What is lean?

What is a Lean Organisation?

The aim of a 'Lean Organisation' is to meet customers' needs as efficiently and effectively as possible: the leaner the organisation, better utilisation of resources, the greater the potential for profit and stake-holder returns or, in not-for-profit organisations, best use of funding.

Lean processes are the systems, procedures and ways of working that underpin a Lean Organisation.

Lean differs from more traditional approaches because meeting customers' needs comes first, reducing costs comes second.

Typically Lean processes; synchronise the flow of work, through the business balance work loads, reduce work in progress and shortens lead times.

Where is lean applicable?

The concept of Lean, and many Lean Techniques, is applicable to any organisation where something moves through it, where the 'it' can be ideas and information as well as materials. Lean is most commonly employed in repetitive manufacturing or supply chain environments but increasingly organisations as diverse as financial services and healthcare are implementing the principles. Many of the techniques evolved in the automotive and electronics industries, the Toyota Production System is the most widely referenced.

Why Lean?

Lean provides an organisation with a 'planning and improvement framework' that falls outside typical business development areas such as marketing, organisational development, management accounting or information systems. It supports a strategy that focuses on customer service through the efficient use of resources as opposed to maximising the output from a resource (which may be unnecessary and therefore wasteful).

When is Lean applicable?

Lean thinking and subsequently the implementation of lean processes, can be used in green-field situations and to improve existing organisations.

How can you implement Lean?

There are tools and techniques that can be used to support lean, but genuine success depends on the understanding and commitment of the people who do the day to day work. Quite simply, to implement Lean you have to grab people's hearts and minds, and then constantly motivate and enthuse. The potential of Lean will be realised only if it is the first priority and second nature!

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