Article Revised: March 28, 2019
An important component of Lean Six Sigma Training is the idea of Lean and the principles behind it. The goal of Lean is to give the most value to the customer with the least amount of waste. Lean systems aim to use fewer resources – space, workers or inventory, for example – to achieve the same or better output.
There are a number of benefits that may result from applying Lean principles. These include an increase in labor productivity and reductions in inventories, scrap, safety injuries, product development time and more.
Lean thinking turns on value – specifically the customer’s definition of value. The company applying Lean principles must first communicate with customers to learn what they consider value, and then figure out how to give that to them. Do they want speed? Different features? Top quality? Are they willing to pay for what they want?
Once customer value is defined, the company must analyze their process and identify the steps that add the value that the customer seeks, and those that do not. For example, is the product produced quicker than the customer requires? If so, that’s an area of waste that should be eliminated.
The goal is to create a process that is a continuous flow, whether it’s materials that move continuously through the process without bottlenecks, or an office worker who always knows what she’s working on next, how long it will take and who to hand it off to when she’s finished.
The next step is to work using the customer pull method. This means that instead of estimating future customer demands, creating a product or service ahead of time to meet those projected demands, then carrying inventory until the customer actually makes the request, the company produces the product only when the customer requires it.
The final step is to constantly seek perfection in the process. As the changes made to the process cause things to flow more smoothly, other areas of waste may be identified and eliminated, making the process even more streamlined and effective.