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Lean Reference Guide > Lean Dictionary

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"E" Terms
from The Continuous Improvement Companion

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  • Economy of Scale

    Economy of scale means that an organization is structured in such a way that as production volumes rise, per unit costs fall. In effect, this is a fancy of way to say ‘bigger is better’.

    It is based on the idea that a product has two basic components to its cost, fixed and variable. Fixed costs stay constant as production fluctuates, and variable costs shift as production changes. The cost of a building, for example, stays constant regardless of whether zero units or a million units are produced inside of it. The spending on widgets that go into the Widgetron 2000, conversely, goes up and down with the ebb and flow of production.

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  • Effectiveness

    Effectiveness is like the transmission of a car. It turns potential into results.

    Of course, there are two implications here. The first is that an individual has skills or characteristics that can lead to the desired outcome, or that a machine or process has the right capability and enough capacity.

    Just having the skills is not enough, though. A college degree doesn’t make a person effective at a job. It just tends to raise the potential of high performance. A fast machine doesn’t guarantee that the machine will be effective in a value stream. It just means that the manufacturing math can work out.

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  • Efficiency

    Efficiency, in the strictest sense of the definition is being able to produce something with the minimum amount of time and resources. Efficiency in Lean comes with a few cautions.

    The first warning regarding efficiency in Lean is to make sure you are using the term the same way that the people around you are. The definitions of efficiency, productivity, and utilization are all used in different ways by different people.

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  • Emotions

    Job emotions are rarely talked about. But let’s begin with emotion in general. Emotion is something that we are all familiar with. It is the internal reaction we have to things- the shriek when if you win the lottery, the gasp at the bad news, and the anger when someone tells us we are going to have to change our process.

    Job emotions, though, tend not to be outwardly expressed. People might burst into song with their kids at home. It seldom happens at a successful business meeting. Anger is expressed more vocally to friends on the basketball court than to bosses on the shop floor. Fear is addressed with spouse more than with coworkers.

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  • Employee Engagement

    Employee engagement describes a state of workers’ full commitment to the success of the company.

    Employee engagement is characterized by the worker making the extra effort and linking her personal success to corporate success.

    Employee engagement relies on two factors:

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  • Enforcement

    Enforcement is the act of compelling someone to follow a standard. Think of enforcement as the strong arm of discipline.

    With good discipline, people are inspired to follow rules and meet standards. But, as in all things, there are long tails on the discipline bell curve—some people naturally do the right things (especially engaged employees). Others need a push in that direction now and again. That’s where enforcement comes in.

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  • Engineers

    Engineers, not surprisingly, are people who are specially training in an engineering field. In a nutshell, they design solutions to a problem.

    Types of Engineers:

    • Design engineers solve problems by creating a product.
    • Software engineers solve problems with code.
    • Manufacturing engineers create processes to solve problems.
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  • Ergonomics

    Ergonomics is the broad study of how people interact with their environment. It covers a wide range of these interactions—from how people fit into their cars, to the way tools feel in people’s hands, to motion in the workplace. As with your car, a proper ‘fit’ in the workplace makes a job much easier to perform. More importantly, it also can help to reduce injury.

    There is a strong relationship between ergonomics and repetitive stress injuries. Lifting heavy objects at uncomfortable angles is also known to cause injury. Finally, fatigue occurs in poorly designed work areas. This can contribute to a higher injury rate because tired people tend to make more mistakes than rested ones.

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  • Errors

    Preventing errors is one of the ways Lean helps reduce waste.

    Before we talk about preventing errors, let’s first talk about what errors are. They are the gap between what happened and what should have happened. Simply put they are mistakes.

    Errors link to defects. Every defect that is identified can be tied to some error in an upstream process. It might be a supplier error, but it is still an error. Obviously, preventing errors in the first place prevents defects that can slip through to customers. Preventing errors reduces waste-an important foundation of Lean.

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  • Evidence

    Evidence is the data that supports a theory. It is what separates opinion from fact.

    Lean relies heavily on problem solving to make improvements. In order to get to the root cause of a problem, people in Lean companies must act like detectives, uncovering evidence to understand processes better.

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  • Executives

    Executives are the senior leaders in an organization. They make the sweeping decisions that affect a large cross-section of the company at the same time. These senior leaders are usually the ones responsible for bringing Lean into an organization and setting the course that it will follow.

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  • Expectations

    Setting expectations is part of the relationship building process–whether between a boss and a subordinate, or a Lean advocate and the rest of the company.

    One of the things that sets the human mind apart from that of animals is our ability to look into the future. That is generally a good thing, but there is one challenge that can come from this. When people look forward, they set expectations in their mind. When reality does not match up with this premonition of the future, anxiety, anger, or a host of other negative emotions can set in.

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  • Experience

    Does experience matter anymore? Despite the fact that people talk about experience with a degree of reverence, it has a changing role in continuous improvement.

    Experience is defined as having knowledge or practical wisdom from having done something. The more it was done, the more experience a person gained.

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  • External Setup

    Setup is the process of preparing a machine to run a product. Some of the steps of a setup must be done while a machine is shut off. That is known as internal setup.

    External setup is when…

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