Making Lean Processes Work For You
Using Lean Processes in your business means having a clear focus upon cutting away all excess fat and waste from your systems to allow them to truly deliver good quality and consistent outputs. Central to this approach is seeing that your customer will not (and should not) pay for additional process time and resource when they do not need to.
If your competition has gone Lean then you have to follow suit or lose customers; the choice is yours!
If you look at your processes – no, really look at your processes – you will be able to identify some form of waste which is dead weight carried by a process without adding any value. Most processes are wasteful in terms of time and materials, which often results in poorer quality to the customer which must be a primary concern for any business regardless of your sector. If you can refine your activity and possibly remove key parts of it you are immediately increasing quality and reducing cost.
Always remember that applying Lean concepts does not mean investing in capital or significant outlay it just means reallocating staff to more productive purposes. The results are always better systems that are cheaper to run.
The 5S method
Work areas evolve along with the processes they support like weeds in the garden; before long that nice, sharply defines garden path has weeds and uninvited plants growing out of it and actually making what was once a clearly defined line into something that is tardy and unprofessional looking. At work processes get bent and twisted, clutter builds up and effectively takes over, limiting the success and structure of your activities.
The 5S method is an essential tool for any quality initiative that seeks to clear up the flow of work. Each S describes one Japanese attribute needed for a clean workplace:
- Seiri (organisation)
- Seiton (neatness)
- Seiso (cleaning)
- Seiketsu (standardization)
- Shitsuke (discipline)
Removing all the clutter from a process eliminates hidden costs, frees floor space for productive use, improves the flow of materials through the workplace, reduces walk time and eliminates unnecessary items for reuse elsewhere or for throwing away.
Rapid Improvement Events
No one knows a process like your staff that are doing this every day. They know how the work should flow, they can identify obstacles that slow everyone down, and they deal with problems that never seem to go away.
The trick here is to harness all of this power and knowledge to solve recurring problems and to make the whole process that much smoother and refined.
A Rapid Improvement Event (RIE) is an intensive process-improvement activity, where over a few days staff get input and training on Lean principles and then redesign and implement their processes to incorporate its principles. Staff will take apart their work areas, rearrange items, and reassemble the spaces for more efficient work. The improvements are immediate, and the workers have ownership of the process and feel motivated to further refine it.
It is your staff who have the ability and expertise to deliver this which comes naturally from them using their knowledge and work practices to make all operations that much more profitable, effective, efficient and which also then delivers better financial performance and improved quality.
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