Lean Business techniques have revolutionised many organizations in the last 20 years.

Companies of varying backgrounds can be found implementing Lean as a vehicle to improve product quality, delivery performance and to reduce cost. In parallel many organisations also find themselves reaping the benefits of increased employee satisfaction through the true empowerment Lean provides.

Lean is a holistic approach that enables businesses improve their profitability and competitiveness through the identification and systematic elimination of wasteful practices and behaviour.

It improves business processes by focusing on the elimination of all non-value-added activities and creating of a true flow; efficient and effective throughput of product or service based on the customer’s requirements.

Most business processes are unbalanced, driven by batch thinking, whether in production of administrative operations, and as a result they create waste in the form of poorly utilised resources, excessive inventory, poor quality, double handling and ultimately; dissatisfied customers and high costs.

Applied to the office, this focuses on reducing total cycle time—the time between orders being placed and when payments are received. For example, over 40% of total cycle time occurs at the front end of a process. Tasks such as taking orders, confirming credit, designing parts and ordering materials eat up approximately 42% of a typical company’s total cycle

A Lean business is about being able to do more with less and get more with less ultimately affecting the bottom line in a positive way.

A formal, but simple definition of Lean Business is:

A systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste (non value-added activities) through continuous improvement and producing only what customers need when they need it.”

It can be applied to all business processes, whether in manufacturing or service and administrative areas, and generates benefits which include; shorter lead times, lower cost, reduced space used and increased customer satisfaction.

The roots of lean are in the work of Taiichi Ohno, who was the architect of the Toyota Production System after the 2nd World War. These simple but effective techniques are now being widely adopted across all industry sectors and operational processes.

Typical benefits our clients achieve are;

• Increased sales and profits
• Increased productivity
• Reduced lead time and cycle time
• Reduced inventory
• Increased capacity
• Improved quality and on-time delivery
• Increased customer and employee satisfaction


There are many lean tools which are available to assist your company on your lean journey:

Value stream mapping
Set up reduction
5S system
Cellular/flow manufacturing
Pull systems kanban
Poka yoke


Value Stream Mapping follows the material and information flows throughout the Value Chain and depicts these flows in a visual way. It is very simple for individuals to understand through the creation of this map, where waste exists in the process, and the causes of these wastes. Non value added activities such as delay, excess stock, work in progress and long lead times, will all be highlighted.

Value Stream Mapping is a simple and visual tool that depicts the way businesses currently operate “The Current State Map” and how they might operate after improvement “The Future State Map” Based on your value stream map, you can streamline work processes, thereby, cutting lead times and reducing operating costs.

Applying lean techniques to the Current State Map allows the Team to develop a shared Future State Map. From these maps a robust implementation plan is developed allowing, scarce resources to be aligned and deployed in the achievement of common objectives. The development of the plan will also identify any shortfalls in the required skills and knowledge.

Value Stream Mapping encourages organisations to look at their entire operation to seek an integrated Future State Map rather than cherry pick what are perceived to be the areas of greatest improvement opportunity.


Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED), or Fast Changeover, is as the name suggests the method by which equipment can be changed from one product to the next in the most effective way, and in the shortest possible time.

Single Minute Exchange of Die is an objective whereby all changeovers are completed in a single number of minutes (less than 10). SMED. is an integral part of Total Productive Maintenance where one of the six major losses is changeover time.

Manufacturers often produce products in much longer runs than their customers actually require to achieve economies of scale; this is also known as producing in economic batch quantities. The economic batch quantity refers to the ratio between actual production time and changeover. Obviously the longer the production run in relation to the changeover time, the more efficient the process would appear.

The problems with large batch manufacture are:

• Businesses are inflexible; it is uneconomic to change products over at short notice.
• Large amounts of stock or work in progress are created, and have to be stored.
• Stock can easily become damaged or obsolete.
• Large runs promote the problem of undetected defects.

The rationale behind SMED is that: if changeovers can be carried out in shorter times, then production runs can be reduced accordingly, reducing or eliminating all of the above problems. By implementing SMED organisations can manufacture products at times, and in quantities, much closer to what, and when, their customers require them.

We have extensive experience helping clients implement SMED often the seemingly impossible is achieved, with typical changeover reduction activities resulting in a reduction in tool change times, of between 50 & 90%

Satisfying customer demand from the manufacturing process rather than from stock has a significant impact on the levels of finished goods stock and its associated cost. Often warehouses previously required for the storage of stock can be redeployed for use in activities that actually add-value to the business rather than act as a drain.

Benefits of SMED Summary:

• Increased flexibility
• Reduced inventory and related storage costs
• Reduction in waste
• Reduction in start-up losses
• Improved equipment utilisation


The 5S system is a methodical approach that enables teams to organise their workplace in the safest and most efficient may. The first stage involves removing all unnecessary items from the workplace; what is left is than placed in a permanent location which is optimised for how, where and at what frequency the item will be used.

A policy of inspecting and repairing equipment (service and / or production) as part of a cleaning regime is then undertaken with the entire process being managed through the use of team generated audit documents.

A significant part of the workplace organisation process involves the use of visual tools where everything that takes place within the workplace is easily understood by everyone, including strangers to the process. Visual management encompasses the fundamentals such as clearly defined gangways, isle and corridors, where it is safe / unsafe to move and store, protective equipment requirements, product description, equipment and its performance, through to more detailed issues such as: performance targets, customer feedback, improvement activities, staff skills etc.

Although on the surface this may seem a lengthy means of creating a tidy work area, the 5S system should be seen as much more, generating a real return to organisations in many areas.

Benefits of 5S / 5C Workplace Organisation:

• Improvement in health & safety
• Improvement in productivity & quality
• Reduction in waste
• Employees having a greater sense of ownership
• A solid foundation upon which to build continuous improvement
• A better working environment that keeps things clear and simple - when things look right, they often are. 5S stands for:

Japanese Westernised Meaning
Seri Sort Clear Out
Seiton Straghten Configure
Seiso Sweep Clean and Check
Seiketsu Standardise Conformity
Shitsuke Systemise Custom and Peace

When processes are balanced, the product flows continuously and customer demands are easily met. Cellular/Flow Manufacturing is the linking of manual and machine operations into the most efficient combination of resources to maximise value-added content while minimising waste. The most efficient combination implies the concept of process balancing. Only in a balanced process will the product continually flow. As a result, parts movement is minimised, waiting time between operations is reduced, inventory is reduced and productivity increases.


Pull Systems/Kanban control the flow of resources in a production process by replacing only what has been consumed. They are customer order-driven production schedules based on actual demand and consumption rather than forecasting.

Implementing Pull Systems can help eliminate waste in handling, storing and getting your product to the customer on time, every time.


Poka Yoke, or Fail-safing, is a technique used in making the integrity of a process more robust and is often described as error proofing. Implemented correctly, and comprehensively, Poka Yoke literally means that the process in question is incapable of generating a quality problem.

The process is simple and is often used in conjunction with team-based problem solving as part of a permanent corrective action.

In today’s business environment customers expect and demand excellence. Most quality-focussed individuals will recognise that 100% inspection does not generate 100% quality. Even 200% inspection (doing the job twice) still only secures around 80% quality. Therefore it is imperative that the process is designed in such a way that it is only possible to make perfect quality outputs.

The fundamental objective of Poka Yoke is to shift the emphasis from post-production inspection to detecting the actual error or root cause that can lead to the defect being produced. After identification of the root cause, a countermeasure is developed that will prevent the recurrence of that particular failure mode. This countermeasure will be in the form of a physical change to the process; such that no matter what takes place the specific failure will be prevented from reoccurring.

By continually applying Poka Yoke to the process the entire operation will eventually be incapable of generating any failure. In some complex operations there may be many instances of Poka Yoke such that the overall integrity of the process is secured.


Kaizen is an intensive and focused approach to process improvement.

Kaizen, (kai – zen) are Japanese words that literally translates to good change, which in the West we know as Continuous Improvement. The principle of Kaizen is to empower many people to make relatively small, but good, or positive changes within their own area of expertise. This is in contrast with major changes conducted by third parties, or relatively small numbers of individuals who are often detached from the process.

Implementing a culture of Kaizen or Continuous Improvement is a holistic process that requires the commitment and support of management and the active participation of the entire workforce.

Individuals need to understand and be accountable for the local key performance indicators attributable to their specific area of the business and aligned with corporate goals. Therefore, they contribute towards overall organisational success.

The overall objective is to establish a culture where the business is divided into autonomous areas of excellence with their own process measures and Kaizen improvement programme, all contributing to overall organisational goals and success.

The results are real-time with implementation occurring within one week. Not only will you see immediate improvements to your process, you will also develop a list of the improvement opportunities that others can investigate and implement also. Kaizen will provide your company with immediate tangible results, motivation and ongoing continuous improvement.

Typical Kaizen tools and improvement techniques include:

• Process measurement and analysis
• Visual management
• The Deming wheel of improvement - plan, do, check, act
• Waste elimination
• Zero defects
• Total Productive Maintenance
• SMED. Single Minute Exchange of Dies
• Kanban & Just in Time
• Line/process balancing
• Poka yoke
• Team building
• Problem solving



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