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Building A Foundation For Lean Success

Lean-foundation-successMany lab owners and managers have been exposed to Lean concepts thru seminars, conventions or the internet. They recognize the inherent value of Lean, and may have a sincere interest in deploying Lean concepts. Unfortunately, exposure usually means enough knowledge to make the person or people dangerous. By dangerous, I mean they may take off in a direction that can be costly with no results in the short term, or even worse leave a lasting impression that Lean doesn’t work in a dental lab.

As is typical with exposure to Lean, such factors as lack of a specific execution strategy, no outside consulting support, and not much experience in the understanding and use of Lean tools contribute to the minimal success of the first efforts. The inability to sustain changes and continue on with additional Lean projects is typical of a first-time Lean effort and is easily correctable.

A Lean strategy and resulting implementation is well-conceived and rationally adapted to fit the needs of the individual lab. Start by asking a few basic questions. These questions may look simple, but can take fair amount of work to answer. Once you have answers, then the Lean work can begin.

  • What is our objective for the next 1- 2 years? (eg grow by 10%)
  • Do we implement lab-wide or in focused areas?
  • What do we do well and not-so-well?
  • Is our organization sufficiently strong (culturally) to support the changes?
  • What Lean tools are applicable to our environment?
  • What resources will be required?

Lean skills are required to be developed in three key areas: (1) Leadership Team: philosophy, awareness and support skills; (2) Lean Champion: skills for managing the program, and (3) Lean skills for lab personnel to identify waste and execute the improvement tasks.

These skills are honed by applying a Theory/Application/Implementation (TAI) approach. The theory/concepts is learned in the classroom, the Application is learned via small-scale simulation or hands-on in the lab, and the Implementation is learned by “just do-it” (under the watchful eye of a Lean expert). Once the skills have been acquired, then repetition is the name of the game.

If you have been exposed to Lean concepts, great! Now take the next steps and make Lean a success in your Lab. By using these basic “tried and true” tactics, you can build a solid foundation to take advantage of the many benefits Lean has to offer.

Photo Credit: moosiegal88 via Compfight cc

Robert Yenkner

Bob Yenkner is the owner of Practical Process Improvements (PPI) with over 30 years of hands-on international experience in a variety of industries and partners with Business Development Associates ( to bring productivity improvements to dental labs. Bob can be reached at 860.638.9874 or