Photos 28-Oct
5 must practice Lean tools


“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”, said Marcel Proust. 

This, I believe, is the most striking quote which influences one to develop a new perception i.e. to see with a set of new eyes – through the eyes of the Customer! In business, only with this kind of perception we can identify the leverage points that affect operational excellence. If each one in the workforce does not develop this kind of aptitude, then his creative potential remains unutilized. “Not utilizing employee potential” is a serious “waste” in Lean terminology. I believe there’s enough creativity in people and all we got to do is to hone their skills and teach them the tools required for organisational development which in turn also improves them as a human being.


Lean is the way forward because going lean means using the least amount of resources to produce strong output. In this VUCA world, the challenges are the same for everybody – reduce the forecast; reduce the reaction time to market, and strengthen the production capabilities. Here are 5 must use Lean tools for anybody pursuing operational excellence:


  1. Kaizen: means “change for better” implying a continual improvement in Industrial parlance. It is a philosophy and sometimes a tool which aims at involving everybody in the workplace with the objective of making his/her tasks a little better each day. Small continuous improvements across the value chain resulting in higher quality, lower cost and better productivity. It encourages people to use common sense tools, checklists and techniques which solve problems instead of applying the latest high-cost technology and investing a great deal of money. It begins with getting rid of old assumptions by asking the right questions to dig deeper to reach the root cause of the problem.

So start improving, even if you're half ready. You don't need to be perfect to make an improvement rather perfection is achieved by doing it. Kaizen requires going into the nuts and bolts of the manufacturing operations. It is said, all for the want of a little horseshoe nail, a kingdom was lost. When we realize the impact of the so-called small things, we see that nothing is small. Kaizen enables you to focus on small changes to make a big difference. Kaizen empowers you to deal with change.

  1. Value Stream Mapping (VSM): The doors of Lean Manufacturing open with identifying value in the process. VSM helps identify the value, bottlenecks, WIP or “Waste in the pipeline” (otherwise Work in Progress) and much more. It starts with capturing the “current state” for finding areas of improvement and to visualise the “future state” of any kind of operations – service or production. Recently we mapped the value stream of a well-known pipe & fittings manufacturer’s Warehouse with the aim to lessen its stock while improving its delivery. The dealers based across the country received their requirements directly from the Warehouse which stocks a mix of products received from various plants. We identified that value-adding processes in Warehouse Operations are: receiving, put-away, storage, picking and finally delivery, the rest all are non-value-adding. We gradually optimised the work content by eliminating material handling steps and by minimising travel time transforming it to high operating efficiency. In the blog, 3 Lean Digital Technologies that are impacting Businesses, I wrote about the electronic version of VSM will facilitate people to capture, share, analyse and improve the value streams by identifying and making improvements via Point Kaizen, Flow Kaizen and Systems Kaizen.


  1. Kanban: literally means “card signal” or “visual signal”. A Kanban system is used to control the amount of inventory flowing in the system to augment “Just in Time” production and improve cash flow. In order to create a “pull” oriented production process, a Production Kanban is created which signals the production of a fixed amount of products per workstation. This container is picked only when a Transportation Kanban is authorised. Thus no overproduction! Constant WIP or CONWIP is the next level where the system WIP is controlled using a set of cards to sequentially push the parts in the process. Such demand-based production improves manufacturing efficiency. We helped one of our clients in their endeavour to achieve sales targets by increasing their assembly output while reducing 50% of the WIP inventory using this methodology. It also helped create more space in the assembly & casting sections for better opportunities.   


  1.  Total Quality Management or TQM: Quality is everyone’s responsibility, said Dr Deming. Collectively & continually improving quality helps in decreasing the cost as there is less rework, fewer mistakes, fewer delays, snags, better use of machine time and materials and improvement in productivity. It is all about commitment to customer-focus whether internal or external customers through continuous improvement of organizational processes to create high-quality products and services. With a better study of variations and analytic conceptualization of the solutions to the problems faced daily on the shop-floor, an organisation becomes able to capture the market with better quality and lower price.

Though TQM originated in the 50’s, it spread to all industries to become their preferred method to reduce variations. An Organization practising TQM means that its culture is defined by and supports the relentless persuasion for achieving customer satisfaction through an integrated system of tools, techniques, and training.      


  1. Total Productive Maintenance or TPM: is used as a tool to optimize the effectiveness of manufacturing equipment and tooling with the goal to achieve Zero Breakdown, Defects and Accidents. It starts with expanding the role of Operator as the first point of early warning and prevention of breakdown, defects etc. Secondly, by gradually building a comprehensive downtime database by cause, frequency, and duration, it cures and eliminates causal abnormalities related to the equipment.


Thus the focus is given to the entire life cycle of the equipment to maximize its effectiveness by involving & integrating departmental employees from all levels in autonomous small-group activities. People develop professional maintenance skills to predict and prevent downtime. There are 8 pillars of TPM namely, [1] Focused Equipment & Process improvement [2] Autonomous Maintenance, [3] Planned Maintenance [4] Quality Maintenance [5] Early Equipment Management [6] Safety [7] Equipment investment & Maintenance prevention design & [8] Training & Skill building. Implementation of these pillars in a systematic way helps eliminate the 16 big losses.


If you have implemented any of these tools, do share your experience with us; write to me at ppp@vedzen.com. We will publish it here for our readers.

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