Lean Tools That Improve Processes
Copyright © 2007 Forrest Breyfogle.
All Rights Reserved.
Lean Tools That Improve Processes: An Overview
Forrest W. Breyfogle III
Lean emphasizes the learning by doing approach, where the members of a process improvement
team are those most closely associated with adding value to the product.
The whole process is
based on defining customer value, focusing on the value stream, making value flow, and letting
customers determine the product or service they want, with a relentless pursuit of perfection in a
timely manner at an appropriate price.
We identify the value stream as a process, or series of steps, from concept to launch to
production, and then the order to delivery and the disposition; in other words, from the raw
materials to delivery of the finished product to the customer. Value stream steps can be value-
added, non-value added, or non-value-added-but-necessary. Lean emphasizes the elimination or
reduction of steps that do not have value. We start with the customer’s request, strive for no
interruptions or waste, avoid batch processing, and strive for smooth just-in-time one-piece flow.
An experienced teacher who uses the Socratic method of learning – a dialog of simple questions
that leads to an agreed-to solution, facilitates the Lean process.
This article presents an overview
of 11 tools that have been shown to be productive for Lean initiatives.
These methods can be used in the
phase of the Six Sigma DMAIC roadmap (Define,
Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control).
These techniques are also applicable within Integrated
Enterprise Excellence (IEE), the performance measurement and improvement process that
orchestrates employee day-to-day activities so they align with true business needs.
These are the tools:
One-piece flow describes the sequence of product or of transactional activities (e.g., insurance
claims) through a process one unit at a time. In contrast, batch processing creates a large
number of products or works on a large number of transactions at one time – sending them
together as a group through each operational step.
In one-piece flow, focus is on the product or on the transactional process, rather than on the
waiting, transporting, and storage of either. One-piece flow methods need short changeover
times and are conducive to a
One-piece flow advantages are
Reduced customer order to shipment times
Reduction of work in progress
Early detection of defects
Increased flexibility for customer product/transactional demands
Reduced operating costs through exposure/elimination of non-value-added waste
A project process improvement could be a work flow change that reduces batch size or changes
from batch processing to single-piece flow.
Poka-Yoke (Error Proofing)