The Complete Overview of Lean Thinking

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Oct 17, 2023

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Lean Thinking is a time-tested method for increasing the efficiency of your services by eliminating inefficient operations that bring no quality services to the customers. Successful businesses are constantly on the lookout for innovating and improving their operations and earning additional revenue. As a result, it increases consumer value while eliminating organisational wastage, resulting in a streamlined and efficient business model.

Lean Thinking

How is Lean thinking defined?

Lean Thinking is a type of structured business strategy built on the legacy of Japanese manufacturing methods that have been implemented globally in several different industries. Lean is fundamentally an attitude toward work that seeks to manage tasks systematically and efficiently, rather than a set of procedures. Lean thinking principles emphasise continuously improving corporate operations to maximise customer value.

The pioneers of Lean

Lean Thinking is a continuous quality improvement process that began in the 1950s at Toyota with the development of the Toyota Motor Company. It is a systematic technique to improve value stream flow and eliminate waste substantially.

Lean is often a collaborative effort involving many employees throughout an organisation. In 2002, the Virginia Mason Health Centre in Seattle used lean thinking ideas. By focusing on waste reduction, they have increased production within existing systems and processes, allowing for the cancellation of proposed expansions, resulting in substantial capital savings. Employees, professionals, and patients have consistently improved systems to decrease wastage, reworking, and enhance product quality.

What Is the Purpose of Lean Thinking?

Lean aims to maximise service quality in the period specified while maintaining the maximum standards for customers. Additional roles and objectives include maintaining high employee morale, ensuring employee safety, and satisfying customers' needs.

i) Respect for individuals and cultural diversity

Respect for others and their culture is a fundamental human requirement. Respect enables participants to develop and progress. Management encourages employees to evolve and find new ways of performing. Team members are responsible for learning problem-solving and assessment skills for implementing the necessary adjustments.

Culture transformation is achievable when the need is urgent. First, learn and apply SAFe ideas and concepts. Second, you must provide positive results. The culture will gradually develop over time.

ii) Flow

Continuous flow offers the more effective distribution of future profitability, successful Built-In Quality procedures, continual innovation, and evidence-based management depending on the solution's functional elements.

These include analysing and regulating Work in Process (WIP), minimising batch sizes, and optimising queue lengths. Lean also focuses on determining and eliminating delays and inefficiency.

Lean practices incorporate new ideas, tools, and methodologies into the planning process.

iii) Innovation

This is the foundation of value delivery. The products and processes will deteriorate without advancement.

However, industrial businesses can reduce waste output by adhering to lean thinking principles. Companies can reduce energy consumption, use recycled materials, and adopt other eco-friendly activities.

iv) Continuous improvement

It promotes constant reflection and process improvement. A persistent sense of competitive threat motivates the organisation to pursue improvement aggressively.

Utilise Lean tools and approaches to promptly ascertain the root cause of inefficiency and implement effective responses.

5 Lean Thinking Principles

The effectiveness of Lean initiatives depends on the implementation of these 5 principles. Analyse the value, mapping the value stream, make flow, develop pull, and aim for perfection.

1. Identify value-adding activities

To initiate the Lean process, you must first understand that values are essential to your target market. This is very important to make customers satisfied.

You must first determine what the customer requires and why they demand it to determine value. Then you must decide that you will provide that benefit to them. When you determine these 2 factors, you can properly dispose of the wastage.

2. Value Stream Mapping

This stage maps every process that helps the organisation achieve its goals (adds value).

After mapping the processes, the unproductive elements are identified and removed. Only those processes that are beneficial to the end-user are preserved. And in the majority of cases, this amounts to only 10 per cent of the total.

3. Establish a flow 

Wastage is unavoidable when the flow of value is interrupted. Therefore, it is now necessary to establish a continuous value chain.

At this stage, wastage is reduced, allowing value to flow smoothly to the ultimate user. As a result, the total production process should begin to improve. But it's crucial to realise that not all waste-generating activities can be eliminated, so don't waste time.

4. Create a pull

Allow customers to get value when and where they need it now that value is moving through the value chain. This involves balancing consumption and production, which reduces money and effort.

5. Enhance the procedure

To reach perfection, return to the initiation phase and repeat the process. If you intend to gain the full benefits of the production line or other business processes, the lean adjustments should not be a one-time activity. When a process undergoes a cycle of waste elimination, hidden sub-processes that contribute to wastage can arise. To maximise the entire process, you must consistently remove them.

Assessment of the value stream and the identification of waste

Based on this core premise, lean management will produce more value for less money by developing each employee's confidence, competence, and communication skills.

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a critical technique for identifying and mitigating process waste. A business cannot do without this essential lean tool when starting on a lean journey. 

VSM assists users in developing a strong implementation strategy that maximises available resources and ensures optimal use of materials and time. Likewise, value Stream Evaluation is an essential method for reducing waste.

Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

This flowchart form incorporates symbols referred to as "the language of Lean" to represent and enhance the inventory flow and associated information. In addition, it includes two valuable tools.

  1. The value analysis distinguishes between processes that provide value from the customers' perspective and those that don't.
  2. Flow Analysis determines the time spent on each stage.

This identifies non-value-adding tasks and the associated costs and sets the foundation for waste elimination and automating the process.

The benefits of lean Thinking for your business

The following are five ways LEAN can help you improve your business.

1. It saves money while adding value

According to the Lean Enterprise Resource Centre, 60% of organisations have processes that provide minimal value to the organisation. This means a considerable part of the population wastes funds and resources on illegal operations without even understanding it.

Eliminating these 'inefficient' operations enables businesses to cut expenses while increasing value by concentrating their efforts on more productive and valuable activities.

2. It provides you with a strategic advantage

Lean Thinking enables organisations to produce high-quality product lines for their customers without significantly increasing their prices. Incorporating LEAN helps businesses save unnecessary expenses, and it also enhances the business' profitability, ensuring that the product/service is of the best quality. This gives LEAN enterprises an advantage over the non-lean competition.

3. It enhances your business's reputation

When a business implements LEAN, it provides confidence to the consumer. LEAN strives to give the highest quality products and services to its clients, who are thus more inclined to trust the enterprise and value their expenditures. Once a business establishes a reputation for offering high-quality products/services, its exceptional reputation will aid in the establishment and expansion of the business.

4. It boosts morale in the workplace

According to the LEAN philosophy, managers will be more like mentors or leaders than bosses to maximise team efficiency. This enables employees to grow and advance in their careers and generates a far more pleasant work atmosphere. Taking care of your staff, and increasing their morale and participation, will also result in substantial productivity increases.

5. It will be more eco-friendly

LEAN takes an environmentally friendly strategy while also improving productivity. By eliminating all waste that has no value to the business, manufacturing quality is maintained. This often has a positive environmental impact as a result. Additionally, promoting your organisation as eco friendly is an excellent strategy for gaining an advantage over the competitors.


Lean is often a collaborative effort involving many employees across an organisation. Lean Thinking assists firms in developing and designing effective business processes that result in the formation of products that customers require. Lean Thinking changes an organisation's mindset, focusing on continual development and respect for people. In a Lean organisation, this approach drives transformation. The same kind of change benefits both the firm and its customers. 

In an ever-evolving corporate environment, lean thinking principles provide the flexibility to deliver value continually. Using Lean principles can steer your organisation toward a more robust, sustainable future. 

This Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification program offers you how to apply Six Sigma methods practically. In addition to teaching you the fundamentals, it is one of the best online six sigma courses available for earning your Six Sigma certification.

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