Everyone at Murata has at least heard of Lean at some point, and for some of us it is a part of our everyday work. But what exactly is Lean? Perhaps a better approach would be to define what Lean isn’t. It is not a bunch of difficult terms that are fun to drop into conversations. It is not a target state to strive toward, nor is it a cost-cutter. In fact, Lean is a relatively demanding management model, as it forces people to change.

What Lean is must be learned in practice. While books can facilitate learning, the true nature of Lean can only be learned by doing. This is why we organize Lean training for our employees a few times each year. There are two types of training courses: one for production staff and another for office workers. The aim of the two-day courses is to provide a hefty dose of learning about how to increase productivity in practice, how to reduce waste and, above all, what you can do right away in your own team. The course starts with a theory lesson, after which you get to immediately try things out in practice in the Lean5 game.

Antti Viitasaari, who works as a shift leader at Murata Finland, participated in the Lean training for production staff in 2019, as a result of which he became a spokesperson for Lean thinking, as he likes to put it.

“The training course was two days long. It was made more interesting by the fact that the participants were all from different parts of the company, not just from production management, for example. The course instructors were consummate professionals, thanks to whom the course was a great success.”

According to Antti, one of the highlights of the first day was the moment when the theories and examples came together in his head like a jigsaw puzzle to form a single, clear thought of how useful and important Lean thinking is for the development of any process. Lean can facilitate people’s work and the flow of products by eliminating waste and categorizing actions into value-producing processes.

“The thing that best stuck to my mind about the second training day was the last exercise between participants. We achieved the so-called final form of the production process and easily managed the required turnaround time, which initially seemed all but impossible. People didn’t need to hurry either, as the process was nearly completely optimized and distributed between resources in accordance with Lean principles. We managed to minimize human error and offer 100% reliability of service to the client, even though we ran into some problems related to product quality (a defective part) during assembly.”

“For years I had seen how useful Lean is in production, but it wasn’t until the training that I really understood it at a fundamental level. I understood how much a short turnaround time and smaller batch sizes/inventories help improve the quality and reaction time of orders (less is more). Supporting production with continuous improvement methods and clear, standardized work stages and methods have a tremendous positive impact on product quality and process flow,” Antti continues.

Eliminating waste from processes and people’s working methods is a regular part of Antti’s work. “We are continuously improving and supporting standardized working methods. Having completed the training course, I’d say that the most useful Lean tools in my work include 5s, Kaizen, Poka-Yoke and VSM. I am now much better at assessing which methods are smart from a process perspective (value production). I can also boost other people’s confidence in their work by explaining and illustrating how useful it is to do things the right way and how beneficial continuous improvement through Lean thinking is in all operations.”