What is Lean? How to succeed in your project ?

by | Oct 6, 2020 | Stratégie

Although Lean is now known and present in the language of many sectors of activity, providing a synthetic and relevant definition of the term Lean remains rather delicate. Indeed, despite its international diffusion after its initiation at Toyota in the 1950s, the concept of Lean is still quite difficult to master and not very sustainable in companies that try to deploy it.


Lean is defined as an organizational logic and a management system designed to create value for customers, to eliminate everything that is useless within a process, such as waiting times, retouching, overproduction, unnecessary travel… In short, everything that can be described as wasteful and penalizes cycle times.

The origin of Lean

The term Lean was proposed by James Womack and Daniel Jones (MIT) in 1980, following a study comparing Japanese automotive industrial performance with the United States and Europe.

The production system set up by TOYOTA in Japan has emerged as the most efficient of any industrial system. Widespread from the 90s, this production system has become the reference. To date, a large number of companies have defined their own system, but each time it is a rewrite of the Toyota model.

The objectives of Lean

Lean pursues 3 objectives :

  1. Focus on customer expectations and the value to be created to satisfy them.
  2. Improve your company’s performance by eliminating “waste” in your processes.
  3. Take into account the needs of employees by increasing fluidity, flexibility, agility.

At the beginning the field of action of Lean is the industrial production, it quickly exceeded this field to invest all the production support functions (method, inventory management, quality, maintenance), the development and industrialization of new products, purchasing…

Today Lean also covers the field of services and all support functions such as HR, Finance, General Services, and commercial functions (Sales, ADV, call platform…).

How to succeed in your Lean project?

Lean is a pragmatic and simple approach, it is surely because of its subtlety that it is difficult to understand its deep meaning. Often companies are mainly interested in ready-to-use Lean tools such as :

  • 5S,
  • Flow analysis
  • SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies )
  • etc.

Many companies try their hand at the tools, but after a while the initial enthusiasm gives way to skepticism and disappointment because the results are slow in coming and the changes take time to be reflected in daily life.

In other cases resistance to change in the field is virulent and the feeling of pressure takes over the actual improvement of activities. The integration of Lean must therefore be an integral part of the management method for each manager, in fact it will allow the approach to be included in the corporate culture to limit the risks of negative perception and confusion of situations.

Structuring the implementation of the Lean approach

A company operates by implementing and improving a set of processes that allow to obtain a result, an output through a series of transformations :

  • A design process> that transforms an idea into a marketable product or service,
  • Purchasing process> that transforms a need into a product,
  • Manufacturing process> that transforms a raw material into a finished product etc.

Everything is “process”, this is also true in the support or tertiary activities that transform data into information, information into decisions, and so on.

A project is the realization of a process of transforming an idea or a need into a result, hence the need for dynamic project configuration and interfacing with other processes showing our ability to work efficiently on all customer functions.

The importance of the management system

In the implementation of a Lean approach, the manager must adopt the position of a leader who animates and supports his collaborators by his capacity to make them become more competent, and to solve their daily problems in complete autonomy. This requires a change in mentality and behavior in managerial functions, based on the fact that “the most important person in the company is the one who produces for the client”.

It is important to know that Lean improvements are largely driven by operational staff who develop a culture of the problem and its resolution, the goal being to accompany them so that they become more proactive and autonomous. These transformations must be decided, led and accompanied by the management with the following roles :

Field Team: Be actors of the worksites / Manage quality / Report the waste / Respect the processes and standards

Managers:To steer performance with their teams and ensure compliance with standards / To lead problem-solving methods / To be the benchmark for continuous improvement

Management:Identifying needs for improvement vs. strategy / Requesting new worksites / Finding ressources / Validating solution proposals / Encouraging and challenging results.

Far from being a lever for social plans, Lean management is a way to highlight the good elements that could become leaders, to give meaning, autonomy and a permanent challenge that helps teams to develop their skills. Moreover, the method is implemented with the entire staff, whose support and confidence in the objective pursued is an essential condition for the success of a Lean approach.

Based on several years of experience in the deployment of Lean approaches within several CAC40 groups, we are particularly aware of the impact that our solutions can bring to your Lean approach. There is nothing like combining new IoT tools with traditional principles to make this approach part of your corporate culture.

From this observation, we have always kept in mind the need to develop simple but automated tools for non-value added tasks, taking into account the technical and human constraints in the field. Our tool is not intended to replace a global production management system but to complement it.

We have carefully chosen the functionalities, available in an ergonomic interface, that we believe are most useful to operators and their hierarchy to support your management system towards your performance objectives.

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