Lean Confusion

According to an article by Jill Jusko in Industry Week, lean manufacturing has been embraced, ignored, misunderstood, and even derided, but lean’s proponents continue to exhort its value as a driver of operational excellence. A recent Wall Street Journal article concluded that the component shortages faced by Apple and Nissan Motor were in part due to the drawbacks of lean manufacturing methods.

However, most of the finalists and winners of the Industry Week Best Plants competition have implemented lean manufacturing to a significant degree. And, they have seen a 30% reduction in cycle times over the past three years, along with scrap reductions of 33% and productivity improvements of 24%.

Why the diversity of opinions about lean? It may be that people are confused about what defines lean and how to implement it. The Lean Enterprise Institute defines lean as maximizing customer value while minimizing waste. Lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.

Lean thinking changes the focus of management from optimizing separate technologies, assets, and vertical departments to optimizing the flow of products and services through entire value streams that flow horizontally across technologies, assets, and departments to customers.

To read about other lean definitions and what may be missing from lean implementations, go to the Industry Week article, Lean Confusion.