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Lean Reference Guide > Lean Dictionary

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"I" Terms
from The Continuous Improvement Companion

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  • Implementation

    An implementation is simply the act of putting a plan into effect. It can also refer to a change in a strategy or a system.

    In continuous improvement, the term ‘implementation’ commonly refers to Lean as a whole, or can mean implementing the system-based tools, such as pull, kanban, or standard work.

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  • Important vs. Urgent (+ 9-Page PDF)

    Important vs. Urgent Lean Term on PDF

    Distinguishing between important and urgent can mean the difference between spending all your time firefighting, and being able to move on to fire prevention. Learn more and download a FREE 9-Page PDF on importance and urgency.

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  • Improvement, Daily

    See also Daily Improvement.

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  • Improvements

    Improvements are simply changes for the better. Lean and other continuous improvement philosophies all focus on using some sort of problem solving method to drive improvement. Improvements can range from new, better computer systems, to kaizen events, on down to moving a garbage can closer to the point of use.

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  • Indicators

    Monitoring indicators give companies a sense of what is going on, or what is going to happen.

    An indicator is a signal that can be used to understand or predict a behavior of a person or system. A poker player has ‘tells’. By identifying and monitoring those indicators, his opponents try to predict the player’s behavior.

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  • Indirect Costs

    Indirect costs are those expenses that are not directly attributable to a single cost center or cost object (product line, service, etc.) Indirect costs may include shared resources or overhead.

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  • Industrial Discipline

    Industrial discipline is the act of doing the right thing on the shop floor. Industrial discipline means practicing 5S and putting tools away, using andons and reporting problems even if they make you look bad, and following Standard Work every time.

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  • Information

    Information is application of data in context. Information also has the element that it can be acted upon. The weight of an elephant, for example, is a piece of data. Knowing if a bridge is strong enough for the elephant to cross is information.

    Information can be costly to acquire. Generally speaking, the harder a piece of information is to learn, the more of a competitive advantage it bestows. When everyone knows something, there is often no way to use the information in a unique way.

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  • Information Technology (IT)

    Information Technology (also known as IT) is the group primarily responsible for maintaining a company’s computer and communications systems.

    Information Technology groups are also responsible for selecting, installing, updating, training, and troubleshooting the software systems in a company.

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  • Initiative

    Initiative is taking action on one’s own. It generally involves going above and beyond a typical job description, or working outside of one’s functional area.

    Many bosses want employees to take more initiative, especially in Lean companies, but fail to establish some of the basic prerequisites.

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  • Inputs

    Inputs are the factors that are necessary to complete a process. They may be environmental (heat, humidity), labor, material, or anything else that is required.

    Some inputs, though, are not intentional—the proverbial ‘flies in the ointment’. Controlling these inputs is critical to delivering high quality results from a process.

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  • Inspections

    An inspection is a review to confirm the quality of a product. Inspections vary widely in their formality, and in the location where they are done.

    The closer an inspection is to the point where an error is made, the quicker the problem can be corrected.

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  • Intangibles

    Intangibles are those things that are not clearly perceptible. Many of the benefits of Lean appear, at first glance, to fall into this category.

    Upon deeper consideration, though, you will likely find that many intangibles can actually be measured. ‘Morale’ seems intangible, but can be measured by turnover, satisfaction surveys, or even the quantity of laughter in the company.

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  • Intelligence

    Intelligence is one of the many facets of ‘smartness’ Intelligence is the capacity to learn. It doesn’t always translate into actually possessing knowledge. Having the capacity to learn does not mean that one has actually learned.

    Intelligence is a highly valued trait in Lean, as continuous improvement works best in a learning organization—one that assesses shortcomings, and seeks understanding about why problems happened. People are also often asked to use new tools or work outside their comfort zone, both of which benefit from intelligence.

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  • Intermittent Problems

    Intermittent problems are simply ones that don’t occur every time a process is performed. The inconsistency with which intermittent problems present makes them extremely hard to resolve.

    The most common form of intermittent problem is the computer glitch. Something happens once, and then the problem goes away for a while.

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  • Internal Setup

    An internal setup is a task done to get a machine ready to switch from one product to another that must be done when the machine is stopped. Obviously, the problem is that internal setup limits the time a machine can be running.

    As part of any setup reduction effort, improvement teams should first try to change any internal setup to an external setup, meaning it can be done while the machine is running. While this can make the setup take longer, the additional time is spent while the machine is running, so it doesn’t impact the throughput of the machine.

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  • Internal Suppliers

    A supplier who is a part of the same company as ists customer is an internal supplier. They may providers products or services. They are the upstream processes and the support groups that provide their coworkers with the tools to do their jobs.

    Internal suppliers and customers often have a rocky relationship. Because no money is changing hands, their customers don’t limit what they ask for. There is little way for an internal supplier to really understand what is most important to their customers. External customers, because they speak with their wallets, show their priorities in what they are willing to pay for.

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  • Interruption Log

    Interruption Log

    The Interruption Log helps team members identify the various sources of distraction that disrupts their work flow throughout the day.

    Format: XLSX

    Regular Price: Free for Registered Users

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  • Interviews vs. Interrogations

    In continuous improvement, you often have to go out and collect information from people. Sometimes it is from observations. Often, though, you will be speaking directly to people doing the process, and you will be asking them questions.

    Keep in mind one important distinction. Interviews generally seek answers. Interrogations seek confessions. Don’t go into an interview with the intention of figuring out who is at fault for a problem. 

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  • Inventory

    Inventory is the collective term for finished goods that you intend to sell, and the components that go into those goods.

    Inventory is a necessary evil of production. Without inventory, nothing could be built, and nothing could be sold. But too much inventory drives up costs. Inventory must be stored, managed, moved, and insured. Obsolete inventory must be disposed of. Large quantities of inventory require large warehouses, forklifts, and staff. Plus there is, of course, the capital (invested money) that goes into purchasing the inventory in the first place.

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  • Investments in People

    Investments trade current resources for future gains. The most common forms of investment include:

    • Financial holdings designed to provide a return on investment (ROI) in the form of appreciation, dividends, or interest.
    • Physical holdings intended to appreciate or generate income, such as real estate
    • Physical items used to create other products or provide services, such as software systems or CNC machines
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  • Issues

    Although this is not specifically a Lean term, ‘issue’ is a starting point for many forms of Lean problem solving. An issue is much like a ‘problem’. It looks like a problem. It smells like a problem. It feels like a problem. Only, it’s not a problem. It’s an issue.

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