Applied Lean Consulting

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How to get started with implementing lean.

One of the most commonly asked questions relating to Lean is…

How can I remove the waste activities from my business, when we produce so many things or when our range of services is so large?

The answer is to identify the main product group that’s responsible for the largest chunk of your business. A simple volume/value analysis will demonstrate how this works.

For example, a company we are helping just now imports more than 1500 product lines, but 50% of the profit is accounted for by only 124 SKUs. Another service based business, conducting environmental testing, found that their top 20 tests accounted for 34% of their business but 80% of their business was on just 16% of their services. In both
cases, fixing the common processes across the major chunks of business, will drive significant improvement through the whole of the company.

After we’ve identified our Value Stream, we need to map it, so we can take an objective look at it works and where it can be improved. Our 7 point plan includes:

1) Start with the end in mind. Identify the customer deliverables – or more specifically, what the customer is willing to pay for, and the rate of customer demand.

2) Work backwards from the customer identifying the major process steps, writing them up on post-its and sticking them on a wall. For complex processes, we would recommend working out the large chunks of processes on paper first using the SIPOC tool (Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Customer). This will help identify the key elements and make mapping the process easier. This step will provide you with a good visual picture of all the processes steps in order to satisfy the customer.

3) Take a ‘helicopter view’ at this stage, not digging into too much detail at this stage, but add the information flow, the handoffs to other teams and the dependencies between process steps.

4) Identify the triggers between steps; for example, how does one process know when to start and what are the deliverables from that process.

5) Add metrics where possible, to identify how long it takes to get work done, the delays between process steps and where we need to revert to previous steps to fix problems.

6) Stand back and take an objective look at your end to end process. We like, at this stage, to go and see how it works in reality – in effect adding another dimension to our process map.

7) Work with the team to identify the pinchpoints and improvement opportunities to help the work flow better from beginning to end.

So now that you have a good idea of the current way you’re working and the opportunities you have to improve, you can start to develop your future state map and the implementation plan.

ALC specialise in helping businesses to realise their potential through the elimination of waste in business processes. Contact us for more details.