Lessons to Learn from Lean Manufacturing

If you think of the business process methodology of Lean manufacturing as something that is relevant only to huge factories, we can’t blame you. It is an approach that was developed by the auto industry, but quickly gained traction in many other types of manufacturing. These days all sorts of organizations from health systems to software developers leverage Lean to reduce waste, improve quality, and enhance the bottom line.

So what does it mean for Kickstarter creators, small business leaders, and other entrepreneurs? The principles of Lean offer helpful guidance for any type of commercial endeavor, no matter how big or small. Here is a look at all five.

Principle #1 – Value as Seen by The Customer

People who practice Lean do not define the value of their product. Their customers do. If a customer is not willing to pay for a certain product, service, or feature, it has no value. Therefore, every effort is made to align each product or feature with things that customers care about.

Principle #2 – The Value Stream

The value stream is made up of the set of processes, activities, and materials required to create value and get it to the customer. Anything that doesn’t add value to the customer should be removed from the value stream. Lean thinkers are obsessive about understanding the value stream and identifying eight distinct types of waste.

Principle #3 – Flow

The value stream should flow easily from raw materials to the customer. Nothing should create a barrier to delivering value efficiently. This requires careful coordination across processes and departments.

Principle #4 – Pull

The Lean principle of Pull dictates that nothing is produced until it is needed. This eliminates excess work-in-progress inventory. Customer actions dictate the speed at which value is produced, not forecasts or quotas.

Principle #5 – The Quest for Perfection

People who operate under the Lean model know that perfection is impossible and, therefore, improvement must be continuous. Perfection means getting the job done with as little waste as possible, while at the same time adding the maximum amount of value. It means looking for the root cause of any problem and never resorting to Band-Aid fixes. Each process must be performed consistently and according to the best practice.

Think about your own go to market plan and product lifecycle. Are you applying the principles of Lean as much as you could? Do you seek to simplify processes and eliminate steps that don’t add value to the customer? Are you moving materials more often than necessary by using one vendor for manufacturing and another for fulfillment services, for example. Do you place large PCB or device assembly orders simply to meet minimum order requirements, rather than waiting for customer actions to warrant production?

The Lean approach is so popular because it is extremely effective. While it might not be necessary for you to deploy all of the techniques and tools of Lean, finding ways to apply these principles can have a major impact on the profitability of your project or company.