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May 15, 2023

The 7 principles of lean management in 2023

The business world is constantly changing, and companies need to be competitive to keep up. To achieve this, it's important to adopt a management approach that optimizes processes, reduces costs and improves the quality of products and services. That's where lean management comes in! This management method is becoming increasingly popular in modern companies, as it delivers concrete results while fostering a collaborative, participative corporate culture. In this article, we'll take a look at the basic principles of lean management and how they can help companies to grow sustainably, while improving their relationship with their customers.

Lean management

The origins of lean management

The corporate world has long been marked by the Taylorist approach to management, which aimed to maximize productivity at all costs, without regard for the well-being of workers. But with the advent of lean management, things have changed for the better.

Lean management has its roots in the Toyota Production System (TPS), developed in Japan in the 1940s and 1950s. TPS was born of Toyota's desire to improve the efficiency and quality of its production processes, while eliminating waste and promoting operator involvement.

Lean management makes it possible to reduce costs and optimize production processes without sacrificing work quality or worker safety. This approach enables companies to be more competitive while preserving their human capital, which is an undeniable advantage in the long term.

TPS was transcribed into "lean" in 1968, thanks to the publication in the USA of an article entitled "Triumph of the Lean Production System" by John Krafcik, as part of his master's thesis presented at the MIT Sloan School of Management. This article and its associated research formed the basis of the best-selling book "The Machine That Changed the World".

Since the 1990s, lean management has spread to all sectors, first in the automotive industry, then in the aeronautics industry, and today in services, banking and engineering. This management method has evolved to adapt to different business realities, but it remains founded on the basic principles of TPS, which are as relevant today as ever.

Quality control

Quality control is an essential aspect of lean management. This management method aims to guarantee the quality of the products and services offered by the company, by eliminating defects and reducing scrap and rework.

Externally, quality control means ensuring that customers find no defects in the products or services offered by the company. This guarantees customer satisfaction and maintains the company's good reputation.

Internally, quality control means fewer rejects and rework, which in turn minimizes costs and optimizes production processes.

To achieve this objective, lean management uses several tools, such as non-quality measurement, self-control, poka-yoke, PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) or DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), and SPC (Statistical Process Control).

  • Measuring non-quality makes it possible to quantify the costs associated with defects and non-conformities, enabling problems to be identified and appropriate solutions to be implemented.
  • Self-monitoring enables operators to check the quality of their work themselves, reducing errors and defects as soon as they appear.
  • Poka-yoke are safety and control devices that prevent errors from occurring or detect them early, thus avoiding defects and non-conformities.
  • PDCA ( Plan-Do-Check-Act) or DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control). PDCA consists of four steps: plan, do, check, act. This method identifies problems, analyzes causes, proposes solutions and verifies their effectiveness. DMAIC consists of five steps: define, measure, analyze, improve, control.
  • Finally, SPC is a statistical control tool that monitors the quality of production processes and quickly detects variations that could lead to defects. SPC uses statistical techniques to measure process variability and to detect deviations from specifications.

Quality control is a crucial aspect of lean management, ensuring customer satisfaction, reducing costs and optimizing production processes. By using the right tools, companies can continuously improve the quality of their work and their competitiveness in the marketplace.

Elimination of waste

At the heart of the Lean philosophy is the principle of eliminating waste. This approach aims to optimize processes by eliminating anything that doesn't add value. To achieve this, Lean Management identifies seven types of waste, often represented in the form of a wheel: rejects/rework, unnecessary operations, product transport, unnecessary movements, inventory, overproduction and waiting, not forgetting the under-utilization of skills and talents.

  • Scrap/Retouch

Rejects and rework are a major source of waste. They require additional resources and time to correct errors or replace defective products. By optimizing processes and focusing on quality from the outset, this waste can be significantly reduced.

  • Unnecessary operations

Unnecessary operations are those that add no value to the final product from the customer's point of view. They may be redundant processes, tasks that could be automated or eliminated, or processes that do not improve the product.

  • Transport of Products

Excessive product transport is another common form of waste. It leads to additional costs, increased risk of damage and production delays. Reducing these unnecessary movements improves efficiency and cuts costs.

  • Unnecessary movements

Unnecessary movement of people and machines can also lead to waste. By optimizing the layout of the workshop or factory, these movements can be reduced and efficiency increased.

  • Stocks

Excessive stock can tie up capital, take up space and increase the risk of out-of-date or obsolete products. Lean Management aims to reduce inventory to the minimum necessary to meet customer demand.

  • Overproduction

Overproduction is another common waste. Producing more than necessary results in additional costs in terms of storage, management, and can even lead to losses if the products are not sold.

  • Waiting

Waiting times, whether for employees waiting for work or for machines waiting for parts, are another type of waste. By optimizing workflows, we can reduce these waiting times and increase productivity.

  • Underutilization of Skills and Talents

Finally, the underutilization of employees' abilities and talents is an often overlooked waste. By valuing people's skills and using them to the fullest, companies can improve efficiency, innovation and job satisfaction.

By eliminating this waste, companies can cut costs, optimize production processes and improve the quality of the products and services they offer. What's more, this approach can also enhance customer satisfaction and strengthen the company's competitiveness in the marketplace.

Just-in-time management

Just-in-time (JIT) management is a fundamental principle of lean management. It aims to reduce inventories and improve efficiency by producing only what is needed, when it is needed.

Just-in-time / Pull: This principle implies that production is triggered by customer demand rather than forecasts. In other words, a product is only manufactured when an order is placed. This avoids overproduction and reduces the need to stock finished products.

In the context of just-in-time management, several key principles are emphasized:

  • Elimination of turbulence:

Turbulence in the workflow can lead to delays, errors and inefficiencies. Lean management aims to identify and eliminate such turbulence, often through a process of continuous improvement (Kaizen). This may involve standardizing processes, eliminating bottlenecks, and optimizing the layout of the factory or office.

  • Inventory is enemy number one:

In lean management, inventories are often seen as a form of waste. They tie up capital, take up space, and can mask problems in the production process. By reducing inventories, companies can free up capital, improve efficiency, and make production problems more visible so that they can be solved.

  • The notion of flow time:

Lead time is the total time required for a product to pass through the entire production process, from receipt of order to delivery of the finished product. By reducing lead time, companies can respond faster to customer orders and improve customer satisfaction.

  • Value Stream Mapping (VSM):

VSM is a tool used in lean management to visualize the entire production process, from raw material to finished product. It enables managers to identify bottlenecks, sources of waste, and opportunities for improvement. By using VSM, companies can design more efficient processes that minimize waste and maximize customer value.

Visual management

Imagine a company where production is triggered not by forecasts, but by actual customer demand. Imagine that this same company has managed to eliminate bottlenecks, free up capital and improve efficiency simply by reducing inventory. You have a company that has adopted one of the fundamental principles of Lean Management: just-in-time (JIT) management.

JIT not only reduces waste, it also makes production problems more visible so that they can be resolved. What's more, by optimizing throughput time- the time it takes for a product to go from order receipt to delivery of the finished product - the company can respond more quickly to customer orders, improving customer satisfaction.

But how do you track and measure all these elements? This is where one of the key principles of Lean Management comes into play: visual management.

Visual management is like your car's dashboard, providing clear, precise information on company performance. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), carefully chosen to be consistent with the company's objectives, are the measuring instruments of this dashboard. They are defined, calculated and monitored by the people directly concerned, guaranteeing their relevance and impact.

But visual management doesn't stop at simply monitoring performance. Each KPI is associated with corrective or improvement actions, acting like a GPS that guides the company towards its objectives. And this information isn't hidden away in a report or spreadsheet. It's displayed visibly, by department, workstation or machine, or workgroup, creating transparency that encourages communication and informed decision-making.

The wheel of improvement

One of the strengths of Lean Management lies in its constant drive for improvement. This is why principles such as PDCA, DMAIC and Kaizen were born. They are the building blocks of what we call the "wheel of improvement".

  • PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)

PDCA, also known as the Deming Cycle, is a four-step iterative method designed to manage and continuously improve processes and products.

Plan: This phase consists of identifying an objective or problem and devising an action plan to solve it.

Do: Here the plan is implemented, often on a small scale, to test its effectiveness.

Check: This step involves an evaluation of the results. If the plan was successful, it moves to the next phase. If not, gaps must be identified and the plan adjusted.

Act: The modified plan is deployed on a large scale. The cycle then starts again, because Lean Management aims at continuous improvement.

  • The DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control)

DMAIC is a systematic methodology for process improvement, often used in the context of Six Sigma.

Define: Clearly define the problem, the client's requirements, and the project objectives.

Measure: Measure the current performance of the process.

Analyze: Analyze the data to identify the root cause of the problem.

Improve: Improve the process by eliminating the main causes of the problem.

Control: Monitor the process to ensure that improvements are maintained and that the problem does not recur.

  • The Kaizen

Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that advocates continuous improvement. It is about instilling a culture where all employees are actively involved in improving processes. Kaizen encourages small, continuous improvements, as they are easier to implement and less likely to encounter resistance.

The wheel of improvement symbolizes Lean Management's desire and constant effort to improve efficiency and quality. PDCA, DMAIC and Kaizen are essential tools for achieving this goal. By using them, organizations can identify areas requiring improvement, implement changes, evaluate their effectiveness and, if necessary, make further adjustments, thus creating a cycle of continuous improvement.

A Paradigm Shift: Putting People at the Heart of Change

A wind of change is blowing through the industrial world, transforming traditional management and production methods. This paradigm shift places people, with their creative potential and adaptability, at the heart of the process.

  • The Old Paradigm: Constraint-Driven Production

In the old model, business constraints dictated production. It was pushed, often forcing surpluses and creating a need for inventories to act as shock absorbers. Performance indicators were used retroactively, to control production after the fact rather than to guide the process in real time.

Display, in this context, had a more aesthetic than operational function. Improvement was often relegated to the background, production being the priority. Innovative ideas were expected from the bosses, and the solutions were usually big, radical changes.

  • The New Paradigm: Principles Evolve Constraints

Today, a new paradigm is emerging. The company's guiding principles are changing constraints, allowing production to be pulled forward, more in line with actual demand. Inventories, seen as an enemy, are reduced to a minimum.

Performance indicators are calculated in real time, providing a valuable tool for continuous production control. The display becomes an operational tool for operators, giving them a clear view of production.

In this new paradigm, improvement is not an afterthought, but an essential and infinite necessity. Ideas come not just from the top, but from every member of the team. The solution is no longer big changes, but continuous improvement, embodied by the Kaizen principle.

  • People at the Heart of Change

At the heart of this paradigm shift is the human element. Employees are no longer mere executors, but essential players in the production process. Their ideas, creativity and commitment are valued and encouraged. They are the driving force behind continuous improvement, helping to change constraints and steer production.

This paradigm shift, which places people at the heart of the process, is a revolution in the industrial world. It offers unprecedented opportunities for improvement and growth, by harnessing the creative and innovative potential of every team member. It represents a major turning point in the way we think about production and business management, paving the way for a new era of efficiency and creativity.

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