What is Lean (Kaizen)?

Lean manufacturing is the way to manage processes and organizations that has widely spread in the last 30 years. Quite often instead of term Lean the term Kaizen is used. Lean manufacturing enables to provide goods and services with two or three times less resources than so called ordinary manufacturing or using the same amount of resources to produce two-three times more. As the principles of lean have spread through entire organizations and service areas, the concept of lean thinking has developed. Lean manufacturing encompasses both the way of thinking and the technique.

“The core idea [of the lean manufacturing] is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.” (http://www.lean.org/WhatsLean/ 24.01.2010)

“In order to go lean, you need to understand customers and what they value. To get your company focused on these needs you must define the value streams inside your company (all the activities which are needed to provide a particular product or service) and later, the value streams in your wider supply chain as well. To satisfy customers you will need to eliminate or at least reduce the wasteful activities in your value streams that your customer would not wish to pay for.” (Hines, P., & Taylor, D., 2000. Going lean)

“Lean production and lean thinking have developed from the way of thinking, according to which the improvements should be implemented in the most efficient way with the special attention to minimizing waste (muda in Japanese).” (Dahlgaard, J. J., & Dahlgaard-Park S. M., 2006. Lean production, six sigma quality, TQM and company culture. The TQM Magazine, 18(3))

Lean manufacturing is based on waste reduction. The seven major wastes are overproduction, waiting, conveyance, processing, inventory, motion and correction (Ohno, T., 1988. Toyota Production System. Beyond Large-Scale Production). The following principles should be complied with in the organization: specify customer value, identify the entire value stream, ensure the smooth product and service flow through the fulfilment stream, let the customer pull the product from you and pursue perfection (Womack, J. P., & Jones, D. T., 1996 Lean Thinking). During the lean conversion it is important that organization ensures the clarity of the targets, performance of the processes and availability of the necessary people.

Today the lean way of thinking and practice have spread into most production and service fields. Among others it can be found in healthcare, administrative agencies, engineering and construction industries. A new tendency is the lean way of thinking in information technology.