Lean concepts

Friday, February 29, 2008

Q. You've discussed the different components of lean thinking, but how do we get started?

A. Before implementing a lean program, you and your employees must understand what lean thinking is all about. A lean value stream focuses on reducing the waste identified in the current business operations. It may include reduced keystrokes, reduced steps, more use of technology or redesigned work spaces. But lean is not just about tools or an established set of procedures. It is a thought process more than anything else.
The typical method of implementing lean involves a just-in-time approach, which means you train employees when they are ready to be part of an improvement process. As employees begin to see the results of their improvement efforts, lean thinking becomes contagious and easier to spread to other areas and to other employees.
Once you have introduced basic lean thinking concepts to employees, a good place to begin hands-on lean implementation is with a 5S program in your warehouse and/or office operations. Among other things, 5S uses signage and other visual aids to help reduce the waste of searching.
You should also use "value stream mapping" to analyze a process from beginning to end. Intake, billing and distribution processes are all ideal areas to focus on. Once you have mapped out the current state and obtained data (process time, wait time and lead time), identifying wasted steps becomes more obvious. Employees will see the waste of waiting and duplication, and rework within each process or value stream.
Once the new or changed processes have been in place for a few months, collect the same data that was collected initially and assess and quantify improvement.
Once people understand lean thinking and how it can improve the business from beginning to end, it will become easier to implement and sustain. hme
Chris Calderone is the founder of Lean Homecare Consulting Group. He can be reached at 734-709-5487 or chrisc@leanhomecare.com