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Lean Reference Guide > Lean Dictionary

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"M" Terms
from The Continuous Improvement Companion

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  • Machine Cycle Time

    Machine cycle time is the time a machine actually requires to produce one unit of output.

    Machine cycle time has three basic components. It has the time to load the machine, the actual machining or machine time, and the unloading time.

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  • Machining Time / Machine Time

    Machining time (or machine time) is the time when a machine is actually processing something. Generally, machining time is the term used when there is a reduction in material. For example, in a drill press, machining time is when the cutting edge is actually moving forward and making a hole. Machine time is used in other situations, such as when a machine installs screws in a case automatically.

    The machining time, combined with the loading and unloading time, yields the machine cycle time, or the amount of time that the machine must commit to each part, once it is set up to run that product.

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  • Maintenance, Total Productive

    See also Total Productive Maintenance.

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  • Manager

    A manager is a person in a formal position of authority, generally responsible for guiding a team or process towards an established goal.

    In virtually all cases, a manager is in a formal position, as opposed to a leader who may be in either a designated or an informal role.

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  • Manufacturing, Just-in-Time

    See Just-in-Time Manufacturing.

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  • Marketing

    Marketing is the combination of art and science used to determine which products or services a customer will buy, and then crafting a message to make them more appealing.

    There is a veritable library of information available on marketing, so this term focuses on the impact continuous improvement efforts can have on marketing efforts.

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  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

    Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), is a psychologist made famous by his Heirarchy of Needs. He proposes that people have a tiered structure of needs, and the most basic of these must be met prior to dedicating attention to more advanced, or higher-order needs. The hierarchy, from lowest to highest, includes:

    1. Physiological Needs: These are the core needs shared by all living things—food, water, reproduction, etc.
    2. Safety Needs: Safety has changed in its meaning over time. Most people don’t fear the saber-tooth tiger anymore, but do fear unemployment, or loss of autonomy, or change.
    3. Love/Belonging Needs: People need to feel like a part of something—softball team, family, cult—whatever fills this need.
    4. Esteem Needs: People want to be respected. They need to feel a sense of accomplishment.
    5. Self-actualization: People want enlightenment. The drive for excellence in problem solving and continuous improvement efforts, as well as creative expression falls in here.
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  • Master Black Belt

    A Master Black Belt is an individual who has been certified to train other black belts. Black belts are the trainers and continuous improvement team coaches for a company.

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  • Mean (Average)

    The average or arithmetic mean (commonly just called the mean) is a measure of the central tendency of a sample. In layman’s terms, this is simply a way of describing what a representative item from a group would look like.

    The arithmetic mean is calculated by dividing the sum of the elements in the sample by the number of elements.

    The formula is…

    Arithmetic mean = element 1 + element 2 + … + element n / n

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  • Median

    The median is the point at which there are the same number of values above it as there are below it. This can apply to a sample, a full population, or distribution curve.

    When the data consists of a finite set (rather than a distribution curve), if there is an even number of data points, the median is the average of the two middle points.

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  • Meetings

    Meetings are a gathering of more than one person to discuss a specific topic.

    Well planned meetings have an agenda, a meeting manager who keeps the meeting on track, and a set objective.

    Poorly planned meetings generally miss out on one or more of those components, and as a result tend to waste the time of the attendees.

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  • Memory

    What did you have for breakfast last Tuesday? How many eggs are left in your refrigerator?

    If you had any trouble answering those questions, you will understand why memory is not a reliable tool for processes. People get distracted and skip steps. Requiring people to remember counts can be especially disastrous. It is easy to lose one’s place and come up with the wrong number, especially when the counts are highly repetitive (i.e. counting the number of items to put into a 10-pack).

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  • Mentor

    A mentor is an experienced, wise counselor. The mentor must be trusted by the student.

    This often precludes mentors from being in direct supervisory roles. People often feel cautious about sharing too much personal information with bosses.

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  • Metrics

    Metrics are the measurements that companies use to help a team meet its goals. Metrics are formal. They should be clearly defined and tracked regularly.

    More importantly, metrics should be acted upon. Tracking information without doing anything with it is demoralizing to teams, and consumes resources that can be used better elsewhere.

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  • Micromanagement

    Micromanagement is the act of giving excessive instructions to employees. It tends to reduce the effectiveness of an organization for a variety of reasons.

    1. If a manager is micromanaging an employee, he is not doing his own work, limiting his effectiveness.
    2. If a manager micromanages, her employees will be reluctant to take on challenges. They will fear reprimands if they do not do things exactly the way the boss would do it.
    3. Employees tend to have lower job satisfaction when they are not in control of their work. And this lack of control can lead to health issues, as determined by a University of Texas study (Men’s Health, April 2008).
    4. Lead times to make decisions get longer, as employees need their manager’s approval before taking action.
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  • Milestones

    Milestones were originally the stone markers along a route that told travelers the mileage. In modern times, milestones serve the same function for projects.

    Milestones are specific, definable points on a project that are used to indicate progress. If the milestones are vague, they are hard to tell when they are reached.

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  • Mistake Proofing

    Mistake proofing devices, also called poka yokes, are the most effective way to improve quality. In a nutshell, a process or product is designed in which a mistake is impossible.

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  • Mode

    The mode is the number which appears most frequently in a set of numbers. For a finite data set, as in a sample of measurements, the mode would be the number that appears the greatest number of times.

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  • Monuments

    Lean operations strive to move materials through processes in the smallest quantity possible. As a value stream approaches one piece flow, inventory tends to drop and productivity rises.

    Unfortunately, this streamlined flow is often interrupted by large, fixed pieces of equipment that are difficult to move or replace.

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  • Morale

    Morale is simply the attitude you have about work. Good morale means people are satisfied with their jobs and are willing to commit to the success of the company.

    With poor morale, people feel like the company is an adversary, and are reluctant to engage in much more that the minimum tasks necessary to keep their jobs.

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  • Motion Waste (+Video)

    The waste of motion is one of the seven wastes attributed to Taiichi Ohno, the father of modern Lean.

    Motion is, simply put, moving more than necessary when doing work. It can be large motions, such as walking between work areas, or small motions, such as flipping a screwdriver over after pulling it from a shadow board.

    Motion waste also occurs in office environments. Walking to printers and fax machines, excessive clicking, or searching for supplies in a messy cabinet are all examples of wasted motion.

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  • Motivation (+ 7-Page PDF)

    Motivation Lean Term on PDF

    Motivation is the disposition to act, and to stick with something. Motivation can be either internal or external. The term self-motivation means that a person is able to keep momentum up on her own. External motivation comes from someone else. Great speakers and leaders can inspire people to take action.

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  • Muda (Waste)

    Many Lean terms originate from Japan. Muda is one of those terms. It really translates to ‘wasteful activity’, but in common practice most people simply use this definition: muda = waste.

    Since one of Lean’s main goals is reducing waste to improve flow, it is no surprise that muda had a major role in Lean. If there was a single battle cry for Lean, it would be ‘No Muda!’

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  • Muda, Muri, Mura

    Like many Japanese terms surrounding continuous improvement, there are several slight variations of translations of these three terms. In general, muda is the most commonly used of this group of terms. In practice, it has come to mean ‘waste’. Muda really means wasteful activity. Mura means the waste of inconsistency or unevenness. Muri is the waste of strain or unreasonableness.

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  • Mura

    Mura is one of three Japanese terms meaning waste. The others are muda, the traditional form of waste in which resources are not effectively used, and muri, meaning overburden or overexertion.

    Mura means inconsistency or excess variation in either processes or demand. When processes are not standardized, each different method adds wasted movement to a process. It also creates a large potential for quality problems.

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  • Muri

    Muri is a Japanese term for a specific form of waste. It means unreasonableness or overexertion. It is often referred to with two other Japanese terms, muda (the traditional view of waste in which resources are used without adding to output) and mura (variation in methods and demand).

    When people and machines are pushed beyond a reasonable limit, they tend to have diminishing performance, as well as increased costs. In the case of machines, muri causes faster wear and tear, quality problems, and catastrophic breakdowns.

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  • Murphy’s Law

    Murphy’s law has been said in various ways, but essential boils down to “If something can go wrong, it will.” There are many addendums to the law, such as ‘in the worst possible way’ or ‘at the worst possible time.’ The origin of Murphy’s law is somewhat murky, but seems to involve an engineer named Edward Murphy and a failed test on g-forces. There are earlier references to a similar law dating back to 1928.

    Murphy’s Law is rooted in the fact that we tend to take notice of the things going wrong more often than the things going right. People are far more likely to comment about bad traffic than about times traffic was flowing well. We seldom come home and say, I didn’t have an accident today, but you can bet you’d talk about it if you did. Murphy’s law sticks around because of this focus on the negative.

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