The ultimate form of production is to produce to order, 1 piece at a time. The Kanban concept is derived from the idea that demand is communicated to production, and production makes only what is demanded. Each upstream process produces only what is necessary to satisfy demand of the downstream process, no less, no more. The result is an amazing reduction in inventory, one of the 7 wastes, as well as the ability for everyone to see defects, other forms of waste, and more importantly, opportunities for improvement, Kaizen leading to Kata.
KANBAN / PULL SYSTEMS
At the core of any Lean journey or implementation is the training and understanding of how to identify waste. Everyone in the enterprise lives and works in and around waste all day long. Even the most efficient processes have waste in one form or another.
Waste is anything that is non-value added in an enterprise. The "8 Wastes" that are discussed in nearly all Lean literature, represented by the acronym DOWNTIME, are: Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-utilization of talent, Transportation, Inventory, Motion, and Extra-processing. Lean practioners should be able to perform a Gemba walk and identify the Muda, the wastes, in any environment.
Lean is a method for the elimination of waste ("Muda") within a process. Lean takes into account waste created through overburden ("Muri") and waste created through unevenness in work loads ("Mura"). These concepts are from the perspective of an enterprise in how they can reduce or eliminate non-value-addedness within the enterprise.
From the perspective of the client who consumes an enterprise's product or service, value is any action or process that a transform the output of the product, service or information, is done right the first time, and the customer would be willing to pay for it.
Together, lean is focused on eliminating that which is non-value-added, and increasing what is value-added.
A "LEAN" DEFINITION
Funny words, but they're no joke! When it comes to assuring the highest quality product or service, reducing or eliminating rework, and avoiding other forms of waste, Poke Yoke-ing is the way to go.
Poke Yoke is any means by which a process is mistake-proofed. While it is well known in manufacturing and assembly processes, it can also be used in transactional processes as well.
The goal of any Lean implementation should be to empower, enact, and support Kaizen...true, non-formal, continuous improvement. For most organizations, Kaizen takes on two definitions. The first definition of Kaizen pertains to the philosophy and practice of continuous improvement. Unfortunately this "type" of Kaizen isn't something that can be trained...it has to be learned and engrained into the culture of the enterprise.
However, the second definition of Kaizen, a process of rapid, focused, and effective change, can be practiced, coached, and modeled in such a manner that it takes on a life of its own. Most enterprises use Kaizen events to drive quick changes to processes in order to engage the human resources, drive improvements, eliminate waste, and to help foster cultural shifts towards the first definition.
Standard work is an absolute necessity in order to begin a Lean journey. Without the establishment of a baseline from which to identify opportunities, it is difficult to understand the real results of Kata and the effects of focused Kaizen.
Standard work is used to establish roles, responsibilities, accountabilities, and expected results, all of which help the enterprise see and sense waste, defects, and non-value-addedness.
Standard work applies to all processes and all people, and is the foundation of true sustained operational excellence.
Its been said for decades, a picture is worth a thousand words. Following those words of wisdom, making things visual inside a very dynamic environment such as a manufacturing facility, an operating room, or even an office area makes it a whole lot easier to communicate and for everyone to understand the current state or condition. Kaizen requires there to be two states, the current state, and the future state. If the future state is some desirable (and sometimes not yet known) condition, one must be able to see clearly the current state.
Implementing Visual Factory systems is another simple, yet highly effective means to assure total communication and total engagement. More communication is better, but less ambiguity in the communication is also better. Thus, a Visual Factory!
A place for everything, and everything in its place (when being used or otherwise). 5S is a simple, fundamental, and extremely powerful means to create a Lean culture in an enterprise. Yet despite its conceptual simplicity, the process required to achieve sustainable results is fairly rigid.
Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain...the 5 S's. 5S isn't just something that is "done"! It's a way of life in a Lean culture. Used correctly, wastes are easily identified, defects and issues show themselves, Kaizen is self-sustaining, and operational excellence is achievable.