This article will discuss: what the House of Lean is, how it works, and how it can optimize your organizational processes.
Updated 31 Jan 2023, Published 31 Mar 2022
The House of Lean visualizes the structure of Lean when implemented in organizations. It shows the Lean method as a house whose components work together to achieve the desired goals. Just as its name suggests, House of Lean anchors itself on the concepts, strategies, and principles of Lean manufacturing.
This visual representation guides organizations in optimizing their manufacturing and operations using the Lean method. It focuses on solving problems and continuously evolving through innovative principles and practices. Find out more about this methodology in the succeeding sections.
The House of Lean illustrates a clear flow of processes in realizing the Lean method. It shapes the principles and practices that organizations need in carrying out the Lean vision. It can also be used with other frameworks such as SWOT.
As mentioned earlier, it likens the Lean process to a house. Each part plays an essential role in holding the Lean house together. For example, the roof (goals) needs the support of sturdy pillars (principles and practices) and a solid foundation (leadership).
In other words, the synergy of these elements helps organizations reach their targets. Ultimately, the goal is to provide value to customers using less waste and fewer resources.
After the Second World War, Toyota pioneered a production system that would radically change the game in the following years.
The Toyota Production System (TPS) became the answer to the inefficiencies of the traditional production model. It focused on optimizing production by eliminating waste in the system. This way, companies could deliver products and services of the highest quality at the lowest cost and in the shortest lead time.
The Toyota House of Lean, as shown in the diagram below, illustrates the TPS to help organizations better understand how it works. This visualization consists of the roof, the pillars, and the foundations. The following sections will explore these components one by one.
Two-Pillar Toyota House of Lean
Developing a product, service, or idea begins with the customer in mind. After all, they are the primary consumers of the product, service, or capability.
With this in mind, it follows to put them at the top of the House of Lean. The roof represents the organization’s goal: to create the highest quality products at the lowest possible cost and in the shortest lead time. By prioritizing and attaining customer satisfaction, companies gain an advantage over their competitors.
So how can companies deliver what their customers want? They need to satisfy these four elements:
The Toyota House of Lean rests on two (2) pillars: Jidoka and Just-in-Time (JIT). Later, Toyota would add another pillar, People and Teamwork, to strengthen the house. These pillars support the roof and drive organizations to achieve their goals.
This pillar comes from the Japanese term meaning “autonomation.” In other words, Jidoka is all about automation with a human touch.
Jidoka puts machines to a safe stop whenever problems arise. It captures these faults at the onset before they affect the rest of the production line.
This way, companies can prevent injuries, minimize damage, and promote long-term solutions. Moreover, it encourages them to build and improve systems until they are safe and sturdy.
Just-in-Time (JIT) follows the principle of making the right products at the right time and in the right quantity. By delivering customer demand without excess, it removes the seven wastes (Muda): overproduction, inventory, motion, defects, overprocessing, waiting, and transport. To achieve this, the just-in-time model provides the following tools:
This pillar adds another dimension to improve the two-pillar system. Just as the name suggests, it revolves around the people and how they work with each other.
To create an environment suitable for Lean construction and manufacturing, companies need to pay attention to:
Moreover, this pillar also emphasizes teamwork in resolving problems. It provides the following tools to enable this process:
With the addition of this pillar, the Toyota House of Lean will look like the diagram below.
Three-Pillar Toyota House of Lean
It is a common saying that a house with good foundations lasts longer. This statement rings true with the Toyota House of Lean. These components—heijunka, standardized work, and kaizen—provide a stable foundation to help sustain the Lean process.
The term heijunka in Japanese means “leveling.” True to its name, it levels the type and quantity of production based on what the customer needs. Using this method, companies can save costs and avoid overproduction while meeting customer demands.
Another component in the Toyota House of Lean foundations is standardized work. It optimizes the production process by having the most effective and efficient people, materials, and equipment at present to do the job. In doing so, companies can maintain the same high quality for all their products.
The word “standardized” may sound like something static or unchanging to some, but that isn’t the case. Instead, standardized work is all about the best means possible at the moment. It encourages companies to improve their standard operations continuously.
As mentioned earlier, practices and methods in a Toyota House of Lean are rarely static. Instead, they move dynamically as they consistently find ways to improve.
Kaizen embodies this foundation. It aims to improve value streams and individual processes to enhance the quality of products with less waste. It does so on two levels:
In the previous section, the Toyota House of Lean provides a comprehensive view of how organizations can optimize their production systems without wasting time and resources.
The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) House of Lean takes this endeavor one step further. It aims to transform practices and processes at the organizational level with the help of the Agile Manifesto. Together, they form what is known as the SAFe Lean-Agile Mindset.
This section will look closely into each component of this house, as shown in the diagram below.
SAFe House of Lean
In the SAFe House of Lean, great teams often begin with their leaders. This component enables teams to succeed in their desired goals.
Thus, to successfully implement the SAFe House of Lean, companies need to start with the leadership team. Managers and supervisors must embrace Lean-Agile values to achieve business agility. They can do so by following these three dimensions:
The SAFe House of Lean consists of four pillars reinforcing the Lean methodology. It optimizes standard processes using Lean strategies and tools specific to the production area.
In implementing these pillars, leaders can use the 5s Lean principles, Kanban, Jidoka, JIT production, 5 Whys, and other Lean tools.
The first pillar, respect for people and culture, is a must for any organization. Treating employees with respect empowers them to contribute and improve practices. When employees are valued and listened to, they also do their part in finding better ways of operating.
In other words, this pillar drives people to foster a safe, positive, and performance-led environment. Thus, change must come from within—from company practices to the leaders’ approach.
The second pillar pushes for a seamless flow of value delivery in organizations. It involves constantly receiving feedback (from customers, managers, and other teammates) and adjusting components. In doing so, companies can deliver value at an agile pace.
This continuous flow follows these principles:
Keeping this flow requires continuously seeking ingenious ways to remove wasteful practices. From a management perspective, it starts by changing its approach from short-term projects to long-term products.
To maintain a smooth flow of operations, companies need to find new ways to enhance their value delivery. Otherwise, their products would remain stagnant.
Innovation, the third pillar, furthers this cause. Part of the Lean process involves continuous improvement. One of the best ways to do that is through constant innovation.
Nurture innovative ideas in the workplace by:
The final pillar, relentless improvement, requires shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth one. It encourages learning and development among the ranks in the company.
Having a growth mindset involves reflecting on previous works and enhancing current processes. To cultivate this pillar, companies must:
All efforts in optimizing processes can only become fruitful if the resulting product or service satisfies customers. Thus, the roof symbolizes customer focus at the top of the SAFe House of Lean.
This means that companies must consider customer needs and wants when employing Lean strategies. After all, the goal is to bring customers the best value for their money in the shortest sustainable lead-time while eliminating waste.
The SAFe House of Lean offers companies many strategic advantages to propel their business to new heights. It enables organizations to:
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The House of Lean helps in improving your organization’s quality management systems and practices. It guides you in delivering high-quality products and services without wasting precious resources. But with a multitude of tools at your disposal, it’s easy to get lost in the Lean process.
Luckily, digital platforms such as SafetyCulture can help you. It streamlines your efforts in integrating the Lean principles using the following functions:
Area supervisors and plant managers can use this template to perform monthly and quarterly audits onsite. Enforce 5S Lean principles by following the specified criteria in the template. Take photos of the workspace, add remarks, and assign corrective actions as needed. Finalize the checklist with an e-signature and share the results with the rest of the team.
Quality managers can use this checklist to eliminate the seven (7) wastes in Lean manufacturing: defects, inventory, motion, overprocessing, overproduction, transport, and waiting. Detect any of the seven wastes easily by documenting inefficiencies in daily processes. Promote operational excellence and conserve resources with this template.
Use this Jidoka checklist template to assess if your company is ready to implement Jidoka in the workplace. All you need to do is provide answers to 25 questions to check your readiness and spot potential gaps in applying the principle. This template is easy to use and customize according to your business needs.
Continuously improve your workplace practices using this kaizen report template. Document the entire project life cycle from start to finish. Identify the root cause of the problem, attach annotated photos, and specify points for improvement with this checklist.
Use this template to define and resolve the root causes of problems in your workplace. This template provides a series of "Why?" questions to assess the issue accurately. Identify problems, find their root causes, and assign actions to solve them using this checklist.
Leizel Estrellas is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. Her academic and professional training as a researcher allows her to write meaningful articles that create a lasting impact. As a content specialist, she strives to promote a culture of safety in the workplace through accessible and reader-friendly content. With her high-quality work, she is keen on helping businesses across industries identify issues and opportunities to improve every day.
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