Lean Vocabulary

Understanding some of the more common terms in the lean vocabulary will be helpful during your implementation. We mention many of them throughout this website, so this is a good page to review if you want a better understanding of these terms. Some of them may be defined in greater detail on other webpages, so think of this page as the glossary of terms.

Although this website is dedicated to lean manufacturing, the lean vocabulary, as you may or may not know, is somewhat synonomous and/or linked with the TPS vocabulary in many ways. As my background is in TPS, many of the terms on this page (and within this site) will have the TPS term used to describe a concept.

Glossary of Terms

Andon: A system that alerts all associates (from floor members to management) of an abnormal situation (production line down, behind schedule). Usually a light or an electronic board.

FIFO (First In, First Out): Product is consumed in the order it was used produced or received. First product in the building is the first product to be used.

Fluctuation Stock: A set amount of stock that is introduced or removed as required to maintain level production volumes.

Heijunka (Load Smoothing Production): A system designed to levelize production requirements through kanban control to ensure the same number of pieces are produced each day and/or shift. Fluctuation stock absorbs the variation.

Jidoka: A machines ability to detect abnormalities and stop the process. Operators have the same authority.

Just-in-time Manufacturing: One of the more common terms in the lean vocabulary, this term refers to the production or conveyance of parts or material only when they are needed and in the quantity required.

Kanban: An instruction for production or conveyance. The most common form of a kanban is a hand sized signboard however, there are other methods used as kanbans (click on the "Kanban" button on the nav bar for more info).

Kaizen (Continuous Improvement): One of the key terms in the lean vocabulary, this refers to the need to continuously improve upon current processes. Continuous Improvement does not stop until all waste is eliminated.

Non-Value-Added: Any work within the company that does not add value to the finihed product. Much of the office work within an organization, although necessary, would be considered non-value added.

Poka Yoke: This Japanese term refers to mistake proofing devices. These devices are often built into or interlocked with machinery to prevent missing an operation.

Pull System: Each process pulls product from a previous process. The pull of product is the signal for the preceeding process to replenish the parts that were pulled. This is also referred to as a replenishment system.

Standard-in-process stock: The amount of product kept between operations/stations/processes in order to maintain proper process flow.

Standardized Work: A carefully documented and balanced work process that must be adhered to by each operator to ensure consistency.

Stop-Call-Wait: This concept refers to an operators responsibility to "Stop" a process when something abnormal (defective) occurs, "Call" for support and "Wait" for the support to arrive before proceeding.

TPS (Toyota Production System): A production system developed by Toyota (during difficult finacial times for them) to facilitate small lot production in an economically feasible manner. It focuses on continuous improvement of processes, elimination of waste, level production and quality built into the process (among other principles). It is the basis for lean manufacturing.

Value-Added: A common term in the lean vocabulary referring to any necessary work that adds value to a product. Most production work would be considered value-added work as it contributes directly to the finished product.

Visual Control: This term refers to management by sight. Processes and measurables are set up so they can be understood at a glance. 5S is a type of visual control - a place for everything and everything in it's place.

These are some of the more common terms used as part of the lean vocabulary (or TPS vocabulary). If there are any other terms that you would like clarification on, please use the "Contact Us" button on the nav bar to the left.