have guys who say implementing Lean has made them lose their pounds…