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Lean Reference Guide > Lean Dictionary

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"P" Terms
from The Continuous Improvement Companion

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  • Pacemaker

    An unlinked production environment is like an accordion. Some processes move faster than the average and some operate more slowly. As a result, parts move through the system at varying speeds, only to end up in piles of inventory scattered along the value stream.

    Even with a takt time in place, there can still be some fluctuation in the actual performance of processes, if they are not somehow linked together. This fluctuation gets even more complicated when scheduling is done at multiple places in a value stream. For this reason, a pacemaker is often established. A pacemaker is the single point where a production process is scheduled. The upstream processes don’t produce without a pull signal originating from the pacemaker.

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  • Paradigm / Paradigm Shift

    A paradigm is a framework for thinking about something, usually a scientific or technical discipline. Some examples of a paradigm might be the thought that big batches are good on a machine that has a long setup, or that Lean principles do not apply in office environments.

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  • Pareto Chart (+ 7-Page Lean PDF, +MP3)

    Pareto Charts Lean Term on PDF

    Learn about Pareto Charts and how the 80/20 rule guides your improvement efforts. Plus, download a FREE 7-Page PDF on Pareto Charts.

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  • Pareto Chart Template

    Pareto Chart Template

    This Pareto Chart Template is an easy to learn, easy to use tool for making Pareto charts quickly.

    Format: XLSX

    Regular Price: Free for Registered Users

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  • Pareto Principle

    The Pareto principle is the result of the work of the 19th Century economist, Vilfredo Pareto. He realized that wealth in Italy was distributed unevenly, and mathematically proved his concept.

    Today, the Pareto principle is more commonly known as the 80-20 rule. Simply put, 80 percent of problems are the result of 20 percent of the causes. The power of the Pareto principle is immense. It conserves resources by letting you focus on a small number of issues to eliminate a disproportionally large number of problems.

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  • Pareto, Vilfredo

    Vilfredo Pareto (July 15, 1848 to August 19, 1923) was an Italian thinker who practiced in many disciplines. He was an engineer and philosopher, but he is most well-known for his work in economics.

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  • Parkinson’s Law (+ 5-Page Lean PDF)

    Parkinson's Law Lean Term on PDF

    Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill the time available. Learn more in our 5-page Lean PDF file.

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  • Patterns

    A pattern is essentially a recurring “thing”. It could be behaviors, defects, markings, traffic, or anything else that can be observed or monitored.

    The relevance to Lean is that the pattern is caused by something. Pure randomness is actually surprisingly uncommon in nature, and even less common in the workplace. Nearly everything has a cause if you look hard enough.

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  • Payback Period

    Usually used in connection with a capital investment, a payback period is the length of time it will take to recoup the amount of money put into a project.

    The exact methodology for determining a payback period varies based on the way assumptions are made, and the formula used to do the financial calculations.

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  • PDCA Cycle (+11-Page PDF, +Video)

    Pareto Charts Lean Term on PDF

    Learn about the PDCA Cycle and how it can make your improvement efforts more effective. Plus, download a FREE 11-Page PDF on the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle.

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  • PDSA / Plan-Do-Study-Act (or Adjust)

    PDSA stands for Plan-Do-Study-Act, or less commonly, Plan-Do-Study-Adjust.

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  • Peer Pressure

    Just like any social group, there is pressure among coworkers to conform to the accepted group dynamic. This has a centering effect on a team. Groups have a tendency to pull individuals from extremes toward the center of a group.

    Under performing individuals are pressured to pull their own weight, which is a good thing. Over performing individuals, especially those who do it through hard work, may feel pressured to slow down, which adds drag to an organization’s progress.

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  • Perfection

    The concept of perfection provides one of the great philosophical quandaries of Lean. Like most continuous improvement disciplines, Lean promotes the relentless pursuit of waste reduction. It also pushes the concept of zero defects.

    The problem though, is that perfection is unattainable. No matter how good an operation becomes…

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  • Pilot Project

    Major changes are often hard to implement all at once. It may be because the technology or idea is not fully proven, or it may be a lack of resources in getting the bugs worked out. There may also be substantial risk if there is a mistake in the planning that shuts down a large operation.

    To combat the potential for problems, a pilot can be used. It is a small scale, working implementation of a project.

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  • Point-of-Use Inventory

    ‘Point of use’ is simply the practice of storing any inventory you have at the point where it will be used.

    This is in contrast to inventory that is stored in a warehouse, or at some other secondary location. In those cases, it can be difficult to see if there is a mismatch in the usage and the amount stored on hand. Despite the best efforts of the material management team, there can be lapses. Often, the best person to tell if there is too much inventory on hand is the person who is using it on a daily basis. If she is trained what to watch for—for example, a lot of parts still left in one bin when the other bin returns—then the operator becomes an additional resources in the war on excess inventory.

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  • Poka Yoke (+ 7-Page Lean PDF, +Video)

    Poka Yoke Lean Term on PDF

    The best way to eliminate defects is to prevent errors in processes. A poka yoke is a mistake-proofing device that ensures that it is impossible to make a mistake in a process. Visit this Lean term page to learn more and download a FREE 8-Page PDF about using poka yoke in your in Lean operations.

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  • Policy Deployment (+ 6-Page Lean PDF +Video)

    Policy Deployment Lean Term on PDF

    Policy Deployment is the (usually) annual process of reviewing the strategic goals of an organization and aligning the company’s resources towards meeting those goals. Hoshin Kanri is the Japanese term that means roughly the same. Watch a short video, and download a FREE 6-Page PDF on Policy Deployment.

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  • Policy Deployment Action Plan

    Policy Deployment Action Plan

    The Policy Deployment Action Plan provides a way to track progress on improvement priorities.

    Format: XLSX

    Regular Price: Free for Registered Users

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  • Policy Deployment Bowler

    Policy Deployment Bowler

    The Policy Deployment Bowler provides a visual way to chart an organization’s progress on hitting its PD targets.

    Format: XLSX

    Regular Price: Free for Registered Users

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  • Policy Deployment Matrix / X-Matrix (+Form +Video)

    Policy Deployment Matrix

    The Policy Deployment Matrix provides a link between strategy and frontline actions.

    Format: XLSX

    Regular Price: Free for Registered Users

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  • Practical Exercises

    A practical exercise is a hands-on teaching tool by which students are asked to apply the lessons they have just learned in a controlled environment. In the Crawl-Walk-Run model of learning, practical exercised fall into the ‘crawl’ phase.

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  • Practice

    Practice is repeating a task in order to improve your skills. This doesn’t mean that it has to just be an exercise. You can practice doing good Pareto charts by finding opportunities to use them in real situations.

    Practice is characterized by purpose. That means identifying a gap in a skill, and coming up with a plan on how to get better. Practice is also very specific. The closer a practice situation matches a real requirement, the more effective it is.

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  • Precision

    Precision is the state of having little variation. It is often incorrectly used synonymously with accuracy. (Accuracy simply means centered on the target.)

    Precision is often much harder to achieve than accuracy. That is because variation can be much trickier to adjust than moving an average.

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  • Predictability

    At the heart of standardization is predictability. Standardization provides a predictable pace, predictable quality, and a predictable lead time.

    This predictability allows managers to make better plans. It allows marketers to make more accurate promises. And it allows employees to have a steady, reasonable pace throughout the day.

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  • Priority Matrix

    This post redirects to the 9-square tool, a specific priority matrix.

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  • Problem Solving (+11-Page PDF, +Video)

    Problem Solving Lean Term on PDF

    Problem solving is a critical skill for team members operating in a continuous improvement culture. Watch a short video, and download a FREE 11-Page PDF on Problem Solving.

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  • Problems

    A problem is something that has a potentially adverse effect. Another way of looking at this is that a problem is the gap between what should be and reality.

    Unfortunately, not all problems are obvious. Think about water damage in a crawlspace. You can have a problem and not even know it. This is one of the big challenges with Lean implementations. People may not see the problem with excess inventory, or recognize that large batches are the equivalent of a backed up drain under your floorboards.

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  • Procedures

    The generally accepted definition of procedure in a Lean company is that it is the “how” of an operation. It is closely related to the term “process”.  A process would be the series of steps required to complete the operation, or the “what”.

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  • Process

    A Lean process is the bread and butter of continuous improvement. Processes are the series of linked actions (or steps, tasks, activities, operations, etc) performed to reach a specific outcome.

    Processes take randomness and bring it to order. Imagine what would happen if nobody followed a process when driving. No process for merging, pulling into traffic, or parking. There would be chaos. Imagine that when getting ready for work in the morning, there were no processes in your home. Clothes would have never gotten into your closet. You might not have hot water, because the bills would not have been paid. The list goes on and on.

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  • Process Flow Chart

    A process flow chart is a staple of Lean, and other continuous improvement methods.

    It takes a process and transforms it into a visual representation of the flow of work. This makes it easy to highlight waste, and subsequently eliminate the things that don’t add value.

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  • Process Improvement

    Process improvement is the act of reviewing a specific process to make it better. The degree of formality can be minimal, such as an immediate decision to change a method on the fly. This might include moving a garbage can closer to a work station to eliminate a walking step of the process. Or, process improvement can be a highly structured, long-term, team-based approach, such as Six Sigma.

    Process improvement is only one aspect of any effective continuous improvement strategy. For example, business systems like Toyota’s also include methods of management to keep the company moving forward.

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  • Process Map

    A process map is a visual representation of how workflows through an operation. In practical Lean applications, it is often used synonymously with the term process flow chart.

    The truth though, is that “process map” is a generic term. A process flowchart is just one specific type of process map, albeit by far the most common one. Other proprietary alternatives are available. People occasionally even…

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  • Process Metrics

    Metrics come in two basic flavors. One option is to measure the results of a process. This confirms that you did the right things and that you are on track. The problem, though, is that results metrics are lagging indicators. The activities that led to these results happened in the past, sometimes significantly long ago.

    Another option is to…

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  • Product Family

    For the purposes of continuous improvement, a product family is a group of products that follows a similar series of process steps. The value in this type of organization is that it…

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  • Production Plan

    A production plan must answer four basic questions:

    1. 1. What are we going to make?
    2. 2. What does it take to make it?
    3. 3. What do we have?
    4. 4. What do we need?
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  • Production, Over

    See Overproduction.

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  • Productivity

    Productivity is the ratio of output to input. The basic equation is:

    Productivity = Output / Input

    When the output is high relative to the inputs, the process is thought of as productive.

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  • Profit

    Profit is the pile of money that is left over after all the bills are paid and the costs are tallied. There are many different types of profit for accounting purposes (net profit, gross profit, EBITDA).

    The ultimate goal of any company is to make a profit. It is not to serve customers. It is not to be good corporate citizens. It is not to create jobs and generate employee job satisfaction.

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  • Projects

    A project is a set of interconnected tasks intended to achieve a specific goal. It is characterized by having a fixed end. Projects can be either individual or collaborative in nature. They are often limited by some constraint, usually cost.

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  • Psychology of Lean (+ 9-Page Lean PDF)

    Psychology of Lean Term on PDF

    Psychology plays a far greater role in Lean than most people realize. Learn more and download a FREE 9-Page PDF about psychology in a Lean organization.

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  • Pull System

    A pull system (or pull production) is one in which items are only made, transferred, shifted, withdrawn, etc., when there is demand from a downstream customer. This sharply contrasts from a push system in which the downstream actions have no impact on what the upstream process is producing.

    Pull systems and one-piece flow combine to form JIT production. Pull says only build with demand. Flow says use the smallest quantity possible, and shift in small lots. Together, pull systems and flow make sure that exactly the right amount of work is sent to the downstream process, exactly when it is needed.

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  • Push System (+ 6-Page Lean PDF)

    Push Systems Lean Term on PDF

    To learn about Lean, one must also understand operations that are not Lean. Seeing the problems that push systems cause help enlighten teams to the benefits of pull. Visit this Lean term page to learn more and download a FREE 6-Page PDF about push systems in Lean operations.

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