Categories : Lean Manufacturing Principles


Does it really matter whether I call it Lean or something else?

I overheard a discussion a few days ago about why “Lean” is called by this name?  I was very interested when I heard the responses from several of the experts in the room. It was like they were reading their answers off the inside of a jacket cover from a typical Lean book. They talked about increasing , reducing waste, and improving the bottom line. Wow, interesting concepts, but none of these ideas match my personal interpretation of the word, “Lean.” Why is this?Kaizen-2

Consulting companies, who were trying to entice business owners to use their services, developed many of these monetary based concepts over the past three decades. Overall, Lean principles have been launched onto the business world as a group of efficient cost cutting tools. Lean is not a cost centric process, it is focused on one thing and that is improving value for customers.

The Production System is based on several key principles developed by Sakichi Toyoda. The number one principle is “Respect for People”, therefore a company that uses Lean principles to cut heads has little to no . If they did, they would have dealt with the over manning issues much earlier and used Lean to improve their business processes to secure and improve the jobs of the remaining people.

It is this type of behavior that has saddled Lean with negative connotations throughout many industries. Lean has come to mean slim, slender, trim, etc., which to the uneducated translates into “producing more with less people.”  As far as the name is concerned, I much prefer the original label of “Just in Time” because it has a positive association. The name “Lean Manufacturing” was a phrase developed in 1990 and in my opinion is an injudicious label. It is now coming around to bite many organizations in the butt and so it should.

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