Lean manufacturing tools support and underpin lean manufacturing techniques designed to increase competitive advantage by improving performance.
This performance improvement is achieved by the application of continuous improvement processes that focus on the identification and elimination of those process steps that add no customer value and that are defined (in lean terminology) as waste.
Lean techniques are a combination of specific tools and a collective mindset that supports and sustains a culture of continuous improvement. This is only possible when firstly there is a commitment to the lean approach from senior management right down through all levels of the organisation; and secondly a long-term commitment.
The lean approach is practical and "hands on" and is all about "learning by doing". It involves all those who are most directly involved in adding value to the product.
Lean Manufacturing Process
The lean manufacturing process is based on:
Defining customer value
Focusing on the value stream
Making value flow
Letting customers determine the product or service they want
And all of this with a relentless pursuit of perfection in a timely manner at an appropriate price.
Underpinning all lean manufacturing tools is Kaizen.
Kaizen is the Japanese term that translates as "change for the better" or "improvement".
"Kaizen differs from many improvement methodologies in that its focus is on achieving daily improvements that relatively small in scope. That is, instead of implementing a huge multi-month project with uncertain outcomes, the goal of kaizen is to implement a change in minutes, hours, or at the very most, days."
"Kaizen gives the power of change to individual team members who are encouraged to find ways to eliminate non-value added activities from their work."
"By making only incremental changes, the risk of each change is small. Therefore, if something goes amiss post-implementation, it is relatively easy to go back to the old way. However, since improvements are frequent, they will quickly add up and have a positive impact on the bottom line."