Pillars of Lean, Part 1 : Eliminating Waste

In our last article, This is Your Brain on LEAN, we laid the foundation that we will build on for future articles about building a LEAN culture.  In that article we established 3 pillars of LEAN:


1.Eliminate Waste

2. Continuous Improvement

3. Add Customer Value


In this article we will dig deep into the pillar of eliminating waste.


Determined to climb

In our component company we seem to have a never ending mountain of waste that we need to eliminate.

It is everywhere!

Thankfully, we are starting to get buy-in from all the troops, which accelerates the improvement process. We are very early on in our LEAN journey so I speak from experience when I say that it is tough looking up and not seeing the top.  

"The top is where you can make those minor, tiny tweaks that make a process as close to perfect as possible."

We could argue that in a true LEAN culture that there is no top, but basically the top is the part where everything is dialed in. The top is where you can make those minor, tiny tweaks that make a process as close to perfect as possible.



We are not anywhere near that point yet, but I can tell you that being even a fourth of the way up the mountain is a whole lot better, and a whole lot more profitable, than being at the bottom. That's why we choose to push thru and keep climbing until we reach the top. 

If you are sick of waiting at the bottom of the mountain, start your climb to LEAN today with the tips below. 


10 lean improvements you can make right now



How do you climb a mountain?


One step at a time.

That’s it. Pick a line and go for it.

If you don’t start, then you will never get there. For me starting was easy, but as we created those early peaks and got a few easy wins, it seemed we started to slacked off a bit. That’s fine I think. To me, it is normal to back off a bit sometimes so you don’t burn everyone around you out.



Breathe then Walk

Take a deep breath and enjoy the mini wins along the way. Then jump right back on the trail and get to walking again.  

For us, we had a major win when we got our conveyors and buffers established and started to see some good flow. The mood of the shop changed and now it seems that everyone is eager to tackle the next thing.


Pick the next thing

How do you cherry pick the projects to eliminate waste when there are so many of them to choose from?

Our laundry list is no doubt ridiculously long but generally it is easy to pick our next area of improvement. We just look at where the trouble area is or bottleneck.

"What is the one process that can be improved RIGHT NOW that would have the greatest amount of impact?"

For example, our drawer area was starting to lag behind and we could not figure out why. After a short session it was easy to see the problem. Drawer parts were being cut on the CNC, which means they were mixed among other parts in the job. So the parts were coming off sporadically and generally toward the end of the nest. On top of that, the small parts were having a hard time staying down on the machine, resulting in defective parts that had to be recut.  

After little contemplation we (myself and the employees in the drawer cell) decided to start bringing in pre made drawer stock and taking it off the CNC all together. The result was an immediate turnaround of that cell and now schedule will no longer be an issue.

That one example was about a 3 day implementation that will require a 1 day tune up in the upcoming weeks.   

So, to pick your next thing ask yourself, “What is the one process that can be improved RIGHT NOW that would have the greatest amount of impact? Pick the one you want and focus with laser intensity until it is fixed.


No more band aids

The trick in the LEAN process is to always maintain forward momentum on your climb. There is no doubt you will hit setbacks but push thru and go to the next item and just stay the course to eliminate waste.  

In order to truly stay the course, Band Aid fixes need to be eliminated from the vocabulary.  



This mindset must be instilled in all the employees as well. Band aid fixes are things like getting a machine running for now instead of fixing it properly, not doing maintenance on regular intervals, skipping steps on rushed jobs to make a schedule.  

The list goes on and we have all done bad aids but the practice must be eliminated if you expect to pursue perfection.


Start Your Climb today

How are you going to attack your mountain?  What is your first project?

Have you already started your climb? Comment and let us know the wins and challenges you've faced along the way. We'd love to know about your LEAN journey!