Back in 1983 when I started learning about the core principles of the Toyota Production System (TPS), the collective principles and system were referred to as "Just In Time Manufacturing."
The term "Lean Manufacturing" was not coined until 1991 when James Womack published his book "Machine That Changed The World: The Story of Lean Manufacturing." I personally have never liked the term and much prefer the "Just in Time" label, however, Lean is now a deeply embedded term in our standard business vocabulary.
How it Got A Bad Rap
Sadly, the term "Lean" has developed too many negative connotations throughout the business world. Employees often cringe when they hear management mention the term "Lean." because many believe, LEAN is an acronym for Less Employees Are Needed! It conjures up a story about an immediate headcount reduction plus those remaining employees being forced to work faster and harder for the same pay. Happily, during my 35+ years working in the lean transformation field, neither of these statements have been true. I personally associate with or work for any company or a client that intends to use "Lean" as a way to reduce headcount. However, I have to admit there are some bad actors and companies that have pinned a Lean label on their cost reduction projects which included reducing headcount to cut operating costs, hence one reason for its bad rap!
I created the LEAN model to share a positive image of Lean and to give my students an easy way to remember and understand the implementation procedure.
The purpose of the LEAN model is to allow anyone to understand how Lean principles are connected and structured to work together.
Learn – Observe and Record: The first activity in the LEAN model is to observe a process, so you can learn what happens and when it happens. In the Toyota Production System, the saying "Genchi Gembutsu" is used, this loosely translates into "Go to where the activity is happening and see it with your own eyes". To fully understand any process, it is necessary to go to the “Gemba” (or place of work) to observe it in action. While there you observe, then document and record what is actually happening in sequential order.
Evaluate – Measure and Analyze: The second activity in the LEAN model is to evaluate a process. After observing and recording the activities, you will have a better understanding of how the overall process is operating. Next it’s important to try to measure the performance of the process. The development and implementation of a data collection plan is important to measure how the process is performing during observation. Next, it will be necessary to collect data over a defined period of time to be able to track and trend the performance of the process. Once all the relevant process data has been collected it’s time to analyze the data to identify the root cause(s) of any waste.
Amend – Change and Improve: The third activity in the LEAN model is to amend a process. During the Evaluate phase you collected and analyzed process data to identify the root cause(s) of waste. During the Amend phase you worked on developing a solution to change and improve the process to eliminate or reduce the impact of the root cause(s) of waste.
Normalize - Standardize and Control: The fourth activity in the LEAN model is to normalize a process. During the Amend phase, the process was changed and improved. During the Normalize phase it’s important to make the improved process the standard methodology (or best practice) and implement a procedure to control and sustain it over the long term.
LEAN Model Procedure
It is important to follow the defined procedure to ensure the improvement team is moving towards the best solution to identify and eliminate waste.