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Glossary of Improvement Terms


: A mindset and way of work used to plan and do work in which it is understood that making changes as they are needed is an important part of work.

Andon Board: A visual control device in a production area, typically a lighted overhead display, giving the current status of the production system and alerting business to potential problems. 
Autonomation: Automation with a human touch, a semi-automatic process where the operator and machine work together.


Balanced production
: All operations manufacture at the same lead-time time. In a balanced system, the lead-time time is less than takt time. 
Batch-and-Queue: Producing more than one piece of a component and then moving those components to the next operation before that are required which creates a Queue. 
Benchmarking: The process of measuring products, services, and practices against those of leading companies. 
Bottleneck: Any resource whose capacity is equal to or less than the demand placed on it. 

Capacity Constraint Resources: Non-bottlenecks process in sequence act as a constraint. 
Catch-Ball: A series of discussion between managers and their employees during which data, ideas, and analysis are thrown like a ball. This opens productive dialogue throughout the entire company. 

Car Park : At the end of all 'Lean' processes is a car park to ensure the 'Lean' process is able to operate to a Takt Time and the operation of a Car Park requires much working capital. 

Cells: The layout of machines of different types performing different operations in a tight sequence to permit single piece flow and flexible deployment of human effort. 
Chaku-Chaku: A method of conducting single-piece flow, where the operator proceeds from machine to machine, taking the part from one machine and loading it into the next. 
Changeover: The task of changing a process from producing one product to another product. Also known as SMED.
Continuous Flow Production: Means that items are produced and moved from one processing step to the next one piece at a time. Each process makes only the one piece that the next process needs, and the transfer batch size is one. Also called "single-piece flow" or "one-piece flow." 
Current State Map: Helps visualize the current production process and identify sources of waste. 

Five S
: Five terms utilized to create a workplace suited for visual control and lean production. 
•    Sort means to separate needed tools, parts, and instruction from unneeded materials and to remove the latter.
•    Simplify means to neatly arrange and identify parts and tools for ease of use. 
•    Scrub means to conduct a clean up campaign. 
•    Standardize means to conduct Sort, Simplify, and Scrub at intervals to maintain a workplace in perfect condition. 
•    Sustain means to form the habit of always following the first Ss. 
Flow: Production should flow continuously all the way from raw material to the customer as if it was on one long conveyor. 
Functional Layout: The practice of grouping machines or activities by type of operation performed. 
Future State Map: A vision for a business in which all the lean tools and techniques are used. 

: A method of levelling production at the final assembly line that makes just-in-time production possible. This involves averaging both the volume and sequence of different model types on a mixed-model production line. 

Just-in-Time (JIT)
: JIT is a system for producing and delivering the right items at the right time, in the right amounts. The key elements of Just-in-Time are Flow, Pull, Standard Work, and Takt Time. 
Just-in-Sequence (JIS): Products are manufactured in order to match the exact order of their customer’s production process so product arrive JIT and in correct order.


: Continuous, incremental improvement of an activity to create more value with less waste. 
Kanban: A signalling device, often paper, that gives instruction for production or purchasing of items in a pull system.  


Lead Time
: The total time a customer must wait to receive a product after placing an order. When scheduling and production systems are running at or below capacity, lead time and throughput time are the same. When demand exceeds the capacity of a system, there is additional waiting time before the start of scheduling and production, and lead time exceeds throughput time. 
Lean: Flow, total added value and no waste in all business processes 

Mistake Proofing
: Any change to an operation that helps the operator reduce or eliminate mistakes. 
Muda: Anything that interrupts the flow of products through the value stream  

Non-Value Added
: Activities or actions taken that add no real value to the product or service making such activities or action a form of waste. 

: A mistake-proofing device or procedure to prevent a defect during manufacture.  
Process: The flow of material in time and space. The accumulation of sub-processes or operations that transform material from raw material to finished product. 
Processing Time: The time a product is actually being worked on in a machine or work area.
Pull System: One of the 3 elements of JIT. In the pull systems, the downstream process takes the product they need and pulls it from the producer. This customers pull is a signal to the producer that the product is sold. The pull system links accurate information with the process to minimize waiting and overproduction. 
Push System: In contrast to the pull system, product is pushed into a process, regardless of whether it is needed. The pushed product goes into inventory, and lacking a pull signal from the customer indicating that it has been bought, more of the same product could be overproduced and put in inventory. 

Queue Time
: The time a product spends in a line awaiting the next process. 

Resource Utilization
: Using a resource in a way that increases throughput. 

Sequential Changeover
: Also sequential set-up. When changeover times are within Takt time, changeovers can be performed one after another in a flow line. Sequential changeover assures that the lost time for each process in the line is minimized to one Takt beat. A set-up team or expert follows the operator, so that by the time the operator has made one round of the flow line (at Takt time), it has been completely changed over to the next product. 
Seven wastes: The wastes found in production. 
1.    overproduction ahead of demand, 
2.    waiting for the next processing stop, 
3.    unnecessary transport of materials, 
4.    over processing of parts , 
5.    inventories more than the absolute minimum, 
6.    unnecessary movement by employees during the course of their work,
7.    production of defective parts. 

Scrum: A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value. Scrum is a process framework that has been used to manage work on complex products since the early 1990s. Scrum is not a process, technique, or definitive method. Rather, it is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques. 

Sigma: σ represents the standard deviation of population or probability distribution.

Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED): A series of techniques designed for changeovers of production machinery in less than ten minutes. 
Single-Piece Flow: A situation in which products proceed, one complete product at a time, through various operations in design, order taking, and production, without interruptions, backflows, or scrap. 
Standards: These involve comparison with accepted norms, such as are set by regulatory bodies. 
Standard Work: A precise description of each work activity specifying cycle time, takt time, the work sequence of specific tasks, and the minimum inventory of parts on hand needed to conduct the activity. 

Sub-Optimization: A condition where gains made in one activity are offset by losses in another activity or activities, created by the same actions crating gains in the first activity. 

Takt Time
: The available production time divided by the rate of customer demand. 
For example, if customers demand 60 widgets per day and the factory operations 480 minutes per day, takt time is eight minutes. 
Takt time sets the pace of production to match the rate of customer demand and becomes the heartbeat of any lean system. 
Theory of Constraints: A lean management philosophy that stresses removal of constraints to increase throughput while decreasing inventory and operating expenses. 
Throughput Time: The time required for a product to proceed from concept to launch, order to delivery, or raw materials into the hands of the customer. This includes both processing and queue time. 
Total Productive Maintenance (TPM): A series of methods, originally pioneered to ensure that every machine in a production process is always able to perform its required tasks so that production is never interrupted. 

: A capability provided to a customer at the right time at an appropriate price, as defined in each case by the customer. 
Value-Added Analysis: With this activity, a process improvement team strips the process down to it essential elements. The team isolates the activities that in the eyes of the customer actually add value to the product or service. The remaining non-value adding activities ("waste" are targeted for extinction. 
Value Chain: Activities outside of your organization that add value to your final product, such as the value adding activities of your suppliers. 
Value Stream: The specific activities required to design, order and provide a specific product, from concept to launch, order to delivery, and raw materials into the hands of the customer. 
Value Stream Mapping: Highlights the sources of waste and eliminates them by implementing a future state value stream that can become reality within a short time. 

Variation: A change in the value of a function due to changes in the values of its argument or arguments.
Visual Control: The placement in plain view of all tools, parts, production activities, and indicators of production system performance so everyone involved can understand the status of the system at a glance. 

: Anything that uses resources, but does not add real value to the product or service. 
Work in Progress (WIP): Product or inventory in various stages of completion throughout the plant, from raw material to completed product. 


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