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Lean Manufacturing Principles

Have an intimate knowledge of customer value

Know what your customers value or are willing to pay for.  Do they value services, product quality, lead-time, pricing or some other unknown factors?  Have a detailed understanding of what they value so that you can ensure your processes are creating the value they seek.

Having an intimate knowledge of customer value also includes internal customers.  Are you providing your downstream customers with what they need, when they need it, in the amount they need.  By providing downstream customers with what they value, you help improve the entire value stream.


Map the entire process to identify and maniacally eliminate waste.

While understanding what you customers value, map the entire process to get a detailed understanding of how you function today.  Map the process by going to see for yourself what is actually happening.  Utilize value stream mapping, process mapping, flow mapping, spaghetti mapping, video taping or any tool that enables detailed understanding.

Identify those actions which consume resources and create no value.  Redesign or create processes that eliminate activities you have defined as non-value added.


Create continuous flow to bring problems to the surface!

Redesign work processes to achieve high value add and continuous flow.  Strive to cut back to zero the amount of time that any work is sitting idle or waiting for someone to work on it.

Create flow to move material and information fast as well to link processes and people together so that problems surface right away.

Make flow conspicuous throughout your organizational culture.  It is the key to a true continuous improvement culture


Use pull systems to avoid overproduction!

Provide your downstream customers in the production process with what they want, when they want it, and in the amount they want.  Material replenishment is triggered by consumption is the basic principle of just-in-time.

Minimize your work in process and warehousing of inventory by stocking small amounts of each product and frequently restocking based on what the customer actually takes away.

Be responsive to the day-by-day shifts in customer demand rather than relying on computer schedules and systems to track wasteful inventory.


Level out the workload (Heijunka).

Eliminating waste is only a portion of the equation for making lean successful.  Eliminate overburden to people and equipment by reducing variation in the production schedule.

Level out the workload of all manufacturing and service processes as an alternative to the stop/start approach of working on projects in batches.

Muda - uselessness, wastefulness, waste

Mura - unevenness, irregularity

Muri - unreasonableness, impossible, overburden, by force

A lean culture is maniacally driven to eliminate Muda, Mura and Muri.


Utilize standardized processes for predictable outcomes and employee empowerment.

Use stable, repeatable methods everywhere to maintain the predictability, regular timing, and regular output of your  processes.  It is the foundation for flow and pull.

Capture the accumulated learning about a process up to a point in time by standardizing today's best practices.  Allow creative and individual expression to improve upon the standard: then incorporate it into the new standard so that when a person moves on you can hand off the learning to the next person.

One "Best" Way for All - Until the Next "Best" Way is Discovered.


Use visual controls so no problems are hidden!

Use simple visual indicators to help people determine immediately whether they are in a standard condition or deviating from it.

Avoid using a computer screen when it moves the workers focus away from the workplace.

Design simple visual systems at the place where the work is done, to support flow and pull.

Eliminate visuals that are not being used or ignored.

Visual Control = (Known + Seen + Acted) on by All


Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company's philosophy!

Create a strong, stable culture in which company values and beliefs are widely shared and lived out over a period of many years.

Train exceptional individuals and teams to work within the company philosophy to achieve exceptional results.  Work very hard to reinforce the culture continually.

Use cross-functional teams to improve quality and productivity and enhance flow by solving difficult technical problems.

Make ongoing effort to teach individuals how to work together as teams toward common goals.  Teamwork is something that has to be learned.

Empowerment = People Using the Companies Tools to Improve the Company


Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation!

Solve problems and improve processes by going to the source and personally observing and verifying data rather than theorizing on the basis of what other people or computer screen tell you.

Think and speak based on personally verified data.

Go and See Mentality at All Organizational Levels


Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly!

Avoid a single direction and moving down that path until you have thoroughly considered alternatives.  Once a decision is made, move quickly and continuously down the path.

Discuss problems and potential solutions with all those affected, to collect their ideas and get agreement, within company philosophy, on a path forward.  This consensus process, through time consuming, helps broaden the search for solutions and sets the stage for rapid implementation.

Go slow to go fast.