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3P Approach

A three-day workshop in which a collaborative cross functional team collaborates towards the elaboration of a new value-added process, product or equipment according to non-negotiable Lean principles. 3P (process, preparation, production) seeks improvements or substantial innovations to prevent loss and wastes by designing simultaneously the product and its manufacturing process, or the service and its information flow.


Five words borrowed from the Japanese language to describe a concept that allows to keep a work environment clean and orderly, favouring effectiveness, health & security, the reduction of non-value-added activities. The 5S are: Seiri (Sort), Seiton (Set in order), Seiso (Shine), Seiketsu (Standardize), Shitsuke (Sustain).


A4 Project Sheet

Form on which you can find on a single two-sided page, all the necessary information related to the project team: the sponsor and project team members’ names; goals; scope of the project (the beginning and the end of a process and the functions that are included or excluded from the project); a summary of the actual state included the performance and issues of the process under revision; the deadlines; and some other relevant information.


Andon is a visual management tool allowing to reveal, at a glance, that a workstation is experiencing a difficulty. It can be an automatic or manual electronic chart with lights that light up to show which workstation is in failure mode. This visual tool allows the coordination of activities required to correct a situation as soon as an issue arises whether it is a breakdown or a quality issue.



Number of files, clients, documents, etc. that are simultaneously put through a process. Often referred to as “batch size”.


Approach used to assess the product, service, or methodology of the most successful organizations within the same field of expertise to draw information that would allow others to improve.

Black Belt

Lean certification level meeting the following requirements:

  • Certified Green Belt agent
  • Completed the Black Belt theoretical training
  • Managed, realized and validated an additional project
  • Published an introductory White Belt LHC training
  • Completed an operational audit
  • Successfully completed the certification examination
Bottleneck management

Management method using several strategies to optimize the slowest step of a process (bottleneck). That strategy becomes necessary because it is the bottleneck step that limits the maximum quantity a process could produce.


A formalized technique used by teams to generate a maximum number of ideas on a given subject (to solve a problem) that favours creativity. Participants are asked to think creatively and to make as many suggestions as possible. The ides are not discussed of, nor revised before the end of the brainstorming session.


Idea generation tool that, contrary to brainstorming, uses a written approach (silent) to note the group’s ideas. This technique allows members that are more introvert to give their point of view as much as extroverts.


Cause and Effect Diagram

Also called “Ishikawa diagram”, because of Kaoru Ishikawa who developed it, or fishbone diagram, because of its shape, this diagram depicts main and secondary causes leading to an effect (symptom). The causes of an effect are arranged around 8 fish bones (8M, Method, Manpower, Management, Material, Machines, Measurements, Money, and Mother Nature).

Check List

A tool used to ensure all steps or crucial actions of an operation were completed.

Client (customer)

The person for whom the work or service is being accomplished. The internal client is the person who receives the work of another employee, or from another part of the organization located upstream from a given process.


A capacity constraint is a resource whose capacity is usually lesser or equal to the need (cannot satisfy the need) of the client. It can also be called a bottleneck to represent the weakest link of the process in which case, it is not necessarily a constraint to satisfy the client’s needs.

Continuous Improvement (CI)

It is a management approach that favours the implementation of incremental and ongoing improvement efforts of products, services and processes that allow increasing the ability to satisfy the client’s needs (within or outside an organization). IC is made possible by implementing structuring elements (performance indicators, visual management stations, group meetings, Gemba walks, etc.) that are part of a daily approach of problem solving that involves the creativity of each and every stakeholder, part of an organization. Its core principle is based on the small steps theory aiming at a constant and steady evolution, which, however, does not exclude spectacular breakthroughs.

Control Chart

One of seven statistical tools of quality control ensuring the statistical mastering of the processes. The chart is used to control and follow the evolution of a process by depicting, through sampling, the regularity and variability of the said process. The many types of control charts allow predicting the process’s deviations while ensuring production remains within the predefined control boundaries.

Corrective action

The implementation of solutions to a root cause in response to the necessity to reduce or eliminate an issue. The main objective of a corrective action is to ensure an identified issue will no longer be a problem.



A dashboard comes in many shapes and sizes, it is typically a management tool to assist in the decision-making process, it allows to consolidate indicators in such a way to track an organization or sector’s key measurements (actual state and deviation from the objectives) and allows everyone to see their contribution to the organization’s overall performance. Dashboards also aims to ensure strategic alignment (True North) of all levels within the organization.


Acronym describing in sequence the five steps of problem solving in the framework of an improvement project:

  • Define: Define the issue or improvement opportunity
  • Measure: Measure the process’s actual performance
  • Analyze: Analyze the process to determine the problem’s root causes
  • Improve: Identify and implement solutions to resolve root causes
  • Control: Control the improved process to sustain gains.

Each phase has its own tools and deliverables to ensure better results.



The Failure mode Effect Analysis, is the analysis of the effect and criticality of a failure mode. It is a tool that helps anticipate potential failures of a product, equipment or a process and all their components in order to assess the resulting risks. The potential failures and consequences are systematically identified and measured in terms of criticality (importance of the effect if they should occur), probability they would occur and difficulty in detecting them. It is then easier to rank potential incidents to organize preventive measures and improve the design of the product or process.

Force Field Analysis

A tool to help make a decision and that allows highlighting, with arrows, the opposing forces (negatives) and the driving forces (positive) to an idea, a change or to the attainment of a goal within an organization. The analysis allows identifying all of the driving factors (opportunities) or resistance factors (threats) related to an expected change.


Gantt Chart

A planning assistance tool allowing to visualize in time the tasks comprised in a project as well as the exiting links between them.

Gemba Walk

A Japanese word meaning “the place where lies reality.” It is where the added value is created, the place where issues arise, where the client gets satisfaction, etc. In a manufacturing plant, for example, it means the production floor.

Green Belt

Lean certification level meeting the following requirements:

  • Certified White Belt agent
  • Completed the Green Belt 8-day training
  • Properly managed a project in collaboration with the sponsor, under the supervision of a Black Belt agent
  • Planned activities for the different steps comprised in the project while ensuring the active participation from the members of a cross functional team
  • Successfully completed the certification examination


Information Flow Diagram (IFD)

Graphic representation of the flow of information (process) using symbols depicting the processing operations and control, movements, the inventory, waiting time, and decisions. The diagram shows interrelations between the different functions/activities of a process.



The organization of a client/supplier chain in such a way to optimize flexibility and responsiveness of an enterprise while reducing inventory to an optimal level. In a Just-in-Time environment, it is the client who triggers the production sequence in order to receive the order at the exact moment it is required, without having to put it into inventory. The Just-in-Time philosophy satisfies four great principles: produce only the required quantity, maintain industrial flexibility, maintain minimum inventory levels, and eliminate wastes.



Kaikaku (in Japanese, radical change), is the notion of sudden change. In that way, it opposes Kaizen which is focused on continuous, incremental, minor changes, towards improvement. The Kaikaku implies the radical reengineering of business processes throughout the organization.


Japanese philosophy meaning “continuous improvement in small steps.” It focuses on the implementation of an improvement structure within a daily management process. This approach involves everyone towards the reduction and elimination of the causes of losses within a process and organization. This allows reaching cost, quality and lead-time related objectives that are more and more audacious. The term Kaizen is also used for a workshop of several days (see also Blitz Kaizen) completed by a cross-functional team as per a structured approach towards the optimization of a process of the resolution of a specific issue.

Kaizen Blitz

See also Kaizen

A Kaizen Blitz is an analysis and optimization workshop through a structured approach which ensures the buy-in of a process’s main stakeholders through their participation. The project usually has a smaller scope, and the Measure and Analyze phases (See also DMAIC) are completed faster when compared to an Impact Kaizen event.


Kanban, a Japanese word, is a common name which literally means signboard or billboard. It is a visual system (card, light, space, etc.) that allows signalling the start of an action. Essentially, it visually manages material flow and the order of the steps comprised in a process. It relies on the basis of a production pull system, a kanban system allows optimizing the inventory of work in progress and reduce batch sizes.



See also Continuous improvement

Management philosophy seeking performance through continuous improvement and the elimination of wastes. Lean is inspired by the Toyota Production System (TPS). A Lean organization could be defined as an organization that improves all of its processes on a daily basis.

Lean Agents

They are Lean experts and the guardians of the methodology within an organization. According to their level of experience and their training, they accomplish projects, lead problem solving activities, train, offer technical support and have the skills to manage cross functional teams to achieve targeted objectives.

Little’s Law

Little’s Law (1961) is a law that defines the theory related to waiting lines. It links waiting time, work in progress and the system’s flow:

WIP = T * LT

  • WIP : “ Work In Progress” or amount of parts being processed
  • T : Output rate of the system
  • LT : Lead time (average cycle time spent in the system) corresponding to the waiting time, plus processing time.

It is interesting in the fact that it proves that if we need to reduce lead time, we have two options: either reduce WIPs or increase throughput rate.



See also wastes

They are what we call “wastes”.


Irregularities or variations within a process or work flow. Irregularities create excess and wastes.


They are excesses or the unreasonable. Material, human, information and financial resources are either over or under used. Excesses create wastes.


Natural Balancing

Autonomous and continuous balancing of workers’ workload within a working cell or on a production line without the intervention of a supervisor to maintain production stream. To achieve workload balance and work flow, workers achieve their tasks and adjust them by completing the work that was started at the previous workstation, or by transferring theirs to the following one. This approach limits bottlenecks and waiting time, and maintains optimal production stream throughout the entire process.

Non-added Value

Any activity that does not transform, that does not bring nor contribute to bringing value to finished products or offered services. Non-value added activities include the 8 types of waste.


Pareto Analysis

The Pareto analysis is a law put forth by an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, according to which a low percentage (20%) of the data represents the most important part of the value (80%) of that same data. It is also called the rule of 20/80, according to which, for example, 20% of the causes produce 80% of the effects, 80% of the sales is generated by only 20% of the different available products. This analysis usually shows the data in a vertical bar diagram sorted from least to most important causes. It is usually accompanied by a cumulative value curve of the bars.

Pareto Chart

See also Pareto Analysis

A graphical technique used to quantify problems so that effort can be expended in fixing the “vital few” causes, as opposed to the “trivial many.” The Pareto, suggests that most effects come from relatively few causes; that is, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Performance indicators

Criteria or benchmarks that allow measuring the level of attainment of an organization’s or a process’s goals, and follow their progression. This removes the perceptions and opinions, in favour of objective observations. Measured items are related to quality of the product/service, delivery (lead-time), cost and safety.

Poka Yoke

A Poka Yoke is a device that allows reducing mistakes to a minimum, and even to totally avoid them. These devices aim at zero default, and eliminate the need for quality control. A great example of a Poka Yoke would be the different shapes of any type of electronic connectors that allow avoiding inserting the connector in the wrong outlet.

Preventive action

Preventive actions are part of the risk analysis of a process and consist in ensuring problems do not arise.

Problem Solving Process

A process to identify the real problem and true causes to eventually implement permanent solutions. PSP offers the team a functioning mode that allows it to ensure that the solving process is completed in the appropriate sequence and manner, without the use of leverage nor discussions based on subjective perceptions or opinions.

Process Analysis

With the help of people directly involved in a process, a detailed analysis is carried out by creating a graphic depiction of the process’s actual state in order to identify non-added-value activities for the client, all the while taking into consideration the organization’s constraints. The objective is to review the process in such a way that it can satisfy the client’s needs in the most effective and efficient manner.

Process Cycle Efficiency (PCE)

Usually calculated through the time line at the bottom of a VSM chart, the PCE is calculated by dividing total cycle time by the process lead time. The goal of an improvement (optimization) project is to increase to a maximum that percentage by reducing the waste of time within the process, often caused by high levels of inventories or other sources of wastes.

Process Lead Time

Time required to complete a process. It is the amount of time between the moment a product enters a process until the moment it comes out, completed. PLT is also measured by dividing the quantity of WIP (work in progress) by the production volume at the end of the process.

Project Leader

The project leader is responsible for the execution of the project and is commissioned by the project’s sponsor.

Pull system

Steering model of the stream according to which materials and information go forward within the process when a demand arises. WIP’s inventory levels are stable or non-existent, between each step of the process. When a demand is made by a client, the process pulls on each step from the end of the process to trigger the work to be accomplished.

Push system

A process programmed to produce according to a forecasted demand. Materials or information is pushed through the steps of a process from the beginning until an inventory of the finished product is formed to satisfy a potential demand.



An approach undertaken by an organization for the in-depth reassessment or redefinition of their processes for the purpose of restructuring to become more effective. The re-engineering aims at spectacular cost, quality, service, and speed improvements. This approach is generally lead by experts rather than using a participation mode as in Kaizen workshops.


Simultaneous Engineering

An engineering methodology aiming to include, from the beginning of the process (ex: design phase) cross-functional resources usually involved further down the process. This way, factors that could influence the final product (clients’ needs, reliability, after sales, assembly, etc.) are included from the beginning, i.e. the design phase. This entails the reduction of changes and adjustments in the design, as well as important costs and delays reduction of the development phase. The perfect example would be to include mechanics in the design process of an automobile to make it easier for them to proceed to the maintenance of the vehicle once on the road.

Single Unit Batch

A term used to describe the operations and transfers from one workstation to the next one part/unit at a time. We also use “unit flow” (one piece flow).


A quick technic for drawing up the high level diagram of a process. The technic uses a single page form to identify the suppliers (S), the Inputs (I), the process’s main steps (P), the outputs (O) and the customer/client (C).

Six Sigma

Trademark brand owned by Motorola, Six Sigma is a management strategy aiming to improve the quality of outputs by identifying and eliminating the cause of defaults (mistakes) and variations within the process being revised. This approach uses a series of quality management tools, including statistical tools. The problem solving approach called DMAIC stems from the Six Sigma approach. « Sigma” is an assessment of the process variability (standard deviation), whereas the “six” refers to the level to which the variability must be reduced.


He or she is the manager who writes an intervention request to proceed to the optimization of a process of which he or she is responsible and accountable.

Stage Gate

A management technique through which a process (usually a design process) or a project is divided in steps separated by milestones (decision points). Every time a milestone is reached, the decision to pursue the project is typically made by a validation team during a milestone review. The decision is made based on the attainment or non-attainment of deliverables specific to that milestone and the relevance of the continuation of the project in relation to the business objectives of the organization. The main advantage of this technique is to reduce iterations within the milestones to avoid that changes or adjustments become necessary further down the process which would entail increased costs and delays to complete the process or project.

Stakeholder Analysis

This analysis, usually depicted as a matrix, takes into account the interest and the power of anyone who is directly involved in the process under review in order to determine the strategies to use to encourage their participation and collaboration, and satisfy their expectations, or to prevent they undermine the success of the project.



Takt time is a German expression referring to the rhythm of production which should be the same as the consumption rate of the product by the clients. Thus, it is the rhythm a production process should maintain to meet the client’s demands. For example, a product is completed every X minutes.

Task Standardization

Basically, it is about establishing a standardized method in order to get steady results, to facilitate transfer of knowledge and problem solving. Standardization benefits from visual communication. It reduces the stress imposed on employees and increases their flexibility. It is often considered as the foundation of improvement since it is so difficult to improve an unstable process.

Toyota Production System

A production system developed by Toyota Motor Corporation’s Taiichi Ohno, aiming to offer the best quality at the lowest cost and in less time through the elimination of wastes. TPS is grounded on two main pillars that are Just-in-Time and Jidoka (detect issues and solve them promptly). TPS was the forerunner to the “Lean methodology.”


Value Added

Necessary activities to produce the client’s desired results. Thus, it corresponds solely to the activities that directly contributed to transforming material or information into a finished product, or to increase the value of a service. They are the activities a client is willing to pay for.

Value Adding Process

Support activities that do not necessarily add value from the client’s point of view, but that are essential to the good functioning of the organization or for the compliance to regulations and standards.

Value Stream Mapping

Also called VSM, it is a high level graphic depiction of a process that includes information flow and material flow. This tool allows one to visualize all the steps comprised in a process with or without valued-added, from the suppliers to the clients, and to represent the information flows that allow managing these steps. It measures the process timeline and highlights waste sources. By providing an overview, it also allows to better prioritize and sequence future improvement activities.

Visual Management

Visual management is a group of methods and tools allowing to manage an activity, a sector or an organization « with the eyes ». The goal is to shape the information and its context in such a way that the need for work and decision-making becomes obvious. That way, what happens is easily spotted and the smallest anomaly can rapidly be noticed. This greatly improves communication, problem resolution as well as the manager’s effectiveness by allowing rapid and proactive interventions.

Voice Of The Customer (Client)

It is the diagnostic activity of the actual state to capture and measure the customer’s satisfaction level and needs in relation to the process being analyzed. The assessment could comprise indicators (delay, complaints, etc.), surveys and clients’ feedback gathered during interviews.

Voice of the Employees

It is the diagnostic activity of the actual state to capture and measure the employees’ satisfaction level and needs in relation to the process being analyzed. The activity usually includes interviews or surveys conducted with the process’s stakeholders to identify the main pains, actual issues and possible solutions to improve the process.

Voice of the Process

It is the diagnostic activity conducted to create an image (mapping) of the process and to gather performance indicators and data allowing to better describe the process’s actual state (functioning, performance and issues).


Wastes (Muda)

Any activity that consumes resources without adding value for the client (non-value added activity). There are 8 types of wastes in an organization: overproduction; waiting; movements of resources of materials; non-effective methodology; inventory; unnecessary movements; technical errors or incorrect information; and loss of creativity).

White Belt

A Lean agent certification for which the requirements are to complete a one-day basic training explaining the origins of Lean and its main concepts, and that includes a simulation to test the application of these concepts in the improvement of a fictitious process.


Strategic grouping of equipment, work stations, or operations arranged close to one another in such a way that it makes it easy to transfer units between each step. Workcells allow an organization to be more flexible and to reduce inventory levels by reorganizing resources in small responsibility groups.