Does Lean Hinder Innovation?

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Lean concepts and methods have a bit of a reputation for being “anti-innovation.” All the talk of standardization tends to be off-putting to some who claim that the focus on consistency hinders innovation. The strong emphasis on lean as a “cost cutting” tactic enhances the “anti-creativity” reputation. Innovation often requires an investment of resources; if lean’s primary goal is cost cutting, then innovation must suffer. It’s our view that lean, in fact, is the foundation of innovation in that it creates operational flexibility and agility. The more agile our administrative and operating processes are, the more rapidly and effectively we can put new product and production ideas to the test. The more consistent our processes are, the more reliable are our data when trying something new. The shorter our manufacturing cycle times are, the more trials we can run in each period. The less waste there is in our manufacturing processes, the less the cost of experiments on new products and new process improvement ideas.

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