The purpose of lean is to make small, incremental changes in the process in order to improve the efficiency, speed, and quality of the service or product that is delivered to the end-user. Lean is not a quick fix; rather, it’s a long-term approach and methodology that should be applied as a constant philosophy for ongoing improvement.
Given that we’re living in an increasingly fast-paced and demanding world, it’s never been so important for companies to be able to continuously and consistently adapt and improve in order to meet rising customer demands. In this high-pressure environment, those businesses that apply a lean methodology will enjoy significant benefits that allow them to gain a clear advantage of their competition. Read on to learn more about the key benefits of applying a lean methodology in business.
Applying a lean methodology works to eliminate physical waste as much as possible but also to eliminate those tasks that do not provide any value to the customer. This could include:
- Collecting unused or unnecessary data
- Producing unnecessary materials
- Producing products surplus to requirements
- Idle time as a result of slow systems
- Time wasted locating tools or equipment
Tasks such as these might seem small on their own, but added together over periods of time, they can pose a significant distraction away from the end goal. Removing these processes helps to improve overall productivity, as it allows the team to only engage in activities that have direct benefits for the end-user or customer.
Operations tend to run more smoothly once all the non-value adding activities are removed from the process. Since the focus has now been shifted to making the remaining, valuable steps flow as smoothly as possible, it works to reduce:
By implementing lean principles, you can be sure of a higher chance of processes running smoothly throughout the entire production timeline, providing more confidence that your company is going to deliver high-quality products to customers on time.
Improved Flexibility and Responsiveness
Since lean helps to better streamline operational processes, it becomes easier to meet customer demands immediately. You will now be in a position where customers can come to you with the confidence that they are able to get the product that they need at the right time that they need it.
In addition, the elimination of non-value adding processes throughout the overall production process means that you are in a better position to make changes on the fly depending on customer requests. Since operations are running smoother and everything is working as it should, adjusting processes at customer request suddenly becomes a much easier endeavor.
Avoid Errors and Defects
No matter how hard you try, sometimes, it feels like defective products and huge errors can’t be avoided. But they can, when you employ lean principles throughout the production timeline. And, as you well know, defects mean that certain processes – or even the whole process – may need to be restarted, which means more time, more cost, and the very real risk of being unable to successfully deliver the product to the end-user or customer at the expected deadline. When implementing lean principles, much of the activity involved in the methodology is designed to eliminate defects so that you can confidently produce products right the first time and every time.
Boost Product Quality
You’ll know how frustrating it can be to get to the end of the production process to find that a smaller error has lessened the quality of the end product and while it’s still passable, it’s not as good as it could be. It happens all the time, and it can often lead to serious repercussions in some cases. On the other hand, the lean methodology provides you with the problem-solving tools and techniques that you need to quickly identify the root cause of an error or quality issue as and when it occurs. As a result, you can put error-proofing in place, correct the error earlier in the process, and prevent a recurrence of the issue. Finally, the quality of your end product is much improved.
Implementing lean principles means that you can get products completed and ready to ship to the end-user in record time. Today, customers are no longer accustomed to waiting for long amounts of time for their new products; they want highly customized products and they want them immediately. If you don’t deliver, then you can be sure that a competitor is going to entice your customers away from you. Applying a lean methodology and eliminating all non-value adding processes means that you can vastly reduce lead times and be in a better position to meet ever-growing customer demands.
Boost Customer Satisfaction
Improving the value to the customer and ensuring that they are satisfied with the product that they receive is at the very core of lean methodology. Removing waste and streamlining your operational processes makes for happy customers since you are able to deliver exactly what they want and at the time that they expect it. Then, you have more time to focus on the different ways that you can create even more value for your customers and encourage them to keep coming back for more.
Improve Workplace Morale
Although lean is an approach that has value to the customer at its center, the benefits of applying a lean methodology in your workplace are not restricted only to the customer. In fact, there can be many benefits within the workforce, and as managers and leaders get more staff involved in lean products, they can build an organizational culture of ongoing process improvement. Consider the various things that are sure to get your employees irritated in the workplace currently, like:
- Not having tools and resources immediately available
- Not being sure what task they should be working on at a given time
- Spending time on unnecessary, menial tasks
- Time wasted dealing with slow systems and processes that could be faster with the right approach
You can probably understand why some of your employees get frustrated at work if they are dealing with these kinds of things on a regular basis. Lean will help you create a work environment where employees are able to easily and regularly raise ideas for improvement and contribute towards a better way of working for everybody, with more emphasis on crucial, value-adding processes and tasks. As a result, your employees may feel more motivated, more engaged with their work, and more confident in their role. This can lead to several benefits for your company including:
- Better productivity
- Less staff sick days
- Improved teamwork
- Better staff relationships
- Improved staff turnover and retention
- Employee loyalty
- Improved customer satisfaction
This can apply in any work environment; click here to learn more about how nonprofits and educational institutions are applying lean principles.
Create a Safer Working Environment
In addition to a nicer and happier place to work overall, lean can also benefit your employees by providing them with a safer workplace environment with greatly reduced risks. Applying learning principles often means less inventory, leading to less clutter, which means fewer risks of trips and falls. And implementing lean principles for the organization of tools and equipment means that employees are in a safer position when getting the tools that they need for the job. In addition, implementing Total Productive Maintenance techniques within your business means that the risk of accidents and injuries due to equipment faults will be significantly reduced.
Improve Your Bottom Line
For any company, many of the abovementioned benefits are likely to boost your bottom line in some way or another.
- Better productivity and smoother operations will allow you to produce more products for the same overheads.
- Increased responsiveness and flexibility mean that there is less of a need to create products in bulk or stockpile materials, which can massively reduce your inventory costs.
- Fewer defects and errors will immediately add to your profit by producing larger amounts of viable products that can be added to the market straight away.
- Better quality products that are available as and when customers need them will lead to a highly satisfied customer base who are more likely to return and buy from your company in the future and provide positive reviews and recommendations.
- Employees who are happier at work and enjoy a safer working environment can have a direct effect on customer satisfaction, which will, in turn, affect your profit. This is especially true of employees who work directly with customers or are regularly in communication with them, although the effects of happier and more engaged employees can also often be seen in higher quality work.
Although it is a very customer-centric approach with the key aim of providing as much value to the customer as possible, many of the benefits of adopting a lean methodology in your business go far beyond simply better serving the customer. There are many benefits that can be seen for the employees, management team, and the organization overall. Any business no matter the size or industry can benefit from lean.