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Myth: Lean Manufacturing = Just in time

Lean concepts like Value Stream Maps, 5s, SMED, Flow or Pull have become so popular that many people assume that Lean manufacturing equals Just in Time. This is a huge simplification. Just in Time is a very important part of Lean Manufacturing, but not the only part, and it needs many other components to work.

Lean Manufacturing (or Toyota Production System) is commonly explained using the picture of a house that represents how the different parts of TPS work together. This is one example by the Lean Enterprise Institute (

TPS house2.jpg

The house explains the key ideas of Lean manufacturing: The goal, the 2 main pillars and the basement. Please, take your time to read it. You will notice that Just in time is one of the pillars, without it Lean won’t work, but Just in time is as important as Jidoka (Intelligent automation), Heijunka (Balancing), Standardized Work (Procedures) and Kaizen (Continuous Improvement). The VISION (Goal) is definitely the most important part of the house, because if you don’t know where you are going, nothing else matters.

Let’s get some more detail from the house components:

  • Goal: Become competitive (Quality, Delivery, Cost) through customer satisfaction.
  • Pillars:
    • Just in time: Providing the right product in the right quantity at the right time
      • Flow: Moving products through a production system without separating them into lots
      • Pull: A method of production control where downstream activities signal their needs to upstream processes
      • Takt time: The available production time divided by customer requirements
    • Jidoka (Built in quality): Providing operators or machines the ability to detect when an abnormal condition has occurred and immediately stop work
  • Basement:
    • Standard work: Documenting the work sequence paced by takt time, the positioning of equipment, standard work in process and various quality and safety checks on several documents and then follow this routine until a better standard is found
    • Heijunka: Leveling the type and quantity of production over a fixed period of time
    • Kaizen: Continuous improvement of an entire value stream or an individual process to create more value with less waste

Please be aware that Lean Manufacturing is not the same as The Toyota Way, but the concepts are close enough to be easily mixed up. The Toyota Way refers to the management principles of Lean, which can be summarized as:


This is a great post by Michael Ballé showing the difference and sharing his insights: link


Pictures from:

Best of @leanvoodoo 2015

This is a list of the most read articles of 2015. Enjoy!

















Thank you for your time and support!

See you in 2016!


Lean transformation model

This is a very interesting new video by the Lean Enterprise Institute about Lean transformation:

The key message here is that effective enterprise transformations need change and innovation improvement at 5 dimensions. Using a house as an example, these dimensions are:

  • Objectives, goals and aspirations (The roof): What is our value-driven purpose? Why do we exist as a company? Do we care just about generating money (goal = profit) or do we want to create value for customers, employees and society (focus = value)?
  • Process (The 1st wall): What is the work to be done? Based on the company’s value-driven proposition, every person in the company must know the answer to this question: “what problem am I here to solve?”. Processes help us accomplish our purpose (just as walls hold up the roof). Process improvement (how do we improve the job?) is a key component of this pillar.
  • Capability (The 2nd wall): What capabilities do we need to do the work and solve problems?. This 2nd pillar makes sure that people are able to do and improve the work correctly.
  • Behaviour (People living in the house): What behaviours (soft skills) are required? What is the management system? How do we react to the different circumstances that happen at work (e.g. somebody makes a mistake)? What systems are in place to find out problems and help people solve them?
  • Culture (Foundations): What is our basic thinking? What are our mindset and underlying assumptions? Some assumptions are visible and explicit but others are hidden and, in some occasions, we are not even aware of them. We have a current culture as it is today and an ideal culture we aspire to. Understanding this will give us a gap to close.

All these dimensions are key for effective transformations and if you leave one out, everything will probably fail. Lean transformations need a situational approach: this means that every situation is different and needs different actions to succeed.

For more information, read the article by the Lean Enterprise Institute or this post.

Innovative Lean Leadership

Bob Emiliani’s Innovative Lean Leadership web page is full of knowledge and ideas. His experience and understanding of Lean tools and Lean leadership is evident. Both his blog and twitter account are really worth reading. I’ve chosen two great posts as an example of the content you can find at his page:

Some important learnings:

a) Lean was born “as a management system designed for buyers’ markets”, this is, when Demand is lower than Supply.

b) The importance of management involvement was already an issue at the time Lean was reaching America for the first time.

c) Early TPS training did not have any reference to VSM or A3 to explain TPS concepts like “flow” or “problem solving”.

Based on John Shook’s Lean Transformation Model, Bob adds extra information to the model and remarks the importance of the “Basic Way of Thinking” as the foundation for success:



Webinars: LeanLeadership

This is a nice place to look for webinars and events about Lean. Many Lean experts share their thoughts and experiences, answer questions and help others improve their understanding of Lean concepts:

Very helpful!

Lean for services


This is an excellent article by Robert Martichenko at the Lean Post about Lean Principles for supply chain which illustrates the key aspects of Lean for Services:

Lean for services has many similarities with Lean for manufacturing:

  • Create flow: Balance the demand (creating level flow) or use pull systems (sequential, kanban).
  • Put management in place (discipline to find problems, discover root causes and find solutions).
  • Take decisions that improve the process end to end; avoid improvement silos.
  • Make customer consumption visible.

However Lean for services is particular in some ways:

  • It typically works with information: Information is more difficult to map and see. It can be hidden easily, most often in IT systems.
  • Most of the waste occurs in handoffs: When the information moves from department to department (or site to site, company to company,…) processes often lack visibility and discipline, waste and errors are more probable and lead time tends to increase.

Value Stream Maps for services (aka Swim-lane maps) are good tools if you want to see a service from the beginning to the end. They put great focus in handoffs and help you see where problems are most likely to happen.

Just as Robert says in his article, the best processes aren’t those that have the most efficient silos, but those that are most efficient end to end.



Excellent page with reports, templates and great, great interviews. Don’t miss the queueing theory section!

Planet Lean

Planet Lean is a great resource to find articles, case studies and interviews about lean. Most collaborators belong or have worked with the Lean Enterprise Institute or one of their affiliates.

The spirit of Lean

Sometimes it is hard to explain what Lean really means. When talking to people new to this world, it can be really hard to make clear that tools and techniques are not the most important part. It is more about cultural transformation.

This article explains really well some of the more important aspects:

  • Lean needs a purpose. People must know why you are in business. You have to know too. Don’t go Lean until you know why you exist. You create value for your customer, this is where you must excel.
  • Lean is learning: teach your people continuously, let them try and fail. Don’t hide your problems, use them instead as a learning tool. Improvement is done best using baby steps.
  • Lean is about the process: a great process can only produce great results (value). Watching the process (at the gemba) is the only way to learn.
  • Lean is not about the money: Yes, money is important, but it is rarely the most important thing. Time (lead time), safety (ergonomics) or quality (defects) have typically more impact in customer satisfaction. Money can take care of itself.

“What is Lean?” is not easy to answer. Learn more from the experts:


Lean blog

Lean blog

Mark Graban’s blog on “Lean in hospitals, business and our world”. It focuses sometimes in healthcare, but many of the ideas apply almost everywhere. Nice source of information.