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Bringing lean into your total organization

All businesses should strive to bring lean into their total organization. A lean business will enjoy greater success, happier customers, a reduced amount of wasted resources, and a commitment to continually improve.

So what exactly is lean? A lean organization is one that reduces waste throughout the entire process of delivering a product or a service to a customer. By focusing on each step of the process as a whole, it is easier for a business to identify wasteful activities and processes between each step, allowing them to eliminate them and save time and money. This in turn makes the process more productive, resulting in more satisfied customers.

Also called lean manufacturing, this process was developed and coined by the Toyota Production System in Japan . Many of the phrases used within lean manufacturing are Japanese and are still used when referencing lean manufacturing.

Benefits of a Lean Organization
The benefits of bringing lean into your total organization are many. They include:
Increased customer satisfaction. The whole concept of a lean organization is customer-centered. Customer satisfaction increases within a lean organization as lean reduces defects and is more efficient, resulting in quicker deliveries of products that are better.
Savings. A lean organization saves far more money than a company that has not incorporated lean. Bringing lean into your total organization reduces waste, which in turn reduces costs. In addition, the processes are more efficient, allowing businesses to quickly identify costly problems or areas and then work to eliminate them.
Employee morale/productivity. Productivity increases as time-consuming processes are eliminated from the entire manufacturing process. This results in faster turnaround to market, improving morale within the company.
Quicker time to market. When company reduces waste by bringing lean into their organization's manufacturing process, products reach the market much quicker than they normally would.

Bringing Lean into Your Organization
You've seen the benefits of bringing lean into your organization; now how do you do it? While it is an ongoing process, here are some steps your organization should take when bringing lean into the manufacturing process:
Establish goals or success measures. Establishing goals, or success measures, is the first step in bringing lean into your organization. These goals could be to improve customer satisfaction, or reduce production costs by 10%, or reduce the time it takes for the product to go to market.
Identify waste and then work to eliminate it. Keep in mind that waste does not have to be tangible; anything that keeps the product from being produced and delivered in a timely fashion can be considered waste. This is why bringing lean into an organization is an ongoing process - there are always processes that can be improved upon.
Customer feedback. Because lean organizations are customer-centered, you must develop a system of customer feedback. You may have lean in your organization, but whether or not it is reaching its ultimate goal of exceeding the customer's expectations will be unknown unless you have a system in place. This could be through meetings, feedback forms, or mailers.
Service Agreements. Establish service agreements between each area of support, as well as its customers, to determine what is expected in terms of quality and service.

Ultimately, to main goal of a lean organization is to deliver a customer's product exactly the way they want it at the precise time they need it. A lean organization establishes a system that allows that to happen by eliminating waste and being as efficient as possible.

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