Recently I heard a speaker disclaim that Lean was just warmed over and repackaged Just-In-Time; nothing new. For some reason I dismissed the thought as rubbish. But his comments got me thinking. So, what’s different about Lean?
In The Machine That Changed the World, Womack & Jones coined the term "lean production" as a synonym of "JIT," it has caught on and made the earlier label somewhat obsolete. People who still talk about JIT are often dismissed as stale peddling yesterday’s panacea, while those who say the exact same things but call it "lean" get attention. As interest in Lean grows, as the philosophy Lean espouses become better understood, the application has moved from the factory floor to cover product design, office work, distribution, and services. And new terms follow: you now hear about "lean manufacturing", "lean management", "lean enterprise", "lean supply chain", and even "Lean Six Sigma".
Wikipedia defines Just In Time as an inventory strategy implemented to improve the return on investment of a business by reducing in-process inventory and its associated costs. While Lean manufacturing is defined as a management philosophy focusing on reduction of the 7 wastes (Over-production, Waiting time, Transportation, Over-processing, Inventory, Motion and Scrap) in manufactured products. By eliminating waste, quality is improved, production time is reduced, and cost is reduced. At least in my early experience with JIT we had little awareness of being in a system and about making culture change, we attempted to change the production process without much regard for scheduling, customer service, people. We thought all we had to do was rearrange the deck chairs. We made some progress, improved productivity certainly. But did we understand what we were doing? Later, with Lean, we learned the logic and philosophy of what we were doing. JIT seemed more like a formula and Lean more like a cultural awakening.