The latest buzz words in our industry -- lean, lean thinking and lean solutions -- have been around for many years and are well understood by many sectors of industry.

The concepts were first introduced and practiced by the Toyota Motor Corporation. These business practices and philosophy of manufacturing have served them very well. It is most certainly the reason the company could introduce a luxury automobile to market (Lexus) and in as little as a few years match venerable producers such as Mercedes and BMW in engineering, style and quality.

Looking at lean

A Google search will bring up a mind boggling 50 million references to the word "lean." So, what is it all about? The key to the whole subject can be expressed in the sentence: The only value that a company provides is that as seen through the customer's eyes.

It means that, to live up to this mantra, we have to look at all other activities not seen by the customer as waste.

While many of these activities are certainly necessary to complete most tasks, the key is that our attention is focused on them and they are seen in a new light. You would be in good company once your value stream is identified to come to the astonishing conclusion that far more than half of your activities must now be looked at as waste.

Applying lean

Companies that rigorously pursue a lean policy reap astonishing rewards in productivity, quality and customer satisfaction year after year. While it may seem that such an undertaking is too ambitious for small companies, be assured that lean makes sense in any and every human endeavor.

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