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What Is Lean?

What is Lean?

When people ask me ‘What is Lean?’, I often just say ‘common sense.’ It is a little tongue-in-cheek, but in truth, Lean really is just that. I often use real world examples to answer the ‘What is Lean?’ question-garage door openers, washing machines, limiting bulk purchases, recipes. The list is endless. There is virtually no Lean tool or principle that people don’t use on their own outside of work.

But for those who want an ‘official’ answer to ‘What is Lean?’, I use this:

The relentless pursuit of waste reduction to focus resources on creating customer value.


What is Lean Supposed to Do for Companies?

Lean provides companies a significant boost to profit by improving QDCSM-Quality, Delivery, Cost, Safety, Morale. When done right, companies can see remarkable gains. Forty, fifty, and even seventy percent reductions in floorspace, cycle time, defects, and lead time happen routinely when Lean principles are applied.

Lean often starts out as a cost reduction effort, but it is not hard to leverage higher quality or shorter lead time into more sales. And freeing up working capital helps grow the business. So Lean improves profit by increasing the top line as well as by cutting costs.


What does Lean do to Employees?

Cutting costs. Increasing sales. Lean must be hard on employees, right? Well, in truth, it can be. When it is done poorly. But it can also raise the job satisfaction for many. When Lean starts humming along, employees are empowered. The feel like they have a say in the company, and control over their work. They feel vested in improving.

It’s not easy, but it can be rewarding.


See What Lean Is

If you want to see a short video on what Lean is, Velaction has a Lean Manufacturing Overview video that shows how Lean improves flow on the shop floor. While this video focuses on a manufacturing process, the principles apply virtually anywhere.

View it here: Lean Manufacturing Overview

You can also get more detailed answers to ‘What is Lean?’ by wandering around our site. We offer an extensive Lean dictionary, numerous Lean articles, and more. Or, you can get an answer in Jeff Hajek’s book, Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean?, a primer on learning how to thrive in a Lean company.

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