Lean, Six Sigma, and other Continuous Improvement tools can be great assets for any operation given that they are used the right way. The first step to deploying the right tool to the situation is knowing what’s out there in the Lean universe and having access at the right time. While it’s not likely that you’ll become proficient in the use of all of these tools, it still doesn’t hurt to have them in your toolbox. For this reason, I’ve compiled the most comprehensive list of Lean tools in the digital universe and conveniently provided them for your below. User digression is advised.

So, without further ado – here’s the list:

Definition: A method for organizing the workplace for visual management and sustainment of process improvements
Use Case: Increase efficiency, aesthetics, and morale; especially in a cluttered and disorganized work environment

5 Why’s
Definition: A method for determining the root cause of an observable issue. Involves asking “Why” 5 times or as needed
Use Case: Increase efficiency or solve another problem that can likely be traced back to a single root cause

6 Big Losses
Definition: 6 categories of Overall Equipment Effectiveness Losses including; unplanned stops, planned stops, small stops, slow cycles, production rejects, and start-up rejects
Use Case: Increase manufacturing efficiency – helps to prioritize what specific types of activity produce the greatest losses and thus have the most room for improvement

8 Wastes
Definition: List of types of Lean Waste including; Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-utilized Talent / Resources, Transporting, Inventory, Motion, Excessive Processing
Use Case: Training tool used to help people learn to see opportunities for improvement

90-Day Board
Definition: Management tool used to make strategic objectives visible, drive accountability for execution, and improves communication. Work against strategic goals is displayed on a rolling 90-day planning board.
Use Case: Helps drive greater execution of strategic objectives

A3 Problem Solving
Definition: A tool for systematically walking an individual or team through the PDCA Continuous Improvement cycle to solve a problem; typically using a template formatted on an A3 or 11′ x 17′ size sheet of paper
Use Case: Improves cost, quality, safety, throughput, or other business result by developing the capability to systematically solve business problems

ABC Inventory
Definition: Analysis method for categorizing inventory based on sales volume to help develop more effective scheduling/planning strategies. This often leads to the rationalizing of slow-moving SKUs and approaches to reduce changeover times.
Use Case: Better synchronize production with demand, increase plant efficiency, and develop a disposition plan for slow-moving inventory

Definition: Visual or audio indicators that signal that action needs to be taken
Use Case: Improve quality, safety, or efficiency by decreasing response time to immanent issues

Definition: Automating responses for production issues so that the operator or process owner can divert attention to other matters
Use Case: Increase efficiency or safety by detecting and rejecting poor-quality projects automatically

Balanced Scorecard
Definition: A system of metrics used to tie strategy to tactical operations by clarifying performance targets in each key performance area
Use Case: Improve the effectiveness of strategy deployment and increase focus on areas for the greatest opportunity for improvement

Bottleneck Analysis
Definition: Method of assessing maximum and practical throughput at each step in a process to understand the system constraint
Use Case: Increase efficiency by focusing improvement effort on the process step that constrains the entire system

Definition: A process of deploying strategy where each subsequent layer in the organization sets its performance objectives based on key strategic inputs from leadership
Use Case: Increase engagement and commitment to company strategy, resulting in an increased likelihood of successful deployment

Cellular Manufacturing
Definition: A production layout designed to take up a relatively small area to minimize footprint utilization while increasing productivity by improving the ease of communication and visibility of up and downstream production issues; usually set up in a horseshoe or semicircular shape
Use Case: Improve cost, quality, throughput, and other business results by increasing communication visibility of the end-to-end production process

Definition: Guides (often color-coded) that provide a visual and sometimes digital indicator for how a production line should be set up. They are also indicators that alert the process owner that the production line is no longer in base condition.
Use Case: Increase efficiency, safety, and quality by reducing set-up times and helping to sustain the base condition

Change Management
Definition: Systematic method of ensuring all changes are resourced, managed, and executed effectively. Increases proactive effort so that risks can be eliminated or mitigated as appropriate.
Use Case: Increases efficiency, safety, quality, and other business results by preventing unforeseen issues associated with changes

Definition: Tool for ensuring all steps required to effectively complete a process is executed
Use Case: Increase consistency of process execution

Definition: A checklist used to manage a Cleaning, Inspection, and Lubrication (and sometimes Tightening) schedule for a production process. Part of a plant’s Autonomous or Preventative Maintenance program.
Use Case: Increases efficiency, safety, and quality by catching and addressing potential issues before they develop into breakdowns

Definition: A Computerized Maintenance Management System used to improve the execution of a plant’s maintenance operation
Use Case: Reduce unplanned downtime and maintenance costs by executing preventative measures and increasing maintenance responsiveness

Coach (or Sensei)
Definition: A person who helps accelerate others along in their Lean journey; providing tools, motivation, and advice as needed
Use Case: Accelerate business results through the application of Lean methodology

Continuous Flow
Definition: The concept of designing a process so that each unit of product flows from one end of the process to the other without stopping for batching or unreliability issues
Use Case: Reduces order lead time, work in process inventory, and quality issues; all associated with batching

Continuous Improvement
Definition: The process of continuously increasing value to the customer or other key stakeholders
Use Case: Increase market share, employee/supplier satisfaction, or company value

Control Charts
Definition: Visual management tools that display the outputs of a process relative to upper and lower control limits
Use Case: Increase process consistency

Customer Value Checklist
Definition: A tool for assessing the value that your product or service creates for your customers
Use Case: Increase top-line revenue and reduce unnecessary activity by better understanding what the customer perceives as valuable

Definition: Visual management tool that conveniently summarizes the performance of key processes
Use Case: Increase response time due to lack of visibility of key processes

Demand Management
Definition: The process of aligning a product or service portfolio with the customer demand; this may entail investing more heavily in high-demand offerings and rationalizing those in lesser demand
Use Case: Increase operating margins by maximizing revenue and minimizing resources consumed on offerings in low demand

Design of Experiments
Definition: A method of determining the cause-and-effect relationships of each input to a process and their impact on output
Use Case: Improve cost, throughput, quality, and other business results by determining the ideal configuration of inputs needed to optimize the output

Design for Six Sigma
Definition: A methodology used to design or re-design a production process to deliver Six Sigma quality or less than 3.4 defects per million units produced; this is in contrast to using Six Sigma techniques to make incremental improvements to an existing process
Use Case: Align production capability to what the customer values most from the onset by incorporating Six Sigma principles in the process design

Definition: Method for executing improvement projects using the following process: Define the problem, Measure the current state, Analyze the contributing factors, Improve the process, Control the results
Use Case: Provides a systematic approach to process improvement

Elimination of Waste
Definition: Making a series of changes to business and manufacturing processes with the intent to reduce losses and bring greater value to the customer
Use Case: Increase throughput, reduce cost, and improve quality/customer satisfaction by systematically identifying and reducing inefficiency

Definition: Enterprise Resource Planning system provides a digital management system to improve supply chain execution with a focus on ensuring sufficient stock of raw material and tracking material flow through the value stream
Use Case: Increase efficiency and service levels by ensuring that the right resources are in the right place at the right time

Definition: [Short for Failure Mode & Effect Analysis] A process used to assess the likelihood and potential severity of each risk associated with a change or course of action; usually used to predict and mitigate potential issues before they occur
Use Case: Sustain safety, quality, productivity, and other business imperatives while enabling change

Focus Factories
Definition: A technique for simplifying the function of a factory to a few operations or products, increasing the degree of specialization, resulting in a high degree of operational excellence
Use Case: Improve cost, throughput, and quality through high specialization and concentration of capability

Force Field Analysis
Definition: A method for decision-making that assesses the forces for change versus those against by listing and weighting each pro and con based on the level of significance
Use Case: Improve the quality of decision-making and increase the likelihood of sustaining changes

Gemba Walks
Definition: A process usually applied by members of the company’s leadership team that means “going to where the action is” to help develop deeper knowledge and understanding of the system and opportunities for improvement
Use Case: Improve leadership decision-making including allocation of resources and prioritization of improvement effort

Definition: A tool used to minimize waste by “level-loading” a production or work process involving multiple steps in series
Use Case: Improve throughput and capacity needed to execute normal operations, often resulting in greater reliability, flexibility, stability, and lower operating cost

Definition: A chart that displays the historical distribution of outputs of a process and helps to predict the outcomes of future process outputs with varying levels of confidence
Use Case: Increases visibility to a process’ historical performance and can be used to increase process reliability; usually applied to improve product quality (Six Sigma)

Hoshin Kanri
Definition: The process of deploying policy/strategy throughout an organization using a “catchball” approach to align objectives from the top down
Use Case: Effectively deploy strategy, set targets, and assign ownership for results

Huddles (Shift, Daily, Weekly, etc)
Definition: A periodic meeting that usually consists of operations teams at varying levels in the organization and cross-functional support resources to review past results and prioritize work and areas of focused improvement
Use Case: Create greater alignment of priorities, resource allocation, areas for concern, and improvement efforts

Idea Submission Form
Definition: A system of creating, in-taking, processing, and executing improvement ideas from all levels in the organization
Use Case: Stimulate a culture of improvement by engaging ideas and creativity from every individual in the company

In-station Quality Control
Definition: The technique of eliminating the possibility of quality defects or systematically rejecting defects so that they do not advance to the next step in the production process
Use Case: Improve quality and reduce waste by ensuring defective products do not reach subsequent steps in the process

Ishikawa Diagram (Fishbone Analysis)
Definition: A cause and effect diagram used to identify potential root causes of an observable issue, usually categorized as follows: Man, Machine, Mother Nature, Measurement, Material, or Method
Use Case: Identify several potential contributing factors to an issue or opportunity

Definition: The practice of stopping the production line to address defects on first recognition, triggering the analysis of root causes
Use Case: Improve quality, cost, and productivity by applying high urgency to rooting out process abnormalities and product defects immediately upon identification

Just in Time
Definition: A service or product delivery philosophy based on the idea that all work should be initiated by pull or demand from the customer and not before
Use Case: Control / minimize overproduction and all other associated forms of waste

Definition: A process of focusing time, money, people, energy, and other resources on driving and sustaining improvement in a specified area of the business; this process can take weeks, months, or longer and places significant focus on developing people along with the process
Use Case: Improve cost, reliability, quality, safety, inventory, or any other key business deliverable

Kaizen Blitz
Definition: A condensed form of Kaizen that is usually completed in just one week and used to improve a specified area of the business; the focus of this tool is on making process changes without a significant investment in people development
Use Case: Rapid improvement in cost, reliability, quality, safety, inventory, or any other key business deliverable

Definition: A tool used to create a “pull” system where the work in each process step is initiated by the customer or sequential process step
Use Case: Minimize or control inventory and all other forms of waste caused by overproduction

Definition: A methodology for developing leaders as coaches and building proficiency in the application of the scientific method (PDCA) in process owners, or learners; this is done through practice and repetition
Use Case: Increase process performance through greater operator autonomy in applying the scientific method to improve process performance

Definition: [Short for Key Performance Indicators] Numerical representations, or indicators, of business performance
Use Case: Increase visibility and awareness of key areas of business performance; increased visibility usually results in a change in behaviors

Leader Standard Work
Definition: A system of recurring reviews conducted by members of operations leadership to validate sustainment and proper execution of key Continuous Improvement processes; reviews are typically conducted at the site of work and non-conformance is addressed through the chain of command to close gaps in misalignment and leadership capability
Use Case: Sustain key Continuous Improvement processes

Lean Accounting
Definition: A system of accounting principles that encourage progress toward a leaner organization such as minimal inventory and the elimination of waste
Use Case: Improve cost, throughput, and quality by structuring accounting practice around quantifying and bringing visibility to waste

Lean Audit
Definition: The process of evaluating a business system to identify strengths, weaknesses, priorities opportunities for improvement against Lean best practices
Use Case: Increase compliance and sustainment of prescribed Lean standards

Lean Office
Definition: The application of Lean principles to front-end office operations
Use Case: Improve cost, efficiency, quality, safety, and other business results in front-office operations

Lean Suppliers
Definition: The process of creating a Lean Enterprise by aligning suppliers with the company’s broader performance objectives; usually involving coaching and providing other resources to help suppliers develop a more reliable operation
Use Case: Improve material cost and reliability by helping to develop supplier capability

Manufacturing Strategy
Definition: The process of leveraging manufacturing as a strategic asset in pursuit to out-perform competitors in creating value for customers as opposed to blindly applying standard improvement programs
Use Case: Improve competitive positioning by more strategically aligning manufacturing operations with the market with a focus on direction and momentum

Mind Maps
Definition: A diagram that organizes brainstormed ideas around a central theme in a non-linear but logical manner
Use Case: Provide structure to a brainstorming session to encourage creativity and development of better solutions

Mix-Model Production
Definition: A production line design that allows multiple models or products to be produced during the same production run without requiring a product changeover
Use Case: Reduces the number of changeovers, resulting in greater flexibility to deliver on-demand and control finished goods inventory levels

One Piece Flow
Definition: A production design model that eliminates batching, restricting capacity at and between process steps to one piece at a time per step
Use Case: Control work-in-progress inventory and batching and all associated forms of waste; also increases the significance of process failures at any point within the production process so that issues become “less tolerable”

Overall Equipment Effectiveness
Definition: A widely used measure of manufacturing effectiveness that considers availability (uptime) x throughput (rate attainment) x quality (first-pass good)
Use Case: Increases visibility to the effectiveness of asset and runtime utilization; can be used to reduce cost, improve quality, and increase overall reliability

Pareto Diagram
Definition: A bar chart that ranks categories in order from greatest to least
Use Case: Helps priorities improvement efforts against items of greatest significance

Definition: [Short for Plan-Do-Check-Act / Adjust] A framework for systematically executing the scientific method or Continuous Improvement cycle to accelerate learning and improve business performance
Use Case: Deploy strategy, improve cost, safety, quality, lead time, or other key business results

Point of Use Storage
Definition: A technique of storing / staging supplies near the point where they will be used in the operation
Use Case: Minimizes waiting and transporting waste; resulting in less process downtime and effort to execute operations

Definition: A mechanism that minimizes or eliminates the possibility of error in the execution of a process or operation
Use Case: Improve speed and quality of execution

Process Mapping
Definition: An exercise that helps to visualize and summarize the steps required to complete a process; more sophisticated methods include throughput rates, downtime, quality execution, changeover times, lead times, and other details
Use Case: Display process steps, capabilities, and other details; can be used to highlight opportunities for improvement

Production Leveling
Definition: The process of distributing throughput capability evenly across stations or steps along the production system
Use Case: Minimize waiting, underutilized production capacity, overproduction, and other associated forms of waste; all while establishing stable product flow and highlighting further opportunities for improvement

Pull & Synchronous Scheduling
Definition: A method of scheduling production based on actual customer demand; instead of segments of production being scheduled based on a forecast, each segment is scheduled to replenish the subsequent step in the value stream after the product has been “pulled” by the customer
Use Case: Control and minimize overproduction and all associated forms of waste

Quick Changeover
Definition: A method of minimizing overall changeover time and effort with emphasis on reducing (planned) line downtime
Use Case: Improve throughput, flexibility, and cost of production by minimizing the time needed to perform product changeovers

Quick & Easy Kaizen
Definition: Process improvement that can be completed without the meetings, planning, and management typically associated with kaizen events; can often be executed by one person in one day along with other operational responsibilities
Use Case: Improve cost, safety, quality, throughput, or other business results

Regression Analysis
Definition: A method of analysis that helps determine the strength of the relationship between two variables
Use Case: Enables the control of outcomes by affecting inputs that have a strong causal relationship to the output

Right First Time
Definition: A measure of process performance against perfect quality, usually expressed as a percentage of products produced with zero quality defects on the first pass
Use Case: Increase visibility to opportunities to improve process execution, specifically regarding product quality

Root Cause Analysis
Definition: A method for understanding the contributing factor(s) of an issue or problem at the root level with the intent to resolve the issue in a way that prevents it from occurring in the future
Use Case: Improve cost, throughput, quality, safety, or other business results by eradicating issues at the root level, which is often imperceptible without further analysis

Run Chart
Definition: A line chart used to show process outputs as a function of time used to show trends in results
Use Case: Increase visibility to trends in process or system performance

Setup Reduction
Definition: A technique that minimizes the time required to perform the setup of equipment or a process to perform a job
Use Case: Improve cost, flexibility, quality, and throughput by shortening the time needed to achieve steady-state operation with good quality

Definition: [Short for Single-Minute Exchange of a Die] A methodology for minimizing the time needed to change over a production line from one product to another, with a focus on minimizing (planned) line downtime
Use Case: Improve cost, flexibility, quality, and throughput by shortening the time needed to achieve steady-state operation with good quality

Self-Directed Work Teams
Definition: A team developed to autonomously manage and improve the performance of a process, usually cross-functional in nature and led by the owner of a process; however, the team may source meeting facilitation support from trained professionals who are not members of the self-directed team
Use Case: Engage process owners in leading improvement engagements to improve process performance

Shadow Board
Definition: A visual management tool used to organize tools and parts needed for the execution of operations; also used to indicate that tools or parts have been misplaced before it results in unnecessary process stoppages
Use Case: Improve process organization and efficiency by assigning a designated space for all needed supplies/parts and indicating non-conformance

Six Sigma
Definition: A management philosophy that aims to achieve near-perfect quality or consistency at a rate of 3.4 defects per million units produced; Six Sigma represents a consistency within 3 standard deviations of either side of the mean on a normal distribution curve
Use Case: Improve product quality or process consistency

SIPOC Diagram
Definition: [Short for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Controls] A tool that displays a process’ connecting parts to better understand how the entire system functions
Use Case: Increase visibility and understanding of the system to identify systemic improvement opportunities

Definition: [Short for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound] A method for setting goals that are more likely to be achieved
Use Case: Increase the likelihood of successful goal attainment

Socio-technical Systems
Definition: Systems that apply technology to enable social interaction and engagement in the management and improvement of operations
Use Case: Improve cost, throughput, quality, safety, and other objectives by using technology to engage the hearts and minds of people to optimize performance

Spaghetti Diagram
Definition: A technique that tracks the travel pattern needed for a person or objects to complete a job
Use Case: Simplify or increase the efficiency of a process by reducing travel or transport time to complete a job

Stakeholder Analysis
Definition: A technique for understanding who are the stakeholders of a project or area of operation, their needs, and how their interests might be affected by a change
Use Case: Mitigating risks and political blow-back associated with making a change

Standardized Work
Definition: A tool that displays the steps needed to successfully perform a job; advanced versions include pictures, timed tasks, and watch-outs; in mature organizations, standard work is used to describe the worker’s behavior when the process is operating in base (or peak) condition
Use Case: Accelerate the learning curve of workers, usually resulting in improved cost, quality, safety, throughput, and other business results; in mature settings, helps to see if the process or equipment is operating in the base condition

Statistical Process Control
Definition: A tool used in both paper and digital format, often applied with sampling, that displays the level of control that a process is demonstrating; this tool is most frequently applied to control product quality
Use Case: Improve product quality or process consistency

Swimlane Map
Definition: A tool for displaying process steps horizontally while showing another categorization vertically (ie person or team performing the process step); advanced models include processing time, downtime, changeover time, quality losses, inventory levels between steps, etc.
Use Case: Improve cost, quality, throughput, or other business results by making a process (usually administrative) more visible and highlighting opportunities for improvement

Definition: A pull system used to control inventory levels by establishing set quantities of each product and triggering replenishment once the customer has pulled the product from inventory; this method is used when the production system lacks the capability to deliver one-piece flow
Use Case: Control or minimize overproduction and all associated forms of waste

Supplier Development
Definition: The process of partnering with suppliers to improve their reliability
Use Case: Improve cost, throughput, quality, and reliability of suppliers, usually leading to improved results for the entire value chain

Takt Time
Definition: A metric used to synchronize the rate of production with the rate of demand; often described as the drumbeat of customer demand
Use Case: Minimize overproduction and all associated forms of waste

Team Development
Definition: An approach used to leverage the synergy that is created when individuals function effectively together as a team; in a Lean context, this may include developing skills in facilitation and the use of Lean methods
Use Case: Increase engagement of people at all levels and stimulate a stronger culture of Continuous Improvement

Theory of Constraints
Definition: The theory of improving productivity by optimizing the performance of the bottleneck process step; this includes scheduling all other elements of production to maximize bottleneck uptime and using kaizen to increase its throughput
Use Case: Improve throughput, cost, and reliability of operations

Time Study
Definition: A technique used to determine the time required to complete a task, unit of production, or process cycle
Use Case: Match or balance production capacity with demand; also used to discover bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement

Total Productive Maintenance
Definition: A methodology used to achieve and sustain peak operating conditions (base condition) and drive continuous improvement
Use Case: Improve cost, throughput, safety, quality, and other business results by optimizing the reliability of the production system

Total Quality Management
Definition: A customer-focused management system that engages an entire organization in driving increasingly greater customer value
Use Case: Improve quality and customer satisfaction by aligning the priorities of the organization with those of the customer

Troubleshooting Guides
Definition: A tool used to provide a step-by-step guide for troubleshooting an issue
Use Case: Improve process performance by minimizing losses and the time needed to resolve productivity issues

Value Stream Mapping
Definition: A process for developing a map of a value stream, displaying process steps, throughput, lead times, downtime, quality losses, changeover, and set-up times
Use Case: Identify bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement to maximize productivity, synchronize with demand, and reduce inventory levels

Visual Management
Definition: A management technique used to increase the visibility of key aspects of the production system using signage, color coding, KPIs and dashboards, digital representations, traffic markings, and other methods
Use Case: Improve safety, quality, cost, throughput, and other business results by using visual cues to trigger the right behaviors

Voice of the Customer
Definition: A technique that includes gathering input from the customer to better understand their values, preferences, and opportunities for improvement
Use Case: Increase customer satisfaction by including their input into the design and performance of the product or service

Where-Where-Why-Why Analysis
Definition: A method of analysis that traces process contaminants back to their source
Use Case: Reduce the buildup of process contaminants causing forced deterioration of equipment

Why Tree Analysis
Definition: A method of root cause analysis based on asking Why about 5 times but allowing for branches to identify multiple potential contributing factors
Use Case: Identify potential root causes when there are multiple contributing factors

Work Balancing
Definition: A process used to balance production capacity across each step in the value steam
Use Case: Improve throughput and cost by leveling and matching capacity at each process step with demand

Work Simplification
Definition: The process of re-designing work steps so that a lesser degree of skill and time are required to successfully complete the task
Use Case: Improve quality, throughput, and flexibility of job staffing

Work Standardization
Definition: A method of establishing a fixed process for performing a job
Use Case: Improve quality, cost, and throughput by eliminating variation in how a job is performed

Zero Defects (Zero Quality Control)
Definition: A metric that describes the perfect execution of a production process; achieved by eliminating all waste that results in lost time or product quality
Use Case: Improve cost, quality, throughput, safety, inventory levels, and many other business results

As with any tool, the idea is to meet business objectives and move your company in the right direction. Tools and processes can be fantastic – but at the end of the day, you have to get results. To do this, it’s important to engage people and develop their capacity to make and sustain improvements. Cutting-edge technologies like provide the socio-technical system needed to engage your company in generating incredible business results through the application of Lean, TPM, and Continuous Improvement methodology.

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