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How The Principles of Lean Can Transform a Business

In the modern business world, competition is fierce and margins are tight. Smart organizations strive to create a culture of continuous process improvement where the search for operational excellence never truly ends. In this situation, methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma provide powerful tools that help streamline processes and eliminate waste.

At its core, Lean Six Sigma is a data-driven approach to process improvement that combines two distinct methodologies – Lean methodology and Six Sigma. Lean focuses on identifying and eliminating waste, while Six Sigma aims to reduce variation and defects in processes. By integrating these two methodologies, Lean Six Sigma provides a comprehensive framework for organizations to optimize their operations and deliver greater value to customers.

Professionals who enroll in the Principles of Lean program through SMU Continuing and Professional Education (CAPE) will learn about the five principles of Lean and how they provide clear guidance on the step-by-step processes needed to achieve goals that can help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of any type of organization.

What Are the Five Principles of Lean?

The five principles of Lean provide a blueprint that guides organizations in their ongoing quest for operational excellence. Originally developed for manufacturing, these principles have proven effective in a variety of industries.

Value: Identify what value means from the customer’s perspective. Value is defined as any action or process that directly contributes to meeting customer needs and requirements.

Value Stream: Map the value stream, which includes the entire end-to-end process that delivers a product or service. Value stream mapping involves visually documenting every step in the process, from raw materials or inputs to the final delivery of the product or service.

Flow: Create flow within the value stream. Flow refers to the smooth movement of work or information through the production or service delivery process. Organizations must strive to eliminate delays, interruptions and unnecessary handoffs that impede flow.

Pull: Establish pull-based systems, where work is pulled through the value stream in response to customer demand. In a pull-based system, work is only initiated or produced when there is a demand from the next step in the process or from the customer.

Perfection: Strive for perfection through continuous improvement. Perfection, in the context of Lean, refers to a state where all activities add value, waste is eliminated and processes operate at maximum efficiency.

Putting the Five Principles of Lean to Use

Lean encourages continuous improvement and the idea that even small improvements can lead to big gains. Small achievements in areas such as shorter lead times in the supply chain, enhanced product quality and waste reduction are important, according to Forbes.

“In any industry, minor improvements in efficiency, innovation and production can have an enormous influence on profits,” noted Forbes, later adding, “Lean management can help organizations achieve all that and more.”

The five principles of Lean can help organizations reach goals quickly and for the long-term. For example, by focusing on identifying what truly matters to customers, businesses align their products and services with customer needs and preferences. It allows leaders to prioritize activities that directly contribute to delivering value to customers while eliminating those that do not.

Mapping the value stream enables businesses to better understand their end-to-end processes and allows them to quickly identify inefficiencies, bottlenecks and areas of waste. This allows businesses to streamline operations, optimize workflows and improve efficiency.

Creating flow ensures uninterrupted movement of work or information and makes it easier to eliminate delays and interruptions. This principle enables organizations to improve productivity, reduce cycle times and enhance responsiveness to customer demand. As a result, businesses can deliver products or services more efficiently, minimize inventory levels and improve cash flow, driving higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Establishing pull-based systems helps businesses align production or service delivery with customer demand. This helps prevent overproduction, reduce excess inventory and minimize waste associated with waiting or idle time.

By striving for perfection, businesses can work toward establishing a culture of continuous improvement. While it may be an ideal that is never fully achieved, the pursuit of continuous improvement drives businesses to constantly seek ways to enhance efficiency, quality and customer value.

Lean and Lean Six Sigma Training

The Principles of Lean program introduces students to essential tools and concepts associated with Lean methodology and explains how to apply these techniques to make quick and impactful changes. The program is applicable for professionals in virtually any industry or job role who desire to better understand how to get to the source of operational problems and improve customer satisfaction.

CAPE also offers certificates in Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. These programs dive deeper into the intersection between Lean methodology and Six Sigma methodology and teach more advanced concepts to help make a professional more valuable to organizations, paving the way toward additional career growth opportunities.