How to Implement Lean Principles in Your Business

Small businesses are faced with some very specific obstacles and challenges, especially as they work to expand and really grow the business. Unlike with large companies, there isn’t usually the staff to take on all kinds of added duties, and all it takes is for a few people to be off sick or taking annual leave to have things grinding to a halt. Clearly, this isn’t good for business, and customers certainly aren’t going to sit around and wait until the business is back to full staff capacity.

This is exactly why, as a business owner, it’s important to think ahead and figure out how you can make the most of the resources you have and really implement a plan that allows the business to grow and be successful. For many companies, the answer is to turn to lean principles and techniques.
Lean principals are nothing new, as they were originally introduced in the late 1940s by the Toyota Production System. It didn’t take long for other businesses to take notice and start to recognize the benefits of this approach.

Known as the Kanban method, this is a practice that has been growing not just here in the United States, but all over the world for the past couple of decades. For business owners who are curious about the Kanban process, what it is, how it works, and how it can be implemented in their own business, these steps are meant to make Kanban clearer.

What is Kanban?

The first place to start is with a definition of what the Kanban method is. Back in the late 1940s, Toyota created a “just in time” manufacturing process that meant production was determined based on a customer’s needs rather than just manufacturing goods and hoping they would sell. It was an innovative approach at that time, one that felt radical and gutsy.
This approach of manufacturing based on customer demand is lean manufacturing at its most basic. The goal of any lean manufacturing process is that you create value for your clients and customers, but it should always be done without incurring additional costs on the business’ part.

What the Early Kanban Process Looked Like

When it was first introduced, the Kanban method was broken down into three steps, which were “requested”, “in progress”, and “done”. All points of the manufacturing and business process had to fit into one of these columns to truly be lean. If it strayed from these columns, then it wasn’t a lean measure.

Reducing the Amount of Idle Time

A big aspect of the Kanban process is that businesses learn to maximize their productivity. This can be done by reducing the amount of time spent idling and slowing down the workflow. The tools that people use in the Kanban process are meant to help a business recognize their resources, maximize them, and learn how to make effective use of their time. This is typically done by making changes and improvements to the current processes in the plant/factory.

It Needs to Be Consistent Across the Board

Another big reason that the Kanban process is so effective is the fact it improves communication with team members. Problems often arise when communication breaks down or is lacking in some way, which then affects the company’s bottom line. Because lean principals force team members to remain on the same page and communicate on a regular basis, it helps to limit these issues.

Invest in Kanban Software

Where it used to be that businesses used boards to follow the Kanban process and map out the various stages of requests, production, and completion. Today, software fulfills the same functions. Kanban software makes it possible for everyone in the business to access the same tools and thereby make the process that much more effective and cohesive.
Depending on the software a company chooses, people can make changes on the fly that are done in real-time, so everyone has access to the information at the same time. It can also help with fast-tracking, planning, timing, and even visualization of the projects and products that need to be completed.

Monitoring is a Huge Part of the Process

The final tip is to ensure that monitoring is also implemented in the Kanban process. Only through proper, accurate, and consistent monitoring can companies see just how well the process is working and where changes and adjustments can still be made.

There’s No Time Like the Present

For business owners who are looking to maximize their production process and really get the most out of their employees, thus ensuring that customers are also getting the value they expect, the Kanban process can be the perfect solution. Implementing Kanban requires many steps, extra thought, good organization, and effective training, but the results can be lucrative.

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