Lean Thinking: What it is and what it isn't

Wood, Nigel
February 2004
Management Services;Feb2004, Vol. 48 Issue 2, p8
Academic Journal
This article discusses the application of lean methodology and tools for the improvement of supply chains. Lean thinking is a way of giving people at all levels of an organisation the skills and a shared means of thinking to systematically drive out waste by designing better ways of working, improving connections and easing flows within chains. Within the lean thinking concept, waste is defined as any human activity which absorbs resources but creates no value. The seven identified types of wastes are overproduction, waiting, transporting, inappropriate processing, unnecessary inventory, and unnecessary motion and defects. In a typical process, waste can amount to more than 95% of day to day work. Traditionally, companies have concentrated on improving labour productivity while ignoring the potentially bigger prize of waste elimination. Lean thinking also has five principles. First is to identify what the customer actually wants. Second is determining the process from product design and development for satisfying customers. Third is to reduce or eliminate bottlenecks and to move as close to single piece flow as possible. Fourth is to make what the customer requires and when the customer wants it. Fifth is the pursuit of perfection which is the complete elimination of waste.


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