UPDATED | What is Lean Thinking?


Lean Thinking might sound like the latest diet fad sweeping the world. Actually, it isn’t about trimming your waist, but a way of trimming your business processes to make them more efficient.

Through a series of features we aim to provide a greater understanding of Lean Thinking and how it can benefit your business. 

Lean Thinking explained

Lean Thinking is a structured approach to looking at the end-to-end processes within your business to make sure you’re getting your product or service to your customer in the most efficient manner.

Basically, it helps businesses to eliminate anything they are doing that isn’t adding value to the end product.

It ensures businesses are producing exactly what the customer wants. The approach has helped companies worldwide to become more efficient, competitive and profitable.

Addressing areas of waste typically results in productivity improvement of at least 25-30 per cent. So it’s worth taking a look at how you can make your business leaner. 

Five principles of Lean Thinking

  • Value: specify what creates value from the customer’s perspective.
  • The value stream: Identify all the steps along the process chain, eliminate waste.
  • Flow: make the value process flow.
  • Pull: make only what is needed by the customer.
  • Perfection: strive for perfection by continually attempting to produce exactly what the customer wants.

Expert insights - Demand-driven supply network

We recently held two seminars hosted by renowned experts in their fields. In the video below Carol Ptak of the Demand Driven Institute explains what it was all about.


A Demand-driven supply network (DDSN) is one method of supply chain management which involves building supply chains in response to demand signals. The main force of DDSN is that it is driven by customers demand. In comparison with the traditional supply chain, DDSN uses the pull technique.

DDSN uses a capability model that consist of four levels. The first level is Reacting, the second level is Anticipating, the third level is Collaborating and the last level is Orchestrating. The first two levels focus on the internal supply chain while the last two levels concentrate on external relations.

Expert insights - Value Stream mapping

The second workshop was delivered by Drew Locher on Value Stream mapping. In the video below Drew explains what it is.


Value stream mapping is a technique used both in service and manufacturing businesses. It is used to document, analyse and improve the flow of information or materials required to produce a product or service for a customer.

Value stream mapping is a paper and pencil tool that helps you to see and understand the flow of material and information as a product or service makes its way through the value stream.

A value stream map is an end-to-end system map and takes into account not only the activity of the product, but the management and information systems that support the basic process. This is especially helpful when working to reduce cycle time, because you gain insight into the decision making flow in addition to the process flow.

If you want to get started on the lean journey, call our Productivity Improvement Team on 0800 181 4422.

Further information
Lean tutorial: Learn how to apply lean thinking to your business