An Introduction to Lean Work Design
The purpose of Lean Management is to make an organization more competitive. Lean began as the product of an automobile manufacturer's effort to become more competitive in the world market. The concept of Lean originated not as a particular application of established theory but as a process of trial and error on the shop floor. Although the inventors of lean work design relied on a bottom-up method to arrive at their conclusions, they both incorporated existing principles of work design that they found valuable and studied work designs of other businesses and industries to obtain additional ideas that might compliment and improve their own.
For lean work design to be used in industries other than repetitive automobile manufacturing, its fundamental principles need to be understood. Achieving a lean operation involves adopting a method of designing work that incorporates a systems view of the organization Once a work designer adopts a systems perspective, the need to achieve coordination between all parts of the system becomes apparent. Lean is essentially an approach to work design that maximizes system productivity and effectiveness while minimizing costs of the system buffers. Lean does this by achieving tighter integration of its system components. To achieve and maintain this tight integration requires effective, fast communication. What constitutes the principles of a lean operation, and how these principles can be developed and applied across all industries, is the focus of this book. This book approaches Lean as an exercise in work design - hence its title.
To provide an integrated view of the different perspectives of lean work design, the book examines the major work design decisions from each perspective. It identifies the principles involved in lean operations and examines three existing theories of work design that help define lean operations: systems theory; system variance and the three buffers utilized to protect the system from variance (inventory, capacity and lead time); and organizational information processing theory. The intended outcome for readers of this book will be an understanding of what is meant by Lean, how it applies to work design, and how it can be implemented in a variety of industries and organizational settings to make those organizations more competitive.