Japanese Lean Manufacturing Terms

We often have people ask us about various Japanese terms that are used in lean manufacturing.  Since lean production was simply a term used to describe the Toyota Production System back in the 1980’s, Japanese words are used to describe certain principles and concepts.  We’ve created a cartoon video that talks about some of the Japanese Lean terms such as kaizen, kanban, heijunka, muda, mura, muri, andon, poka yoke, and others.

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Lean Leadership

There has been a lot of buzz about lean leadership in the past year or so.  People are beginning to realize that, as author John Maxwell has said, “everything rises and falls on leadership.”  It takes good leadership to create an environment for kaizen to flourish.  We want everyone in the organization to be working toward improvement toward the next goal or target condition.  This is done by identifying problems that get in the way of achieving the target condition and then identifying and implementing countermeasures.

While the tools of lean are great (I am not one of those that say that the tools are unimportant- they are important!), leadership is critically important.   Following is a 3 minute cartoon that talks about the various aspects of lean leadership, including creating a lean culture, strategy deployment, and coaching and development.

Lean, Kaizen, and Continuous Improvement

What is management’s role in continuous improvement?  Very often, management folks believe that their role is to tell their employees what to do, solve their problems, and identify better ways to carry out their work.   When you mention continuous improvement to them, they talk about projects lead by “experts.”  But, can this actually be called continuous improvement?  While projects and rapid improvement events work very well for making breakthrough improvements, they are not really “continuous improvement.”   They are step improvements at points in time.   Continuous improvement requires day-to-day recognition of problems and identification of solutions, a continuous quest toward providing defect free products, services, and information to the customer when they are needed.  The people who do the work are allowed to identify problems and even propose and implement solutions.  Management creates the environment for this to happen and provides the support and resources.  Engineers provide expertise in problem solving and faciltiate the development and application of countermeasures to problems.

Following is a short cartoon about continuous improvement; feel free to share it with your colleagues.

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