Real Lean – What's in a name?

Real Lean is the term used by BSM to describe a specific methodology, one which enacts the actual core principles of lean and delivers real value stream optimisation, both financially and operationally, for its clients.    

We should credit John Krafcik, a PhD student at the time, for first using the term ‘Lean’ in a 1988 MIT paper. Krafcik described how value stream resources (staff, equipment, space and material) can be optimised to deliver demanded value stream outputs. It is unlikely that Krafcik intended that each and every initiative which targeted waste elimination would be misrepresented as “lean”.

Nowadays, primarily due to the inappropriate deployment of waste elimination tools, “Lean” can trigger a variety of unhelpful thoughts and reactions in the minds of affected staff. Interpretations of “Lean” are not always positive in nature – minimisation, downsizing, cuts, waste, loss, inflexibility are just some of the associated terms.

BSM’s competitors say they do “Lean” but what they are really doing is deploying tools to move waste from one point in the value stream to another. Consider the following familiar scenario.

Due to an anticipated 20% growth in demand, ACME consultants are tasked with a challenge to increase the productivity of Laboratory A. ACME consultants are highly likely to begin the assignment by investing significant consult and client resources in performing a detailed process mapping exercise, perhaps using the classic brown paper mapping approach, in order to understand in detail each element of each test, the standard lead time of these tests, the associated headcount, and most likely some identified failure points in the various processes conducted in the lab. The output of this first step generates genuine widespread and shared satisfaction that “we finally understand how our lab processes work”. It is normal for this map to be kept in situ on whatever wall is was first attached to, which is typically in the second largest meeting room - the boardroom is off limits for wall markings of any sort. The first mini project is quickly launched to reduce the duration of the longest process on the map by at least 20% (ACME signal that a 30% reduction is entirely possible). More of these projects ensue in due course, over the course of 9-18 months. The net result? A “paper” gain of 27% in productivity, but a real gain in productivity of a meagre 5%, which has to be supplemented by some low key hiring of more analysts.      

BSM has a very different approach. We work with clients to understand lab processes only to a level of detail that is appropriate. We are primarily interested in the volatility of incoming workloads, and in the amount of lead time that we can work with if tests are conducted in a flowed defined sequence. BSM has proven methodologies that level workloads, which is the first actual principle of Lean. These tools result in real productivity gains, not just paper gains.

BSM has searched for a differentiating title to describe what we deliver. We need our clients to understand, if possible by merely reading the ‘label’, what we are about, and how that is different to the many misguided interpretations of lean offered by our competitors. The best we have been able to come up with to date – Real Lean.

In the past decade, the global programmes that BSM has partnered with its clients on, have been branded variously as Lean Lab, Operational Excellence, Laboratory Capacity, OpX, etc.,….but all of them follow the same guiding principles of Real Lean, namely Levelling, Flow and Standard work and all of them deliver real measurable improvements.

What’s in a name? Engage BSM for your Real Lean programme and find out!

Our consultants can provide further information on the above and discuss any aspect of Real Lean Transformation, simply set-up a call today.