When we talk about a lean enterprise, we refer to the entire operations system starting from the customers. It includes sales processes, design and development of products, manufacturing processes, and all tiers of the supply chain. Any truly lean system highly depends on its customers’ demands and the reliability of its suppliers. Not embedding the lean thinking throughout the organization and just looking at lean as a tool for local problem solving has been identified as one of the major reasons why some organizations are not successful in their transformation journey.
To start the transformation towards the lean enterprise, one of the early steps is to nurture the lean thinking across the organization. By definition, lean thinking is a transformational framework that aims to provide a new way to think about how to organize the resources to deliver more benefits and values to the internal and external customers while eliminating waste.
Lean thinking creates lean culture which sustains growth by aligning customer satisfactions with employee satisfaction. The basic principle of lean thinking is that if every person is trained to identify wasted time and effort in their own job and to better work together to improve processes by eliminating such waste, the resulting culture (basic thinking, mindset & assumptions) will deliver more value at less expense while developing every employee's confidence, competence, and ability to work with others.
Lean is a way of thinking- not a list of things to do.
- Shigeo Shingo
Lean thinking at the foundational level is the systematic approach to identify and eliminate the process wastes in a way that the customers’ demands are fulfilled without any interruptions and the information and material flow is fully streamlined. The touted benefits of lean production systems include lower production costs, fewer personnel, quicker product development, higher quality, higher profitability, and greater system flexibility. By continually focusing on waste reduction, there is truly no end to the benefits that can be achieved.
Lean organizations measure five basic metrics and these five metrics drive the entire business: cost, quality, delivery, safety, and morale. Just as mass production is recognized as the production system of the 20th century, lean production is viewed as the production system of the 21st century.
Learning to see waste and then systematically eliminate it has allowed lean companies such as Toyota to dominate entire industries.
- Eric Ries
Lean in Service Sector
Every system contains waste. Whether one is producing a product, processing a material, or providing a service, there are elements which are considered waste. The techniques for analyzing systems, identifying and reducing waste, and focusing on the customer are applicable in any system, and in any industry. Any implementation of lean techniques will be different, depending on various factors such as industry, internal culture, and internal business considerations. The tools used to implement lean operations, and the order in which one combines them, are highly dependent on whether a company is a discrete manufacturer, continuous producer, or provider of a service.
Lean thinking defines value as providing benefit to the customer; anything else is waste.
- Eric Ries