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- Improve quality: To stay competitive in today’s marketplace, a company must understand its customers' wants and needs and design processes to meet their expectations and requirements.
- Eliminate waste: Waste is any activity that consumes time, resources, or space but does not add any value to the product or service.
- Reduce time: Reducing the time it takes to finish an activity from start to finish is one of the most effective ways to eliminate waste and lower costs.
- Reduce total costs: To minimize cost, a company must produce only to customer demand. Overproduction increases a company’s inventory costs because of storage needs.
The Tool Box:
In Information Technology (IT), value streams are the services provided by the IT function to the parent organization for use by customers, suppliers, employees, investors, regulators, the media, and any other stakeholders. These services may be further differentiated into:
- Business services (primary value streams)
- IT services (secondary value streams)
The distinction between primary and secondary value streams is meaningful. Given Lean IT’s objective of reducing waste, where waste is work that adds no value to a product or service, IT services are secondary (i.e. subordinate or supportive) to business services. In this way, IT services are tributaries that feed and nourish the primary business service value streams. If an IT service is not contributing value to a business service, it is a source of waste. Such waste is typically exposed by value-stream mapping.
Lean IT, like its lean manufacturing counterpart, involves a methodology of value stream mapping— diagramming and analyzing services (value streams) into their component process steps and eliminating any steps (or even entire value streams) that don’t deliver value.
Flow relates to one of the fundamental concepts of Lean as formulated within the Toyota Production System — namely, mura. A Japanese word that translates as “unevenness,” mura is eliminated through just-in time systems that are tightly integrated. For example, an IT server provisioning process may carry little or no inventory with labor and materials flowing smoothly into and through the value stream.
A focus on mura reduction and flow may bring benefits that would be otherwise missed by focus on muda (the Japanese word for waste) alone. The former necessitates a system-wide approach whereas the latter may produce suboptimal results and unintended consequences. For example, a software development team may produce code in a language familiar to its members and which is optimal for the team (zero muda). But if that language lacks an API standard by which business partners may access the code, a focus on mura will expose this otherwise hidden source of waste.
Pull (also known as demand) systems are themselves closely related to the aforementioned flow concept. They contrast with push or supply systems. In a pull system, a pull is a service request. The initial request is from the customer or consumer of the product or service. For example, a customer initiates an online purchase. That initial request in turn triggers a subsequent request (for example, a query to a database to confirm product availability), which in turn triggers additional requests (input of the customer’s credit card information, credit verification, processing of the order by the accounts department, issuance of a shipping request, replenishment through the supply chain management system, and so on).
Push systems differ markedly. Unlike the “bottom-up,” demand-driven, pull systems, they are “top-down,” supply-driven systems whereby the supplier plans or estimates demand. Push systems typically accumulate large inventory stockpiles in anticipation of customer need. In IT, push systems often introduce waste through an over-abundance of “just-in-case” inventory, incorrect product or service configuration, version control problems, and incipient quality issues.
Flexion has the experience to help you implement, master, and grow LEAN capabilities within your organization and deliver measurable results through practical and high impact opportunities for improvement.