Lean Management Techniques: How COOs Can Drive Continuous Improvement

Jun 17, 2024 | Change Management, Lean Management

Every leader should aim to continuously improve their company. It’s not enough to sit on your laurels. You must constantly outdo yourself to impress your customers and remain competitive in your industry.

Lean management techniques can help. This strategy focuses on producing more output with less input. It helps you make the most of your resources so you boost productivity, save money, and reduce waste.

What are the Principles of Lean Management Techniques?

Lean management techniques are comprised of five main principles as follows:

Identify Value: The first step involves understanding what your customers value most in your company. Do you solve a specific problem? Are they most attracted by your informative blogs, your convenient products, or your terrific customer service? Conduct interviews and surveys and look at data to find the answers you require.

Map Value Stream: Determine which activities add to your value stream. What work-related practices contribute to customer value? Focus on those practices and eliminate others if possible. You will reduce wasteful activities that don’t serve your company.

Create Flow: Rework your operations to create an efficient workflow that focuses on customer value. You may need to develop new processes with upper management and retrain employees to make this possible.

Create a Pull-Based System: A pull-based system means companies are only producing enough products to meet customer demand. It eliminates waste and ensures customer needs are met.

Continual Improvement: A lean management system must be continuously reviewed. Management should look to eliminate additional areas of waste. They should ensure systems run at optimal efficiency.

What Lean Management Techniques Can You Use in the Workplace?

Kaizen: Kaizen is a Japanese word that means “continuous improvement” in English. It involves an ongoing review of your systems to ensure they are functioning at optimal efficiency.

Poka-yoke: Also a Japanese word, Poka-yoke means “mistake-proofing”. Eliminating mistakes will help your team become more efficient and less wasteful. Businesses must determine how mistakes are happening and take steps to avoid them to adhere to this practice.

5S System: The 5 Ss are: sort, set-in-order, shine, standardize, and sustain. Sorting involves identifying unneeded tools and practices and eliminating them from the workplace. Set in order ensures tools will be easily accessible during work processes. Shine involves keeping the workplace clean and organized. Standardizing means coming up with a standard system employees should follow. Sustain encourages employees to sustain these practices throughout their time in the workplace. The technique minimizes waste and boosts efficiency.

Kanban: Kanban is a Japanese word for signboard. It involves creating a visual process that employees can follow. It can guide workers through production, stocking, and other daily operations to ensure efficiency.

Just-in-Time (JIT): JIT supports a pull-based system. It requires employees to make products on demand to fulfill customer needs. This inventory technique reduces waste and boosts ROI.

Jidoka: This Japanese word means “automating with a human touch”. It requires humans to halt automated processes as soon as an error or problem is detected. Workers find immediate and lasting solutions that minimize future issues.

Takt Time: Takt Time follows the formula: TAKT= Available Time/ Required Output. It precisely matches time with customer demand. It ensures product assembly is meeting customer needs without taxing resources.

Heijunka:  This Japanese translation of “leveling” involves processing orders based on customer demand, minimizing waste, and optimizing inventory management. It sets a schedule for productivity ensuring customer demand is met on a weekly or monthly basis. It reduces waste due to overproduction.

What are Common Sources of Waste?

Transport: Transport targets the steps employees take during the production process. It ensures tools are easily accessible. Issues can be solved with a set-in-place system.

Inventory: Excess inventory can be addressed with a pull-based system.

Waiting: Employees may remain idle due to equipment downtime, long setups, reduced machine effectiveness, a lack of maintenance, or ineffective scheduling. Address these issues for optimal efficiency.

Motion: Unnecessary movements that don’t directly contribute to productivity should be eliminated.

Excessive Production: Workers may overproduce inventory due to poor communication or inaccurate forecasting.

Defects: Defects may occur due to low-quality products, or damage that occurs during processing and transport. Companies can avoid defects through proper training and smart sourcing.

Underutilized Talent: Workers should be utilized to their full potential.

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