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Applying LEAN Principles to our daily lives

Updated on September 9, 2011

I would imagine many us face the common problem of not having enough time to do the things we want. We hope to have more than 24 hours in a day. Unfortunately, we cannot change that. You have heard of good time management to help you deal with the situation. We could also make use of some LEAN concepts in our daily lives to help us to be more efficient.

What is LEAN anyway?
For those of you who work in a multi-national manufacturing company may be familiar with LEAN concepts. A philosophy made popular by Toyota, LEAN manufacturing principles are used in big industries to streamline their processes to be more efficient. The main idea is to identify and eliminate "WASTE" by optimizing the use of resources and minimizing work, inventory and rejects.

We could apply some of these tools in our daily lives to help us to more (work) with less (time). Below are some suggestions you might want to consider.

1. Mapping out your activities - a.k.a. Value Stream Mapping
First, make a list of your activities. Estimate how much time each activity takes (an average) and find the "Bottleneck processes" - activities that consumes the most time. Identify which of these activities brings value and which are not. You can categorize them into:

  • Important and urgent (DO IT NOW)

  • Important but Not Urgent (DEVELOP A PLAN)

  • Not Important but Urgent (REJECT IF NOT NECESSARY)

  • Not important and Not urgent (DON'T BOTHER)

Give priority and complete those with labeled as "Important and Urgent". Develop a proper plan and time schedule for those tasks that are "Important but Not Urgent. See if you could diplomatically reject those tasks that are "Not Important but Urgent". Don't even bother the ones listed in last category. You will be surprised how much time we are busy doing nothing.

2. Eliminate the WASTE
WASTE in LEAN terms means any activity that does not provide value. Generally, there are seven types of waste - transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, over producing, over processing and defects. To identify waste, we must closely observe how we perform a specific job or task and ask these questions.

  • Is there a faster way to complete the job by eliminating WASTE like:

    • Are there too much unnecessary walking, motion or waiting time?

    • Are you over doing something or doing more than what is needed?

    • Are you applying the right techniques and using the right tools to perform the job?

    • Are you keeping the right amount of inventory for your groceries?

3. Good "5S"
5S is all about good housekeeping and organization. It goes through a process of

  • Sorting - clean up and get rid of all unnecessary stuffs (suggestion - organize a garage sale or sell them in eBay to earn some money).

  • Straightening - identify an appropriate place for everything and arrange them accordingly. Always keep items back to its original place. This will powerful time saver because studies showed that we waste at least ten percent of our time just searching for things.

  • Sweeping or Shine - invest 5 to 10 minutes daily to organize and tidy up your workspace.

  • Standardizing - simplify and be consistent of these work practices to all work areas.

  • Sustaining - maintain what you have established. This is where most people give up. Remember good habits require discipline.


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    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 6 years ago from At the Gemba

      Lean is probably the best way for any company to compete and its methods are ideal for sorting out our daily life! Studies show that only 5% of what we do in our working day actually adds any value!

    • profile image

      happyyeo 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. Very useful information.

    • doubleH profile image

      doubleH 6 years ago from Singapore

      at least we can start apply 5S on our computer's folders ....

    • idex231 profile image

      idex231 6 years ago from MY

      Agree that we should also stay LEAN at home. Thanks for the sharing!

    • GT Ooi profile image

      GT Ooi 6 years ago from Penang, Malaysia

      Lean not only can apply in industry but also for your daily life, it is a useful tool in all aspect.

    • ilitek profile image

      ilitek 6 years ago

      I learnt this 10 years ago in the manufacturing line and not applying in our daily life.A wake up call for me it must apply to that too.

    • My Footprints profile image

      My Footprints 6 years ago from MY

      Lean application is suitable for industries. Whereas for the home and our lives, simple approaches would be best. Don't have to sweat over all the industries complex modelling tools and processes.

    • beginners-dslr profile image

      beginners-dslr 6 years ago from Malaysia

      Just learn that Lean Manufacturing is also known as Toyota Production System and is widely applied in most processes to eliminate non-value-added resources, cost or time. Glad that I bumped into this article, thanks for sharing!

    • rjsadowski profile image

      rjsadowski 6 years ago

      Coming from the automobile industry, I know exactly what you are talking about, but have you considered who your audience will be? Perhaps if you changed some of the wording to ones your audience are more familiar with. Can you restate the seven types of waste in terms that your audience can relate to?