Lean seeks to make small, incremental changes in processes to improve speed, efficiency and quality of the product or service delivered to customers.
It’s not a quick fix. It’s a long-term approach; a philosophy for continuous improvement.
And given the fast-paced world we live in, it’s now more important than ever for businesses to be able to continuously improve and adapt to meet increasing customer demands.
In this environment, businesses applying a lean methodology will realise substantial benefits that allow them to gain a clear competitive advantage.
In this blog post, we outline 10 of the key benefits of applying a lean methodology.
1. Greater productivity
Applying a lean methodology involves eliminating tasks that add no value to the customer, referred to as ‘waste’. Collecting unused data, producing unnecessary materials or products surplus to requirements, idle time caused by slow systems and time spent locating equipment or tools are just some examples of non-value adding activities or ‘waste’. Removing these from processes drives productivity as it means the workforce only engages in activities that benefit the customer.
2. Smoother operations
Once non-value adding activities (waste) have been removed from processes, the focus is on making the remaining value-adding steps flow smoothly with no interruptions, delays, or bottlenecks. So you can be sure processes run smoothly throughout the production lifecycle, so you deliver products to customers on time.
3. Greater flexibility and responsiveness
With more streamlined processes, you will be better able to meet demands at the pull of the customer. You’ll be in a position where customers can come to you and get the product they need, when they need it - as with “just in time” manufacturing.
And with a wide range of lean tools at your disposal, you'll be well equipped to solve problems when they arise and minimise downtime.
4. Eliminates defects
Defects mean rework. And rework means time, money, and risk of not delivering your product to the end customer on time. Much of the activity involved in a lean methodology is geared towards eliminating defects so that products are made right first time, every time.
5. Improved product quality
When a quality issue occurs, Lean equips you with problem-solving tools and techniques to apply to identify the root cause. Error proofing is then put in place to strengthen the process and prevent recurrence of the problem. As a result, the quality of your product is improved.
6. Reduced lead time
Mass customisation is growing, as is the demand for faster delivery. Customers want highly customised products, and they want them now. If you don't deliver, you can be sure at least one of your competitors will. By applying a lean methodology and removing non-value adding steps, you'll reduce lead times and be better able to meet demands.
7. Increased customer satisfaction
This is what lean is all about - maintaining happy customers. By removing waste and streamlining processes, you can deliver exactly what the customer wants, when they want it. You can then focus on ways to create more value for customers.
8. Improved staff morale
While a customer-centric approach, benefits of lean aren’t refined to the customer only. Benefits can be found within the workforce too, as leaders involve staff in lean projects, building a company-wide culture of process improvement.
Think about all the things that are bound to irritate your staff about current ways of working... Lean creates an environment where they can raise ideas for improvements and contribute towards better ways of working. Engaging them in this process results in increased staff satisfaction and retention. Staff feel more motivated, more confident of their role in the bigger picture, and more fulfilled.
9. Safer working environment
Employees also benefit from a safer working environment where risks have been reduced. Less inventory means less clutter. Well-organised tools and equipment with the implementation of Lean 5s means opportunities for unexpected movements are minimised. And maintaining safe working equipment by implementing Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) means the risk of accidents occurring as a result of faulty equipment is reduced.
10. Boosts your bottom line
Many of the benefits mentioned above will improve your bottom line in some way. Increased productivity and smoother operations allow you to make more products for the same overheads. Greater flexibility and responsiveness means you don’t need to stockpile materials and create products in bulk, creating an expensive inventory that may go to waste. Fewer defects immediately adds to your profit. And better quality products, available at the pull of the customer, means happy customers who will buy from you again and again.
Though a customer-centric approach, many of the benefits of a lean methodology go beyond serving the customer. Benefits can be seen for the business and employees too.
To find out more about a lean methodology and the five lean manufacturing principles, read our blog post here.