Lean Principles Engineers need to know

Birdseye view of hands planning over paperworkBirdseye view of hands planning over paperwork

Whether you think of ‘Lean’ as something our industry, or your business doesn’t really need, a potential lifesaver, a principle you have already adopted or just something about which you would like to learn more, one thing is for sure; it might change your day, it might even transform your business…

Lean is not an abbreviation for some long-winded and new fangled codes of good practice, neither is it some flash in the pan latest trend, it is more to do with common sense and working intelligently.

The principles of Lean encourage a business to look more closely at how they operate, what might be improved and how. Together the different principles combine with one dramatic result, making things better, better for you and your profits, better for your workforce, better for the world.

Hyperbole..? Not really, read on and you’ll see for yourself.

Defining Value

Lean has evolved to encourage the practice of continuous improvement; it encompasses definitions of value such as what your customer wants, what are they willing to pay for? This is particularly relevant in our industry where end clients might find it hard to articulate. Take the time to know them and find out will reap rewards.

Mapping the Value

Once those values have been identified, take it a step further by identifying everything you do that contributes directly towards those values, everything else is waste. That waste however can be broken in to two different parts; essential waste and non-essential waste. The former should be reduced as much as possible, the latter…It’s simply waste.

Creating Flow

You know the things which your clients value, and you’ve eliminated waste. Think about how you deliver that value, your production steps, your workload distribution and the adaptability of your workforce. Are they trained to use a multitude of machinery? Do they have strengths or areas to develop?

Keeping it Lean

If you mapped your value, you might have noticed stock control and inventory are a big part of waste. You need the materials, machinery and staff to do the job (or create the flow). Are the materials delivered as they are needed, in exact quantities to allow production when they are needed? Do you have all the information and staff you need to deliver?

The Results

A culture of continuous improvement in your business and the far greater likelihood of remaining competitive moving forwards both stem naturally from Lean thinking. Waste is eliminated, the human element has never felt happier; production is timely, efficient, more fluid than before and the pursuit of perfection is well underway.

Published 23rd August 2019