Lean Glossary

Lean Introduction

The following terms are some of the popular phrases of the Lean Methodology Glossary. These brief introductions serve only as a starting point in one’s quest to increase productivity, cut costs, and ultimately drive up profits.

Cellular Manufacturing

Cellular Manufacturing is a process of manufacturing and is a subsection of Lean Manufacturing and Just-in-Time Manufacturing. In this type of manufacturing, machines are organized in groups according to the type of parts produced. The main advantage is that flow is improved significantly, reducing the distance traveled by materials and people, which in turn decreases cycle time and increases profits.

Flow production

Flow production describes in detail the production process of goods, services, and information (e.g. a part, a document, an invoice, a customer order). It rejects the concept of large lot or mass processing and focuses the attention on the vertical integration of all operations and functions sequentially performed. It also encompasses pull (or demand) processing, which is the idea that goods are not pushed through a process, but rather they are pulled by the demand in succeeding operations. It is just one of the many elements of Lean Manufacturing.

Hoshin Kanri

Hoshin Kanri is a decision-making tool developed specifically for the executive branch to draw attention and focus on the “critical few” objectives that are most important to the firm. This tool uses visual matrices to enhance the executives’ ability to determine the key objectives. It is a 7-step process that requires a strategic vision in order to succeed. As the name shows, it started in Japan. However, it quickly spread throughout the world due to its usefulness.

Just in time

Just in time is a strategy focused on the identification and reduction of waste, making continuous improvement a reality. It relies on many Lean Tools, such as Continuous Flow, Heijunka, and Kanban among many others. This term is also often used to mistakenly refer to the Toyota Production System, though it is only one of the elements of this process. This strategy was developed in Japan, where the lack of space and shortage of natural resources lead entrepreneurs to find ways to maximize the productivity of their labour and capital. News about this efficient strategy reached North America in the 1980s, where numerous companies incorporated it into their manufacturing process due to its numerous benefits.

Kaizen (Continuous Improvement)

Kaizen is an organizational attitude, “a way of doing things”, or a philosophy which originates in Japan. Kaizen activities involve the entire workforce, and their main objective are to develop and maintain competitive advantage through a dynamic change process.  It is sometimes abbreviated as CPI, which stands for continuous process improvement. These strategies focus on quality, cost, delivery, safety, and morale goals.


Kanban is an effective method in regulating the flow of goods within the factory and with suppliers and customers. In other words, it is a scheduling system for Lean Methodology. It is an effective tool that supports running the production system, while it is also a great way to promote improvement. One of the numerous benefits of Kaiban is to determine the maximum work in process inventory that ensures the avoidance of overcapacity.

Setup reduction

Setup reduction is a process at the heart of Lean Methodology which allows for a greater flow of goods through the production process. It is a technique very useful for level load balancing, and it is defined as the time to change from the last item of the previous order to the first item in the next order. The general process can be captured by a four-step approach:

  1. Each setup must be classified as either “internal” or “external”. External steps are those done while the process is active, while internal steps are done when the process is NOT active.
  2. Convert internal steps to external ones. The key to this step is to reduce the “non-operational” time of the process, therefore decreasing processing time.
  3. Reduce time for remaining internal steps. Not all the internal steps can be turned into external ones, so the time of these remaining steps must be minimized.
  4. Eliminate adjustments through effective process control.
Toyota production system (TPS)

The Toyota Production System (TPS) is an integrated socio-technical system that organizes manufacturing and logistics. Its strategies have become very well known due to their many benefits, and the system came to be known as Lean Manufacturing or Lean Methodology. Its main objectives are to remove overburden, inconsistency, and waste from the manufacturing process. The underlying principles consist of continuous improvement, respect for people, long-term philosophy, and the right process leads to the right results.

Total productive maintenance (TPM)

Total productive maintenance (TPM) is a holistic approach to maintenance. Its focus is on proactive and preventive maintenance, with the objective to maximize the operational time of equipment. It is mainly made up of 5 goals:

  1. Maximize equipment effectiveness
  2. Develop a system of productive maintenance for the life of the equipment
  3. Involve all departments that use the equipment
  4. Actively involve all employees
  5. Promote TPM through motivational management
Visual factory

Visual factory is a component of the Lean Methodology, which uses signs, charts, infographics, and other visual representations to communicate and provide data in an efficient manner. It helps reduce the time necessary for reading, processing and understanding text-based instructions. It could be used to communicate work processes, necessary information for employees to complete their tasks, layout of the jobsite, etc. This Lean component works well when implemented as part of a larger set of Lean Strategies and is especially effective alongside 5S.

What is lean?

There is not one agreed upon definition of lean. In the eyes of different education and consulting groups, it can be different things. A problem is the lack of a Lean Standard, as there is with quality (ISO Standard). It’s made up of many subsections, like the Total Productive Maintenance, Quick Change, Containerization, Pull System, Error Proofing, 5S, many more elements. It can be quite overwhelming to an organization that’s first looking at it and trying to figure out how to implement it in their company.

What it boils down to is the process. It’s about taking your traditional operation and trying to streamline the environment: that’s the factory floor and the office, the whole company.

What is the main approach?

Because there is no Lean Standard in the world, it’s up to each company that’s training and educating people on lean to interpret the Toyota Production System on their own. Hence, some of them get it right and some of them don’t. There are many approaches, but it encompasses the journey from traditional methodology to lean production, while looking at the entire enterprise holistically. We did this when we started in 1986, while most have only started looking beyond the factory in the last ten years, since around 2007. Most consulting groups, when they come in to try and help a firm with improvements, they look at the organization how it’s structured (Vertically) not how the processes run from end to end (Horizontally). We started doing this since the 80’s and its just one of the elements that we consider.

What are some lean tools and techniques?

Well, it boils down to probably 4 or 5 different elements. One is trying to determine what value is in your process. The activities of workers as they are operating in the office or in the factory can be either categorized as: essential activities, or non-essential that shouldn’t be there. Today, they call this value-added and non-value-added. The value is one thing that they must look at very hard. Another element is value streaming. What do you need to do? There are some core value streams in your business, what we call the Make Ship loop, and there’s the supply chain loop in the business. Understanding what the high-level value streams are and then breaking the company down into core value streams and sub-value streams helps you start to understand the flow. You can then identify whether it’s good, bad, or where the bottlenecks are, and the whole issue of scheduling. We talk about pull scheduling when we’re talking about lean. Traditional manufacturers tend to push goods through the organization, and we help companies change to pull things through the factory, as opposed to pushing them. So, that’s another important element.

What are common issues when implementing lean?

There can be a number of issues. Starting at the top, senior management needs to do much more that to simply support the program. In our experience, it’s way more than that. To do a successful implementation and transfer of operating methods, we need a senior management that can teach lean. They need to be engaged, and the way they lead is by using some of the new tools that are out there that Toyota uses, like Hoshin Planning. By doing that, and doing it properly, the senior management now has a role to drive what needs to be changed in the business and to pass that down level by level. They must communicate very well with the entire workforce.

The people in each company is your biggest variability and can cause different concerns. Obviously, you want people to participate, but if you don’t have leadership at the top, the people will do whatever they want. I think inherently people want to improve their business, but they’re nervous. If you have a management team and go in a company that has not worked in teams, people are generally going to be afraid to participate in anything new, and think “Well, this is another case where the President got off an airplane, read a book and it’s the project of the month”. You’ve got to get past all of that, and the best way you can is with a good level of education. Personally, I don’t understand how a president of a company can tell the workforce we want to do lean and not give them the tools or the knowledge necessary. Remember, they might have been working there 20 years using the traditional methodology and they don’t know the difference between a streamlined process and what they’re currently doing. So, you may end up digging the same hole deeper and expecting better results without the proper training.

Communication can also be a problem if everything is not set up properly. Lack of project management, not providing the necessary resources, there are many things that can get in the way.

How is CTM an industry leader in lean training?

We’ve helped companies, many of them, implement lean operating practices over the last 35 years, so we have a very good position and understanding of what it takes to implement the lean techniques and change from traditional processes. We have also developed a through set of criteria to help standardize lean training to ensure that it is done properly.

What experience does CTM have with lean?

One thing you can be sure of. The CTM Program Directors “have been there and they have done it before”. These professionals are true practitioners. They spend the vast majority of their time, and their careers, in the field and on the job, learning and perfecting their craft. For them, it is an ongoing task, and no matter what they develop for the classroom and books, they know it only works when it is put into practice.

How does lean increase profits?

Cycle Time Management has helped companies increase pretax profits up to 27 fold. In the last three decades it has become clear that the elimination of waste, or non-value-added activity, has freed business to increase profit margins drastically. In the case of Mott Manufacturing, once the CTM evolution plan was successfully implemented, the firm experienced extraordinary increases in sales, which in turn generated greater profits.

How does lean increase efficiency?

Treating people as a value adding asset in the process of business improvement is an essential CTM ingredient for success. It allows the people in the organization to take responsibility for the business process, which generates a continuous improvement mentality and empowers the whole organization to assist in the decision making for future success!

How does lean maximize productivity?
How does lean cut costs?

A key focus of Lean is on eliminating waste. We’re talking waste of overproduction, transportation, when a piece of equipment is sitting idle, people are sitting idle, motion (taking ten steps when you only need to take one if your operation were laid out differently), over-processing, inventory, and defects. All of those are various types of waste that are found in what we’ll call traditional organizations as opposed to somebody attempting to implement lean.

I still go into factories today that have a 20-ton press which takes 8 hours to do a changeover of a die on. A company that has implemented lean however, can do it in 10 minutes on an identical machine. So, there is quite a difference once you allow yourself the flexibility to shorten your runs and move more effectively.

What is the Lean Belt System?

The idea was taken from martial arts, where this system is very well known. In 1999, a gentleman named Michael Harry, who was part of the development of Six Sigma at Motorola, opened his own business and decided to use a belt system. He had a white belt, yellow belt, green belt, black belt and master black belt. These represented different levels that a student would go through in a company to gain higher levels of learning and capability. Each belt takes you up a notch in terms of your understanding of whatever the subject is. You get a certification every time you move up the ladder.

Some training companies such as ours, use this system of certification. So, the belt is really a level. I believe strongly everybody in a company should be at least at the green belt level. Then, they’re educated, and they’re ready to go on projects and participate in a meaningful way to implement lean. Black belts are usually a small number of employees, but they’re responsible for selecting projects, understanding them, monitoring teams, and leading them. A master black belt is like a mini-trainer from the outside. When we go in, our goal is to transfer our knowledge to a master black belt, who takes over when we leave.

What industries can lean be applied to?

That’s a good question. In the beginning, when I started the company, it was hard enough to get manufacturers interested because there was the “It won’t work here in America, or in Canada” idea. We’ve learned over the years that the principles of lean, being process oriented, work in any industry, any office, any type of business. We’ve worked in with success in healthcare. We have implemented lean in wineries, improving efficiency throughout the organization. We’ve also worked with great results in the food industry, insurance companies, and many other industries. In Canada, most companies are not as far ahead as in the States, but we’re on the verge of the insurance companies opening up in a big way to the whole lean experience.

An Introduction to Lean Methodology

Performance measurement is at the core of continuous improvement and organizational change.  Much of the current management accounting needs to be revisited, revised and made relevant to the new and dramatically changing objectives for quality, reliability, capability, flexibility, employee empowerment, and sustained financial results. Performance Measurement is more than just a monitor, or a revision of current accounting practices.  It is a totally integrated and systematic means of measuring everything from a team project to an organization’s Evolution Plan, and from cost reduction programs to sensitive people issues.

This Learning Cycles program from CTM provides both the theory and practice of Performance Measurement

Having the right answer to the wrong problem can be disastrous.  That is why it is important to first have an understanding of your company’s key business issues, fundamental process problems and organizational state of readiness before embarking on new, innovative learning. CTM Program Directors know what to look for and what questions to ask.  They spend 90% of their time inside companies helping solve organizational change problems and designing implementation processes.  When the Program Directors come to your company to custom-tailor your Learning Cycles Performance Measurement program, they quickly zero in on the key issues and main barriers to developing a performance measurement system.  From this, they develop the appropriate detailed workshop lessons and approach.

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Proven Experience

CTM was incorporated in 1986 and has delivered high quality services to numerous organizations in manufacturing, healthcare, and other industries. Read our clients' success stories.

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Industry Leader

CTM has developed a comprehensive process (The Lean Framework) that allows an organization to create an environment and a means for change. Change that permeates the entire company and becomes a new paradigm for growth.

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Optimize Efficiency

Moving from reactive to proactive thinking in the work place. Having the employees understand the importance, scope and techniques involved allowed many clients to move forward at greatly accelerated rates.

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Minimize Costs

CTM focuses on five key issues: identifying waste, cellular production, scheduling, production line processes, and production line support. Our process helps firms eliminate all inefficiencies and thrive.

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The right training is critical for successful lean performance. CTM will make sure your Lean Training works. See all the services that CTM's Lean Framework offers!

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Maximize Productivity

Clients have found CTM’s Lean Assessment approach of key employee interviews, financial review, facility visit and a lean manufacturing evaluation to determining lean implementation requirements has been very effective.

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