Tag Archive | Michael Ballé

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 (http://www.lean.org/):

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: http://www.lean.org

What Lean is all about


Check out this tweet by Michael Ballé!

This is a damn good definition of Lean: “satisfying customers by developing people”. Great improvement from old-time definitions about “improving processes”, “eliminating waste” or the horrifying “cutting costs by firing people” (well, this has never been a serious definition, but sadly many people interpreted lean methods like that).

Please, don’t take me wrong: improving your processes and eliminating waste (mercilessly) are great things to do, but they are means, not a goal. Cutting costs is fantastic too, but it must be more the result of your efforts to create value and satisfy your customers than a goal by itself. And firing people, well…  Developing people so that they can satisfy your customers is the only recipe to long-term success, which is the ultimate goal of any company.

Webinar: Michael Balle’s align goals to vision

Last Monday I attended a webinar about “aligning goals to vision” by Michael Ballé and the Lean Leadership Institute. It was the last of four webinars based on Michael’s book “Lead with respect”. You can find a summary with my notes here:

IMG_4333Michael shared many interesting thoughts:

  • Lean approach to vision can be described as “deliver quickly several times a day what people want“. The challenge in some cases is defining the customer (“people”) and value (“what people want”), especially in those businesses where lean has not been used very often.
  • Lean is unique defining customer needs because the needs are defined one by one. Lean abolishes generic customers: customers don’t have to fit my process anymore.
  • Companies have human capital (knowledge) and social capital (trust), both are critical for the company success. Social capital, hard to build, easy to lose.
  • Keep this always in mind when implementing lean:
    • Some work will not solve problems, it will help the corporation understand where problems are. Challenges are better understood by the corporation and therefore problem solving will be effective. This is critical.
    • Don’t standardize visuals. Let people create their own panels and change and adapt them as many times as needed. Be dynamic. Sometimes visuals are forced to be similar across the organization (trying to honor the Lean principle of standardization) but this is an error.
  • Lean financial impact analysis:ROCE = margin x turns
    • ROCE: return of capital
    • Margin: improves with Jidoka (first time quality that reduces waste)
    • Turns: improves with JIT (just in time that reduces Lead time and increases responsiveness to the customer)
  • The Lean dynamics:
    • Customer lifestyle: take care of customer’s problems at a reasonable cost.
    • Value analysis: improve quality by solving quality issues right away.
    • Value engineering: learn about customer preferences to figure out new features for your product or service.
  • Final summary: organize the company for learning (choose leaders for their ability to lead teams, teach and learn), not just for output (choose leaders for their ability to hit the numbers).


If you are interested in the webinars, they are available here:


I also recommend the book: