Lean Glossary

Lean Glossary



Organize the work area:

  • Sort (eliminate that which is not needed)
  • Set In Order (organize remaining items)
  • Shine (clean and inspect work area)
  • Standardize (write standards for above)
  • Sustain (regularly apply the standards)


Visual feedback system for the plant floor that indicates production status, alerts when assistance is needed, and empowers operators to stop the production process.

Autonomous Maintenance

A method from TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) for engaging operators to carry out basic maintenance activity (such as cleaning, lubrication, and inspection activity).

Bottleneck Analysis

Identify which part of the manufacturing process limits the overall throughput and improve the performance of that part of the process.

Continuous Flow

Manufacturing where work-in-process smoothly flows through production with minimal (or no) buffers between steps of the manufacturing process.


A method from the Theory of Constraints for synchronizing production to the constraint while minimizing inventory and work-in-process. The “Drum” is the constraint. The “Buffer” is the inventory needed to maintain production. The “Rope” is a signal from the constraint when a specific amount of inventory has been consumed.

Gemba (The Real Place)

A philosophy that reminds us to get out of our offices and spend time on the plant floor – the place where real action occurs.

Heijunka (Level Scheduling)

A form of production scheduling that purposely manufactures in much smaller batches by sequencing (mixing) product variants within the same process.

Hoshin Kanri (Policy Deployment)

Align the goals of the company (Strategy), with the plans of middle management (Tactics) and the work performed on the plant floor (Action).

Jidoka (Autonomation)

Design equipment to partially automate the manufacturing process (partial automation is typically much less expensive than full automation) and to automatically stop when defects are detected.

Just-In-Time (JIT)

Pull parts through production based on customer demand instead of pushing parts through production based on projected demand. Relies on many lean tools, such as Continuous Flow, Heijunka, Kanban, Standardized Work and Takt Time.

Kaizen (Continuous Improvement)

A strategy where employees work together proactively to achieve regular, incremental improvements in the manufacturing process.

Kanban (Pull System)

A method of regulating the flow of goods both within the factory and with outside suppliers and customers. Based on automatic replenishment through signal cards that indicate when more goods are needed.

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Metrics designed to track and encourage progress towards critical goals of the organization. Strongly promoted KPIs can be extremely powerful drivers of behavior – so it is important to carefully select KPIs that will drive desired behavior.

Line Control

A technique from the Theory of Constraints for automatically controlling machines on synchronized autonomous production lines to maximize throughput at the constraint.

Muda (Waste)

Anything in the manufacturing process that does not add value from the customer’s perspective.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

Framework for measuring productivity loss for a given manufacturing process. Three categories of loss are tracked:

  • Availability (e.g. downtime)
  • Performance (e.g. slow cycles)
  • Quality (e.g. rejects)

PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act)

An iterative methodology for implementing improvements:

  • Plan (establish plan and expected results)
  • Do (implement plan)
  • Check (verify expected results achieved)
  • Act (review and assess; do it again)

Poka-Yoke (Error Proofing)

Design error detection and prevention into production processes with the goal of achieving zero defects.

Root Cause Analysis

A problem solving methodology that focuses on resolving the underlying problem instead of applying quick fixes that only treat immediate symptoms of the problem. A common approach is to ask why five times – each time moving a step closer to discovering the true underlying problem.

Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED)

Reduce setup (changeover) time to less than 10 minutes. Techniques include:

  • Convert setup steps to be external (performed while the process is running)
  • Simplify internal setup (e.g. replace bolts with knobs and levers)
  • Eliminate non-essential operations
  • Create standardized work instructions

Six Big Losses

Six categories of productivity loss that are almost universally experienced in manufacturing:

  • Breakdowns
  • Setup/Adjustments
  • Small Stops
  • Reduced Speed
  • Startup Rejects
  • Production Rejects


Goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Specific.

Standardized Work

Documented procedures for manufacturing that capture best practices (including the time to complete each task). Must be “living” documentation that is easy to change.

Takt Time

The pace of production (e.g. manufacturing one piece every 34 seconds) that aligns production with customer demand. Calculated as Planned Production Time / Customer Demand.

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

A holistic approach to maintenance that focuses on proactive and preventative maintenance to maximize the operational time of equipment. TPM blurs the distinction between maintenance and production by placing a strong emphasis on empowering operators to help maintain their equipment.

Toyota Production System (TPS)

A manufacturing strategy developed by Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan over a period of many years. TPS focuses on the complete elimination of waste from the manufacturing process, and is the progenitor of lean manufacturing.

Value Stream Mapping

A tool used to visually map the flow of production. Shows the current and future state of processes in a way that highlights opportunities for improvement.

Visual Factory Visual indicators, displays and controls used throughout manufacturing plants to improve communication of information.

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