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Glossary of Lean Terminology


3 Actuals

The 3 Actuals state that the keys to successful kaizen are:

1) Go to the Actual Place where the work is performed

2) Watch the Actual Process of how the work is completed

3) Talk to the Actual People who do the work


The 3 Actuals are similar to the 3 'G' Principles, but without the original Japanese words

3D Jobs

Working conditions or jobs that are dirty, dangerous, or difficult. 3D jobs often garner higher wages because workers may need more incentive to perform these jobs.

Other 3D variations include "dirty, dangerous, or demeaning," or "dirty, dangerous, or demeaning."

3 Elements of Demand

The three drivers of customer satisfaction are Quality, Cost, and Delivery.

3 'G' Principles

The three G principles state that the keys to successful kaizen are:


1) Going to the shop floor (gemba)

2) Working with the actual product (gembutsu), and

3) Getting the facts (genjitsu)


The 3 G's are Americanized as the 3 Actuals.


Production Preparation Process. Rapidly designing production processes and equipment to ensure capability, built-in quality, productivity, and Takt-Flow-Pull. The Production Preparation Process minimizes resources needed such as capital, tooling, space, inventory, and time.


The three elements of JIT(Just In Time) manufacturing are:

1) Takt time

2) Flow production

3) The downstream pull system


Understand these factors and the establishment of standards are key steps in strengthening the production processes.






The principle of waste elimination through workplace organization. Derived from the Japanese words seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke. In English the 5S are Sort, Store, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.   Some organizations add safety and call this 6S.



A simple but effective method of analyzing and solving problems by asking `why?' five times (or as many times as needed to find the root cause.


Data gathering and analysis tools used for kaizen activities originally by QC Circles. They are:

1) Check sheets

2) Cause and effect diagrams

3) Pareto diagrams

4) Histograms

5) Graphs

6) Scatter diagrams

7) Broken line graphs

8 WASTES or W.O.R.M.P.I.I.T.

There are 8 types of waste that describe all wasteful activity in a production environment. Elimination of the 8 wastes leads to improved profits. The 8 wastes are:

1) Waiting

2) Overproduction

3) Rework

4) Motion

5) Processing (Paperwork)

6) Inventory

7) Transportation

8) Talent


Abnormality Management

Being able to see and quickly take action to correct abnormalities (any straying from Standard Work). This is the goal of standardization and visual management. Continuous waste elimination and problem solving through kaizen are only possible when the abnormalities are visible.

Activity Based Costing

A management accounting system that assigns cost to products based on the resources used to perform a process (design, order entry, production, etc.  These resources include floor space, raw materials, energy, machine time, labor, etc.


Affinity Diagram

A process to organize disparate language information by placing it on cards and grouping the cards that go together in a creative way.  Header cards are then used to summarize each group of cards.


Andon Board

A visual control device in a production area, typically a lighted overhead display or board.  Andons are used to give the current status of the production system and alert team members to emerging problems or abnormal situations.



Automation with a human touch. Refers to semi-automatic processes where the operator and machine work together. Autonomation allows man-machine separation. Also referred to Jidoka.



The process of automatically decrementing perpetual inventory records, based on the bill of materials of a given product.  Normally triggered by shipment and invoicing to a customer, backflushing is used to eliminate wasteful inventory transactions.


Balanced Plant

A plant where capacities of all resources are balanced exactly with market demand


Balanced production

All operations or cells produce at the same cycle time. In a balanced system, the cell cycle time is less than takt time.


Batch Production

A "Push" system of production where resources are provided to the consumer based on forecasts or schedules.



Producing more than one piece of an item and then moving those items forward to the next operation before that are all actually needed there. Thus, items need to wait in a queue.



The process of measuring products, services, and practices against those of leading companies.



Any resource whose capacity is equal to, or less than the demand placed on it.


Bowling chart

A form used to track performance (Plan vs. Actual) on Policy Deployment Objectives.  Usually reviewed with top management on a monthly basis, but reviewed by the PD team more frequently.



A best-known example of performance in a particular operation. One needs to define both the class and the operation to avoid using the term loosely.



A blitz is a fast and focused process for improving some component of business  a product line, a machine, or a process. It utilizes a cross-functional team of employees for a quick problem-solving exercise, where they focus on designing solutions to meet some well-defined goals.

Breakthrough objectives

In Policy Deployment, those objectives characterized by multi-functional teamwork, significant change in the organization, significant competitive advantage and major stretch for the organization.



An existing and operating production facility that is set up for mass-production manufacturing and management methods.



A process in any part of the enterprise (office, production, sales, etc.) that limits the throughput of the whole process.




Capacity Constraint Resources

Where a series of non-bottlenecks, based on the sequence in which they perform their jobs can act as a constraint.



A series of discussion between managers and their employees during which data, ideas, and analysis are thrown like a ball. This opens productive dialogue throughout the entire company.


Cause and Effect Diagram

A problem-solving tool used to establish relationships between effects and multiple causes.



Acronym for Cause and Effect Diagram with the Addition of Cards.  CEDAC is a method for involving team members in the problem solving process.



The layout of machines of different types performing different operations in a tight sequence, typically in a U-shape, to permit single piece flow and flexible deployment of human effort.


Cellular Manufacturing/Cells

Linking of manual and machine operations into the most efficient combination to maximize value added content while minimizing waste of motion and valuable resources.


A method of conducting single-piece flow, where the operator proceeds from machine to machine, taking the part from one machine and loading it into the next.

Change Agent

The catalytic force moving firms and value streams out of the world of inward-looking batch-and-queue.



The installation of a new type of tool in a metal working machine, a different paint in a painting system, a new plastic resin and new mold in an injection molding machine, new software in a computer, and so on.



Anything that limits a system from achieving higher performance, or throughput.


Continuous Flow Production

Means that items are produced and moved from one processing step to the next one piece at a time. Each process makes only the one piece that the next process needs, and the transfer batch size is one. Also called "single-piece flow" or "one-piece flow."


Continuous Improvement Process (CIP)

The never-ending process of eliminating waste within the organization in order to shrink manufacturing cycle times, improve quality, and to respond to changing customer demands.


Control Chart

A statistical tool for problem solving that indicates control of a process within established limits.


Control Element

A specific process variable, which must be controlled. Measurements of a control element indicate whether or not a stable condition has been achieved.

Counter measures

Immediate actions taken to bring performance that is tracking below expectations back into the proper trend.  Requires root cause analysis.

Counterclockwise flow

A basic principle of Lean manufacturing cell layout is that the flow of material and the motion of people should be from right to left, or counterclockwise. The origin of this idea came from the design of lathes and machine tools with the chucks on the left side, making it easier for right-handed people to load from right to left.


The impact of one variable upon others in the same group.

Current State Map

Helps visualize the current production process and identify sources of waste.


Curtain effect

A method that permits the uninterrupted flow of production regardless of external process location or cycle time.  Normally used when product must leave the cell for processing through equipment that cannot be put into the cell. (i.e. heat treat, curing oven, plating, wave solder)  Curtain quantities are established using the following formula:    Per unit Cycle Time of Curtain Process / Takt Time = Curtain Quantity.


Cycle Time

The time required to complete one cycle of an operation.


Daily Management

Attention each day to those issues concerned with the normal operation of a business.


Days supply of inventory

Total number of days (if the production level equals zero) that it would takes to deplete finished goods inventory for the specified product line.  

Dependent Events

Events that occur only after a previous event.


Error Proofing

Designing a potential failure or cause of failure out of a product or process.


Every Product Every X

Measured in terms of time (hours, days, weeks, months, etc.) "Every Product Every X" indicates the level of flexibility to produce whatever the customer needs.  For instance, Every Product Every day would indicate that changeovers for all products required can be performed each day and the products can be supplied to the customer.  


Five S

Five terms utilized to create a workplace suited for visual control and lean production. Sort means to separate needed tools, parts, and instruction from unneeded materials and to remove the latter. Simplify means to neatly arrange and identify parts and tools for ease of use. Scrub means to conduct a cleanup campaign. Standardize means to conduct Sort, Simplify, and Scrub at frequent intervals to maintain a workplace in perfect condition. Sustain means to form the habit of always following the first Ss.


Five Why's

A simple problem solving method of analyzing a problem or issue by asking "Why" five times.  The root cause should become evident by continuing to ask why a situation exists.


A main objective of the lean production effort, and one of the important concepts that passed directly from Henry Ford to Toyota. Ford recognized that, ideally, production should flow continuously all the way from raw material to the customer and envisioned realizing that ideal through a production system that acted as one long conveyor.


Flow Chart

A problem solving tool that illustrates a process.  It can show the "as is" process or "should be" process for comparison and should make waste evident.

Flow Production

A philosophy that rejects batch, lot or mass processing as wasteful.  Product should move (flow) from operation to operation in the smallest increment, one piece being the ultimate.  Product should be pulled from the preceding operation, as it is needed.  Often referred to as "One Piece Flow", only quality parts are allowed to move to the next operation.


Functional Layout

The practice of grouping machines or activities by type of operation performed.


Future State Map

A blueprint for lean implementation. Your organization¹s vision, which forms the basis of your implementation plan by helping to design how the process should operate.



Japanese for 'actual thing' or 'actual product'. The tools, materials, machines, parts, and fixtures that are the focus of kaizen activity.



Japanese for 'the facts' or 'the reality'. The actual facts or the reality of what is happening on the shop floor and in the business.



A new production facility where lean principles are designed into manufacturing and management systems from the beginning.





Device or means of automatic unload of the work piece from one operation or process, providing the proper state for the next work piece to be loaded.  Automatic unloading and orientation for the next process is essential for a "Chaku-Chaku" line.



A method of leveling production at the final assembly line that makes just-in-time production possible. This involves averaging both the volume and sequence of different model types on a mixed-model production line.



A chart that displays data in distribution, generally in graph format.  It may be used to reveal the variation that any process contains.

Hoshin Planning (HP)

Also known as Management by Policy or Strategy Deployment. A means by which goals are established and measures are created to ensure progress toward those goals. HP keeps activities at all levels of the company aligned with its overarching strategic plans. HP typically begins with the "visioning process" which addresses the key questions: Where do you want to be in the future? How do want to get there? When do you want to achieve your goal? And who will be involved in achieving the goals? HP then systematically explodes the whats, whos and hows throughout the entire organization.



See Abnormality Management.


A major cost for most businesses, inventory is all raw materials, purchased parts, work-in-process components, and finished goods that are not yet sold to a customer. In some cases inventory may include consumable goods used in production.





Automation with a human touch or transferring human intelligence to a machine.  This allows the machine to detect abnormalities or defects and stop the process when they are detected.  Also known as Autonomation.



Fresh eyes; an important concept in Observation-Based Safety.


Just-in-Time (JIT)

Principles that are fundamental to Time-Based Competition  waste elimination, process simplification, set-up and batch-size reduction, parallel processing, and layout redesign are critical skills in every facet of the lean organization. JIT is a system for producing and delivering the right items at the right time, in the right amounts. The key elements of Just-in-Time are Flow, Pull, Standard Work, and Takt Time.



Continuous, incremental improvement of an activity to create more value with less waste. The term Kaizen Blitz refers to a team approach to quickly tear down and rebuild a process layout to function more efficiently.



A signaling device that gives instruction for production or conveyance of items in a pull system. Can also be used to perform kaizen by reducing the number of Kanban in circulation, which highlights line problems.


Lead Time

The total time a customer must wait to receive a product after placing an order. When a scheduling and production system is running at or below capacity, lead time and throughput time are the same. When demand exceeds the capacity of a system, there is additional waiting time before the start of scheduling and production, and lead time exceeds throughput time.



Business processes requiring less human effort, capital investment, floor space, materials, and time in all aspects of operation.




Mistake Proofing

Any change to an operation that helps the operator reduce or eliminate mistakes.


Anything that interrupts the flow of products and services through the value stream and out to the customer is designated Muda or waste.


Multi-Skilled Worker

Associates at any level of the organization that are diverse in skills and training.  They provide the organization with flexibility and grow in value over time.  Essential for achieving maximum efficiencies of J.I.T..


Japanese for unevenness.


Japanese for unreasonableness.



Accomplishing more than one task in one motion or function. Japanese for 'while doing something'.


Non-Value Added

Activities or actions taken that add no real value to the product or service making such activities or action a form of waste.




One Piece Flow

Is based on the concept of having operators focus on transferring each item individually to the next process step. One-piece flow dramatically reduces handling and transportation and provides immediate feedback to any overlooked defect.


Operating Expenses

The money required the system to convert inventory into throughput.


Producing more, sooner or faster than is required by the next process.



Plan, Do, Check, Adjust:

PLAN:Senior management should use the visioning process in the context of it Business Plan. HP translates the Business Plans to action plans, meaningful to all levels of the organization.

DO: Answer the whats, hows, and whos for the total number of tiers for your organization; remember, the fewer the number of tiers, the better. Also, this is the time to bring management together and provide them with a basic understanding of HP mechanics.

CHECK: On a periodic basis, review the measurements and note what you´ve learned that can help in the future.

ADJUST: Make the necessary adjustments to plans and priorities in order to ensure the success of the strategy breakthroughs.


Pareto Chart

A vertical bar graph showing the bars in descending order of significance, ordered from left to right.  Helps to focus on the vital few problems rather than the trivial many.  An extension of the Pareto Principle suggests that the significant items in a given group normally constitute a relatively small portion of the items in the total group. Conversely, a majority of the items will be relatively minor in significance, (i.e. the 80/20 rule).



Always optimizing value-added activities and eliminating waste.



A mistake-proofing device or procedure to prevent a defect during order taking or manufacture. An order-taking example is a screen for order input developed from traditional ordering patterns that question orders falling outside the pattern. The suspect orders are then examined, often leading to the discovery of inputting errors or buying based on misinformation. A manufacturing example is a set of photocells in parts containers along an assembly line to prevent components from progressing to the next stage with missing parts. A poka-yoke is sometimes called a baka-yok.



The flow of material in time and space. The accumulation of sub-processes or operations that transform material from raw material to finished product.


Process Kaizen

Improvements made at an individual process or in a specific area. Sometimes called "point kaizen".


Process map

A visual representation of the sequential flow of a process.  Used as a tool in problem solving, this technique makes opportunities for improvement apparent.


Processing Time

The time a product is actually being worked on in a machine or work area.

Project Plan with RACI

A comprehensive method of prioritizing tasks for projects that also tracks RACI.



A system of cascading production and delivery instructions from downstream to upstream activities in which the upstream supplier waits until the downstream customer signals a need. A pull system means producing only what has been consumed by downstream activities or customers.


Pull System

One of the 3 elements of JIT. In the pull systems, the downstream process takes the product they need and pulls it from the producer. The customers pull is a signal to the producer that the product is sold. The pull system links accurate information with the process to minimize waiting and overproduction.


Push System

In contrast to the pull system, product is pushed into a process, regardless of whether it is needed. The pushed product goes into inventory, and lacking a pull signal from the customer indicating that it has been bought, more of the same product could be overproduced and put in inventory.


Quality Function Deployment (QFD)

A visual decision-making procedure for multi-skilled project teams that develops a common understanding of the voice of the customer and a consensus on the final engineering specifications of the product that has the commitment of the entire team. QFD integrates the perspectives of team members from different disciplines, ensures that their efforts are focused on resolving key trade-offs in a consistent manner against measurable performance targets for the product, and deploys these decisions through successive levels of detail. The use of QFD eliminates expensive backflows and rework as projects near launch.


Quality Management

The systems, organizations, and tools which make it possible to plan, manufacture, and deliver a quality product or service.  This does not imply inspection or even traditional quality control.  Rather, it builds quality into the entire process of bringing goods and services to the customer.


Quick Changeover

The ability to change tooling and fixtures rapidly (usually minutes), so multiple products can be run on the same machine.


Queue Time

The time a product spends in a line awaiting the next design, order processing, or fabrication step.





The engine that drives Time-Based Competition. To gain speed, firms must apply the principles of reengineering to rethink and redesign every process and move it closer to the customer.


Resource Utilization

Using a resource in a way that increases throughput.





An outside master or teacher that assists in implementing lean practices.

Sequential Changeover

Also sequential set-up. When changeover times are within Takt time, changeovers can be performed one after another in a flow line. Sequential changeover assures that the lost time for each process in the line is minimized to one Takt beat. A set-up team or expert follows the operator, so that by the time the operator has made one round of the flow line (at Takt time), it has been completely changed over to the next product.


Seven wastes

Taiichi Ohno¹s original catalog of the wastes commonly found in physical production. These are overproduction ahead of demand, waiting for the next processing stop, unnecessary transport of materials, over processing of parts due to poor tool and product design, inventories more than the absolute minimum, unnecessary movement by employees during the course of their work, and production of defective parts.

Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED)

A series of techniques designed for changeovers of production machinery in less than ten minutes. Obviously, the long-term objective is always Zero Setup, in which changeovers are instantaneous and do not interfere in any way with continuous flow.


Single-Piece Flow

A situation in which products proceed, one complete product at a time, through various operations in design, order taking, and production, without interruptions, backflows, or scrap.



A prescribed documented method or process that is sustainable, repeatable and predictable.



These involve comparison with accepted norms, such as are set by regulatory bodies.


Standard Work

A precise description of each work activity specifying cycle time, takt time, the work sequence of specific tasks, and the minimum inventory of parts on hand needed to conduct the activity.


Standard Work in Process

The minimum amount of material or a given product, which must be in process at any, time to insure proper flow of the operation.



The system of documenting and updating procedures to make sure everyone knows clearly and simply what is expected of them.  Essential for application of PDCA cycle. 

Supplier Partnership

An approach to business that involves close cooperation between the supplier and the customer.  It provides benefits and responsibilities that each party must recognize and work together to realize.

System Kaizen

Improvement aimed at an entire value stream.


A condition where gains made in one activity are offset by losses in another activity or activities, created by the same actions crating gains in the first activity.


Takt Time

The available production time divided by the rate of customer demand. For example, if customers demand 240 widgets per day and the factory operations 480 minutes per day, takt time is two minutes; if customers want two new products designed per month, takt time is two weeks. Takt time sets the pace of production to match the rate of customer demand and becomes the heartbeat of any lean system.

Theory of Constraints

A lean management philosophy that stresses removal of constraints to increase throughput while decreasing inventory and operating expenses.

Throughput Time

The time required for a product to proceed from concept to launch, order to delivery, or raw materials into the hands of the customer. This includes both processing and queue time.

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

A series of methods, originally pioneered to ensure that every machine in a production process is always able to perform its required tasks so that production is never interrupted.

Toyota Production System (TPS)

A manufacturing philosophy that shortens the time between customer order and shipment by eliminating waste.





A capability provided to a customer at the right time at an appropriate price, as defined in each case by the customer.


Value-Added Analysis

With this activity, a process improvement team strips the process down to it essential elements. The team isolates the activities that in the eyes of the customer actually add value to the product or service. The remaining non-value adding activities ("waste" are targeted for extinction.


Value Chain

Activities outside of your organization that add value to your final product, such as the value adding activities of your suppliers.


Value Stream

The specific activities required to design, order and provide a specific product, from concept to launch, order to delivery, and raw materials into the hands of the customer.


Value Stream Mapping

Highlights the sources of waste and eliminates them by implementing a future state value stream that can become reality within a short time.


Vertical Teams

Vertical teams are groups of people who come together to meet problems or challenges.  These teams are made up of the most appropriate people for the issue, regardless of their levels or jobs within the organization.



A long-term plan of direction that is based on a careful assessment of the most important directions for the organization.


Visual Control

The placement in plain view of all tools, parts, production activities, and indicators of production system performance so everyone involved can understand the status of the system at a glance.


Voice of the customer (V.O.C.)

Desires and requirements of the customer at all levels, translated into real terms for consideration in the development of new products, services and daily business conduct.



Anything that uses resources, but does not add real value to the product or service.  Eight common types of waste have been identified. They are:

1.  Waiting – any resource or asset that is idle

2.  Overproduction – Excess processing

3.  Rework - from producing defective goods

4.  Motion - of motion and efforts of people

5.  Processing – inefficient or over processing

6.  Inventory - unnecessary stock on hand

7.  Talent - Waste from unused people's skills

8.  Transportation - unnecessary movement of materials

Work in Progress (WIP)

Product or inventory in various stages of completion throughout the plant, from raw material to completed product.


Work Sequence

The specific order in which an operator performs the manual steps of the process.


World Class Quality Management

An operating methodology totally committed to quality and customer satisfaction.   It focuses on continuous improvement in all processes and advocates decisions based on fact.  World Class Quality management includes all associates in meeting and exceeding customer expectations.



Information sharing; sharing of common activities, countermeasures and ideas.



Produced product related to scheduled product (quality conversion rate).

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