Lean Tools: The 7 “forgotten” techniques

When talking about lean process improvement tools, many turn their eyes to Six Sigma, Kanban and even to lean canvas.

But what these people forget is that the origin of lean is in the use of tools to improve processes in an agile and practical way, aiming to reduce waste and create a “lean” process.

In this post let’s recall some of these lean process improvement tools processes that perhaps should be re-learned.

And if you also want to stay current on other topics related to this topic, check out some previous posts from our blog:

  • Lean Performance Improvement: A Guide
  • 7 Lean Wastes and 5 Six Sigma Steps
  • Lean Business Model Canvas: For Every Type of Organization
  • Lean Kanban Board: How does it differ from other agile methods?

7 lean process improvement tools

Of course we shouldn’t forget the main goal of using lean tools, which is to reduce the 7 wastes, but it’s important to understand how each one of them can help in the search for process optimization and making them leaner.

1- JIT: Just in time

With the proliferation of electronic commerce and increasingly extended and complex logistics chains, JIT can be one of the lean tools with great potential for use.

Its concept is simple: to produce exactly the quantity needed to supply deliveries and to do so only when they’re needed.

2- Jidoka

A liberal interpretation of this term could be: automation with a human touch. This lean tool is directly linked to quality control and allows automated processes to be interrupted by the human operator as soon as they notice a failure.

Therefore, with the proper training of operators, Jidoka reduces the need for a large number of quality inspectors, passing part of this task to the operator themselves.

3- Takt Time

Takt Time aims to make the time used in production be defined as a function of the real market demand.

By aligning production with demand, there’s an ideal rhythm also known as the “pull system”, ie the market’s need to “pull” production, not the other way around.

4- Heijunka

Also called lean programming, this lean tool aims to reduce production instability due to the changing demands of customers.

This requires the creation of a reliable sequencing of orders and a production schedule in small batches, trying to produce the same mix of products every day, which will generate faster, shorter inventories and produce a wide range of different products at the same time.

5- Poka-yoke

It uses “proof of error” devices, and thus avoids the occurrence of production defects. A practical example would be the impossibility of starting your car if you haven’t buckled your seat belt.

Lean Poka-yoke tools use some kind of physical control and sensors, such as our example, that prevent the error from occurring, stopping production if necessary.

6- 5S

5S is a tool you can use in the quest for total quality. It focuses on the mobilization of an entire company on 5 fundamental factors of quality promotion. These are words beginning with the letter S in Japanese, as follows:

  1. Seiri = Usage: avoid waste of resources and space
  2. Seiton = Organization: organize the workspace effectively
  3. Seiso = Cleaning: always keep the environment clean
  4. Siketsu = Standardization and Health: to determine norms that facilitate ergonomic and healthy work
  5. Shitisuke = Discipline: encourage collaboration and continuous improvement

7- Kaizen

This tool aims to reduce costs and increase productivity, through continuous improvement.

One way to implement this tool is through the famous PDCA cycle:

  • Plan
  • Do
  • Check
  • Act

See more details on this methodology by reading this post from our blog: What is the PDCA cycle? Understand each step in detail

Check out this chart with several of the lean process improvement tools we’ve cited, including some other equally important ones:

Lean Tools: The 7 “forgotten” techniques

Source: A3C

See this post for more details on how lean methodology can avoid waste in your company: Lean Business Process Improvement and how it will help your company

Eliminating jobs and tasks that don’t add value to the business, allows you to model a more effective and efficient business process. And this task can be greatly aided by the use of BPMN tools.

If you want to know more about this topic, checkout our free e-book online: The BPM Cookbook.

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