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The 5 Principles of Lean Thinking

Lean starts with a defining value precisely from the perspective of the customer in the relationship to the features and characteristics of the organization’s product (goods or services) and other critical attributes.

Value Stream
A value stream contains all of the activities required to create customer value for a service product or family of products. This would include all of the processes needed from designing the product, building, testing, releasing and deploying it into the live environment, being able to support the use of the product by your customer and finally being able to improve it to meet the customers changing requirements over the lifetime of the product. Lean organizations wisely distinguish their value streams and arrange their operations to maximize the value created for the customer and minimize the waste in these processes.

Flow and Pull
Make the remaining value–creating steps flow. Lean organizations will seek to maximize the flow of materials, resources and capabilities. These processes will be designed to maximize the flow of the product through the value stream. This is a pull system and will be initiated by the pull of customer demand. Partnering with customers and suppliers will be critical in ensuring that a smooth flow will be accomplished, providing what the customer wants only when they want it; a goal of perfection. Lean processes are designed to maximize the flow of information, knowledge, capabilities and resources. This is accomplished by using integrated tool sets, pull processes and the continual perfection of goals.

Empowerment comprises of a set of tools and controls that enable each employee with the appropriate information and authority to take the essential action at the time it is required so as to add value for the customer and eliminate waste from the process.

The pursuit of perfection is fundamental to lean thinking. The goal is not to make intermittent jumps of improvement but rather for everyone in the organization to focus on making incremental improvement in their own processes day in and day out. While few of these improvements will significantly change the processes in the short term, the combined effect of these changes is continual improvement in service quality, flow, cost and customer value. The goal is nothing less than perfection. Everyone realizes that perfection is unlikely to be achieved, but that is the goal.

For more information please see the publication "Lean Thinking: The Principles of Lean Manufacturing" written by James J. Womack and Daniel T. Jones


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