The first step is to think of every business as a series of processes.

To quote Edwards Deming “If you can’t describe what you do as a process, then you don’t know what you are doing”

Our view is that Finance, HR, IT, Manufacturing, Sales, Engineering, Product Innovation and Marketing are all processes.

Lean thinking can be applied to any process in any organisation.

Applying Lean principles is a systematic approach to focusing a business on its customers’ requirements and removing non-value adding activities from its processes.

Implementing Lean can help your company:

  • Increase productivity
  • Improve your product or service quality
  • Reduce costs
  • Reduce scrap
  • Avoid rework
  • Increase inventory turns
  • Improve customer experience
  • Decrease required floor space
  • Expand services with less
  • Shorten customer fulfilment lead times
  • Improve capacity utilisation
  • Maximise invested capital
  • Achieve customer loyalty and retention
  • Improve morale

Implementing Lean in the office can help:

  • Avoid rework and errors
  • Eliminate excessive hand-offs, returns, and duplicate work
  • Reduce documentation processing time
  • Improve end-to-end process flow and accuracy
  • Improve lead-time to customers
  • Integrate technology more effectively
  • Improve communication across departments and minimise conflicts
  • Free up people to do strategic and proactive work
  • Make individual and departmental responsibilities crystal clear
  • Create a more focused and profitable organisation
Ideally, Lean should start from the top.  The senior management of the company must commit to a Lean business approach.  The role of the senior management team is to have a clear vision for the company and identify the strategy and goals to move the company in this direction.

The requirements of customers, shareholders and employees should also be considered in defining the purpose of the business.

  • Measurable Business KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) must be established to monitor performance against expectations.  Avoid selecting too many KPIs which can dilute the effort and cause confusion.  It is better to have fewer clear top-level KPIs which will impact customers and the bottom line.
  • Establish strong communication channels so that every employee is aware of the business strategy and KPIs, current performance and how their roles impact on results.
  • Benchmark the business against similar successful businesses.
  • Appoint a Lean coordinator who will assist in identifying training requirements, bring in external help as required, monitor the programme and communicate results.
  • A structured project-based programme can help the team address the key business challenges.  Decide how many improvements the business can handle at any one time.
  • Identify each process to be tackled, the business case, the goal, the team and the timelines. Ensure that those who operate the process are represented in the improvement team.
  • Ensure that all decisions are data-based.
  • Plan improvements based on process analysis.
  • Pilot solutions before investing in significant capital.
  • Standardise, document and establish the improved procedures.
  • A formal process to handle employee ideas against the identified goals should be established.
  • Regular progress reviews should be held at senior management level (at least monthly).
  • Recognise success and mark key milestones.

ETAC can support your business in establishing this process improvement structure.

The 12 week Lean tools programme takes a number of formats.  The most common version consists of 5 classroom days and 8 mentoring sessions.  The duration of the mentor sessions is usually one hour per person.

The mentoring time is used to apply the learning from the programme to the specific improvement project being facilitated by the participant.  The QQI award is based on submitting work on 10 tasks, most of which will be included in the project.

National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)

Qualifications frameworks describe the qualifications of an education and training system and how they interlink.  National qualifications frameworks describe what learners should know, understand and be able to do on the basis of a given qualification.

Over 150 countries have developed a national qualifications framework.  The Irish NFQ was established in 2003. There are 10 levels on the framework.

The Lean Tools programme leads to a Level 5 award.