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An Overview of Lean Concepts

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image of man on a cellphone walking in front of a whiteboard with the work "productivity" and other images to represent efficiency and thus lean concepts

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Lean concepts help to streamline processes by reducing waste (non-value added activities) in an organization. It is the key principle in all the work I do as a Lean Consultant. Here is an overview of what that means.

What is Lean?

Lean concepts are used all over the world today, but they really began during World War II. The United State realized that to win the war they would need to out produce the countries they were fighting. Although not called Lean they created a program and implemented process improvements along with the birth of Rosey the Riveter they increased production, in some cases by 8 times.  Lean process improvement aided in the success of the war due to efficient, fast production of war equipment and machines. After the war, Toyota used the program to develop the Toyota Production System or Lean Manufacturing which put them on the map in the 70’s, currently making it the second largest auto maker in the world based on sales.

Overall, a combination of tools and techniques that increase business performance defines lean concepts.

How do Lean concepts help?

Lean works by identifying waste, activities that cost more money and uses more resources required to full fill the needs of the customer(s) and works to eliminate it. This then adds more value and expands capacity. This means companies can better meet customer demands. It creates the ability to make exactly what is needed when it is needed in the quantity that it is needed.

Ideally, it works to build processes with zero waste and provide perfect value to the customer. It reduces lead time to customers, reduces employee frustration caused by work barriers, and encourages continuous improvement with optimal use of resources.

How does waste become part of an organization?

A company has waste if:

  • They have product defects or have to redo work
  • They experience high employee turnover
  • Overproduction that creates excess goods
  • Lots of people ‘having their hands’ on the same things
  • Low morale as employees deal with work place frustration
  • People are constantly searching for things like tools, information, materials and or supplies

Waste often happens when there are:

Process Changes. A process has changed, but there was a lack of communication in how to work with that change. An example of this could be that inventory was rearranged so that the most used items are near the door, but people who access the inventory are used to seeing items in numerical order, so continue to put items where they used to be, not seeing the new pattern.

Work Arounds. We don’t understand how to do something so we create our own way (work arounds). For example, someone in the organization is given a spreadsheet built by someone else. It makes sense to the first person, but not the second, so the second person uses an outdated form they know and understand.

In this example, we can see why one employee (such as a supervisor) could be frustrated that their subordinate isn’t using the spreadsheet correctly. They could interpret that as stupidity, laziness, or some other unfair trait, when the true issue is that the employee had something that worked for them in the past, and they don’t know how to use the new spreadsheet, so they go back to what they know.

Irrelevant Processes. The organization has added steps or task to processes that have become irrelevant, but they didn’t notice. When I hear “because we’ve always done it this way”, that’s my first clue that there is waste. One company I worked with had been in business for decades and was using paper invoicing despite it causing a myriad of problems. By letting go of paper invoicing, they were able to better use the technology they had purchased, streamlining their processes, and eliminating redundancy.

Band-Aid Fixes. The root cause of the problem hasn’t been addressed and band-aid fixes are in place, (also known as a Frankenstein process). One of the most disrespectful thing one person can do to another is waste their time.  Allowing employees to continue to work broken or bad processes is a complete waste of time.  Solutions must be put in place, instead of fixes to prevent the problem from happening again.  We seem to always have the time required to fix the problem every time, yet we cannot find the time to put a solution in place.


If the above scenarios sound like yours or your employee’s frustrations, I’m here to help. Partners in Business Excellence, PBEX, LLC helps by providing a complete review and analysis of your business or department. We look at the numbers and systems in place that create efficiency and profitability, or that set up employees and processes to fail. Then, we offer consulting, lean process improvement training, and the application of Lean concepts to support your organizational goals. Contact us to learn more about lean methodology as it relates to employee management and to schedule your review today.

Is Storing Cold Inventory Costing You More Than Replacing It Would? 

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5S Organization

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As a Lean Consultant, one of the tools I use is the 5S Organization System which is particularly helpful when it comes to reclaiming space. In fact, storage issues are a big reason I am called into organizations. They need more floor space… they are moving into a new space… they realize they have dead inventory and don’t know what to do about it.  Often when I go into businesses, I discover they have become “blind” to the things they are storing that they don’t need. In some of these cases, this storage costs more than replacing the actual supplies being stored. 

This can happen when the parts become obsolete, or there is no process in place to handle these supplies, either in inventory, scraps, returns, or defect management. This happens a lot in Research and Development, in Engineering, and with business founders. In fact, business owner have a tendency to store personal items on property, creating a problem with space, but that’s a topic for another article. Today, we will address the 5S Organization System. 

5S Organization 

The 5S Organization System is part of Lean Methodology and consists of the components: 1. Sort, 2. Set in Order, 3. Shine, 4. Standardize, and 5. Sustain. Some companies choose to add a 6th S: Safety. Overall, this process helps organizations increase floor space, reduce costs, create a safer working environment, and increase productivity. 

Sort. This is the first step and its where we go through all the equipment, supplies, and tools in an area and sort based on who needs it, for what purpose, and frequency of use. We take into consideration the value of the items and the best location for them – which may include the dumpster, storage, donations, or even re-purposed in another area. 

Set in Order. After sorting and moving items out of a space, we then process the remaining assets. Logical arrangements are made to allow access to the right equipment, supplies and tools by the right people at the right times. Organizational systems such as bins, hooks, shelves or files may be used to reduce chaos. 

Overall processes may be examined to determine the best flow and to discover holes that would cause this problem to resurface. Care is taken to not create additional waste, which includes wasting time and resources. 

Shine. Shine refers to cleaning up the area. Often when items are stored for long periods of time, dust and debris can build up. But Shine isn’t just a one-time project. Shine puts systems in place for continuous organization and cleanliness of the area to prevent future equipment failure, inventory overstock or neglect. 

Standardize. Where Shine may feel janitorial or maintenance focused, Standardize addresses the root cause of the disorganization so it can be addressed proactively as much as possible. It creates processes, schedules, diagrams, task lists and more to create a culture and system of organization. 

Sustain. Sustain brings the organization into the future, keeping the changes in place. It keeps the fix from being a temporary solution. Anytime a new system or process is implemented, it will take time to get used to. After time, it can start to morph, so “checking in” with the process is a part of Sustain to make course corrections, or adapt the shifts for increasing efficiency. 

A Real World Example 

I was called into a company who was moving into a new space because they had too much “stuff” and needed help sorting so they knew where to move everything into the new space. We used the 5S Organization System for this project, as it was the best solution. While sorting, we came across three boxes that had the original tape from when they were shipped, 4 years prior. When I asked what they were, no one knew. So, we opened them. We looked into the boxes and I asked, “Do we need these?” 

The response I received was, “Well, I’m sure we do.” 

We asked around and discovered the boxes were holding supplies for a project that had been abandoned 3 years earlier. We kept going through boxes, determining what could be sold, donated, re-purposed or trashed. We ended up filling two dumpsters. Had they done the process prior to making the decision to move, they may not have needed to. 


PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and the multiple tools, including 5S Organization, and to schedule your review with a process improvement and automation expert. 

5 Signs Your Company Needs a Lean Audit 

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lean audit


A Lean Audit is simply a process where I go to a business per their request and walk through, looking for areas that could be made more efficient. I am often surprised by how often the problem presented seems painfully simple to solve. 

What I found is that these companies have one thing in common: they can’t see what’s going on because they are operating from a place of doing things the way they have always done and have accepted that reality. 

Here are some real-life examples that, if they ring true for you or your company, you could benefit from a fresh perspective and a Lean Audit. 

Owner Storing Personal Equipment 

A problem I see often is that the owner of the business is storing personal property on-site. It is their space after all, but when this is causing a working environment that hinders employee productivity, it is easily resolved – move it. Employees will likely not challenge the owner’s placement of equipment, even if it is a problem, so it usually takes an outside force (such as myself) to show the owner how detrimental it is to employee productivity and offer better alternatives. 

Dead Inventory 

Another recurring issue I see is abundant amounts of dead inventory. It could be that a purchaser tried to take advantage of a bulk quantity deal and is simply storing unused product, or it could be that parts are still being held that will not ever be used. 

It may seem silly to think companies would hold on to obsolete products, but it often comes down to a fear of how to dispose of them – what if they are needed one day? The truth is, just like your closet at home, if you haven’t worn it in the past year, you probably won’t use it next year, and it should be donated, sold or thrown out. A lean audit can help identify what is truly obsolete, and what can be re-purposed. 

No/Little Space 

Some companies choose to move into a new location because they simply run out of space. However, in many cases, I find that they can stay in their current space by making it more efficient. Putting complimentary departments closer together, removing dead inventory, improving processes to move stored goods, and repairing broken machinery are just a few ways companies avoided the costs of moving by becoming more space efficient. 

Chasing Customers for Information 

Sometimes inefficiency comes in the form of poor communication. If you are finding that you are chasing clients for information because it wasn’t complete when it landed on your lap by a salesperson or field rep, or multiple departments are creating vendor or client files rather than sharing information, you can benefit from a Lean Audit. 

High Employee Frustration/Turnover 

Finally, a lean audit is ideal for companies who experience high employee frustration and resulting turnover. Often times this shows a clear hole in a process – whether on the hiring side (are you doing the right things to get the right people?) or with internal policies. Do your processes create frustration? Where is information falling through the cracks? What processes, policies or procedures are killing morale? 

Overall, a lean audit helps to identify holes in processes and seeks to solve them, not just put a bandage fix. If any of the above scenarios sound like a problem you have been facing, I recommend we schedule a phone call to discuss your concerns and potential solutions. 


PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them, in a process we call a Lean Audit walk through. Providing consulting and lean process improvement training, we are ready to support your organizational goals. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a process improvement expert. 

Why Consider Lean Process Improvement Training

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lean process improvement training

If you have wanted to implement lean processes improvement in your organization, you may be overwhelmed with where to start. Maybe you have already begun the process and feel stuck or need help getting over a challenge. Or it’s possible you have implemented some lean strategies and are ready to take it to the next level. This may mean you need an objective set of eyes, such as a consultant, and/or lean process improvement training.

Lean management concepts have been around for years, reducing unwanted activities and creating more value with less resources. It focuses on creating a culture of continuous improvement that seeks to increase efficiency in a variety of ways. Through lean process improvement training, your team can:

  • Better understand Lean concepts including A3 Problem Solving, Six Sigma, and Kaizen
  • Learn the major principals of Lean, including the tools and definitions
  • See how Lean is implemented in your organization
  • Strategies for ensuring continuous improvement
  • See Value Stream Mapping in action
  • Review your workplace layout with a Gemba walk

And more, according to your needs. All training can be customized for your industry, business and organizational requirements.

Implementing Lean Processes

Implementing lean is a robust processes that takes time to develop. While some changes are immediate and impactful, creating the culture of continuous improvement means diving in deep and having the right tools. Management often needs training in order to understand the principles, buy in to the process, and build the skills needed to keep the implementation moving forward and effective.


PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Providing consulting and lean process improvement training, we are ready to support your organizational goals. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a process improvement expert.

The 5 Concepts of Lean Thinking Summarized

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Lean thinking is really conceptualizing lean principles and how they apply to a specific enterprise. Because Lean principles started in Japan with the Toyota Production System, its primary application has been in manufacturing. Today, Lean manufacturing has been growing in interest and popularity as more and more companies look for increased agility, faster to-market production, and stream-lined processes that reduce wasteful practices. Its implementation has even spread outside of fabrication into a broader business use. 

Whether in lean manufacturing or lean management in other industries, five primary principles have been established to capture the goals of lean. These concepts were captured by, and summarized here based on the book “Lean Thinking” by Womack and Jones. And while the concepts themselves are simple, the implementation takes time as perfection is the final goal. 

Lean Thinking Concept 1: Value 

Value is what is delivered, and set primarily by the customer. What the consumer is willing to pay should be the goal of production to meet that value and also provide profit to the producing company. For example, if a consumer is willing to pay $10 for a widget, the company should use that value as their benchmark for production, eliminating waste and improving processes to meet customer expectations. 

When customers are having their expectations met and companies are making profits, this is considered perfection. 

Lean Thinking Concept 2: The Value Stream 

Understanding the flow of the life-cycle of a product is the only way to truly eliminate waste. The Value Stream concept examines the flow from production to disposal of any given product to find areas where value is lacking and can be improved, or where processes are wasteful. Some wasteful processes may be unavoidable due to certain circumstances such as lack of technological advances or access to resources.  

The awareness that is created in regards to the wasteful processes allow them to be corrected or improved for better outcomes. 

Lean Thinking Concept 3: Flow 

Flow refers to the state by which all processes are in alignment making production move forward without interruption. As wasteful practices are eliminated, production increases. This includes processes that previously halted product launches and to-market deliverables, something critical in today’s market where agility, speed and quality are of tremendous value. 

Flow is the state where wasteful down-time no longer exists. 

Lean Thinking Concept 4: Pull 

Lean concepts tend to reduce cold inventory because rather than relying on forecasting demand, they put in place communication and manufacturing methods that allow for production on the fly – as customers order. 

What if “busy work” was eliminated and production only happened when a sale closed? It’s a revolutionary mindset and manufacturing concept that both increases efficiency and output. 

Lean Thinking Concept 5: Perfection 

While we have all been taught that nothing is perfect, lean concepts are rooted in achieving perfection through continuous improvement. When an organization truly implements lean tools and concepts, they strive to get to the root of problems, never using a “band-aid” approach for fixes, but rather really dig into data and processes, and be willing to change based on feedback. They in essence create agility in business by being perfectionists focusing on lean. 


Contact me today to learn more about lean thinking and how to apply it to your business to create more efficiency and profitability. Together, we will create a continuous improvement culture and healthier bottom line. 


7 Benefits of a Lean Business Process Consultant

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business process consultant

Every business is comprised of multiple business processes: sales, procurement, production, invoicing and more. The more streamlined these processes are, the more likely they and/or the business are to be efficient and profitable. Unfortunately, more often than not, businesses discover holes in the effectiveness of certain processes because they have morphed over time, becoming what I refer to as a Frankenstein process.

Business Process Management

The concept of business process management is the idea that business processes should be examined, cleaned up and monitored. Systematically looking at the overall health of business processes will result in the overall health of the enterprise. Software tools, as well as a business process consultant, can be used to support the streamlining of processes to create more efficiency.

Lean Management

Lean Management is an organizational style based on the concept of continuous improvement and reduced waste in manufacturing. Based on the Toyota Production System and studied for decades, Lean Management is the standard for how manufacturing is done. However, more and more businesses are looking to lean management styles in every type of business.

My Role as a Lean Business Process Consultant

As a Lean Business Process Consultant I use Lean Management styles in my approach to business process management. This means I evaluate current business processes and walk through them with a variety of Lean tools. We create standard practices and implement them and put systems in place to manage them for continuous improvement.

7 Benefits of a Lean Business Process Consultant

What can you typically expect to gain by working with PBEX?

A 50-100% reduction in quality defects

20-50% Improvement in Productivity

60-80% Set Up Time Reductions

30-60% Improved Safety Performance

40-75% Inventory Reduction

30-50% Floor Space Reduction

A complete review of your business processes to create long-lasting efficiency, agility and profitability.

Contact me today to learn more about how as a Lean Business Process Consultant I help businesses simplify and improve the way they do business to better grow and manage. Together, we will create a continuous improvement culture and healthier bottom line.