What is Digital Lean?

Digital Lean is an approach that combines the principles of Lean management with digital technologies to improve operational efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction. It involves the use of digital tools and techniques to streamline processes, eliminate waste, and optimize resources. Digital Lean focuses on continuous improvement, leveraging real-time data, and empowering employees to drive innovation and solve problems.

The key principles of Digital Lean include:
Process automation: Automating repetitive tasks using digital tools such as robotics process automation (RPA) or workflow automation.
Data-driven decision-making: Using real-time data to identify issues, track performance, and make informed decisions.
Agile methodologies: Adopting agile methodologies to enable quick responses to changing customer needs or market conditions.
Continuous improvement: Implementing continuous improvement processes to eliminate waste, optimize resources, and enhance customer value.
Employee empowerment: Empowering employees to drive innovation and problem-solving by providing them with the necessary tools, training, and autonomy.

Overall, Digital Lean builds upon the principles of traditional Lean management but leverages digital technologies to optimize processes and improve performance in a rapidly changing business environment.

How Lean Thinking needs to be revised to adapt to the challenges of today

Lean thinking is a powerful approach to improving efficiency, reducing waste, and maximizing value that has been widely adopted by organisations around the world. However, as the business landscape continues to evolve and new challenges emerge, it’s important for organisations to periodically review and revise their lean thinking practices to ensure that they remain effective and relevant.

One of the key challenges that lean thinking needs to address today is the increasing complexity of modern businesses. With the proliferation of digital technologies, global supply chains, and diverse customer segments, it can be difficult for organisations to identify and eliminate waste in their processes. To effectively apply lean thinking in these complex environments, organisations need to be more agile and flexible and be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

Another challenge is the growing importance of sustainability and social responsibility. In today’s world, organisations are increasingly being held accountable for the impact they have on the environment and society. This means that lean thinking needs to go beyond just reducing waste and increasing efficiency and consider the broader social and environmental implications of business practices.

To adapt to these challenges, organisations may need to revise their lean thinking practices in a number of ways. For example, they may need to adopt more sophisticated data analytics tools to help them better understand and optimise their processes. They may also need to adopt new methodologies, such as design thinking or agile development, to help them be more responsive and adaptable.

Finally, organisations may need to invest in training and education to ensure that their employees are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the modern business environment. This might include training in data analysis, agile methodologies, or sustainability best practices.

In conclusion, lean thinking is a powerful approach that can help organisations improve efficiency, reduce waste, and maximize value. However, to be effective in today’s complex and rapidly changing business environment, organisations need to periodically review and revise their lean thinking practices to ensure that they are relevant and up-to-date. This may involve adopting new tools and methodologies and investing in training and education for employees.

Discover how TRIZ, a problem-solving methodology can solve technical contradictions and generate innovative solutions.

TRIZ (pronounced “trees”) is a problem-solving methodology that originated in the Soviet Union and has since been adopted by businesses and organizations around the world. The name TRIZ is derived from the Russian term for “the theory of inventive problem solving.”

The core of TRIZ is a set of principles and tools that help people identify and overcome obstacles to achieving their goals. These principles are based on the study of successful inventions and innovations throughout history, and they can be applied to a wide range of problem-solving situations.

One of the key principles of TRIZ is the “40 Inventive Principles.” These principles are a set of techniques that can be used to overcome technical contradictions, or situations where two or more conflicting requirements must be met simultaneously. For example, if you need to design a product that is both lightweight and strong, that might be considered a technical contradiction. The 40 Inventive Principles can help you brainstorm potential solutions to this contradiction.

TRIZ also includes tools such as the “Contradiction Matrix,” which helps you identify the root cause of a problem, and the “Algorithm for Inventive Problem Solving,” which guides you through a step-by-step process for generating and evaluating potential solutions.

One of the benefits of TRIZ is that it can help you think creatively and come up with solutions that you might not have considered otherwise. It encourages you to look beyond your current assumptions and consider a wide range of possibilities. This can be especially useful when you’re faced with a difficult or seemingly intractable problem.

To use TRIZ effectively, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve and the goals you hope to achieve. You should also be willing to embrace a structured, systematic approach to problem-solving, and be open to new and potentially unconventional ideas.

TRIZ has been used to solve problems in a variety of fields, including engineering, manufacturing, and product design. Some companies have even integrated TRIZ into their culture, using it as a way to encourage continuous improvement and innovation.

If you’re facing a challenging problem and want to explore new and creative approaches to solving it, TRIZ might be worth considering. By applying the principles and tools of TRIZ, you can tap into a wealth of knowledge and experience and come up with solutions that are both effective and innovative.

How to Use Lean Sigma to Solve Complex Problems

Lean Sigma is a powerful tool that can help organizations improve efficiency, reduce waste, and maximize value. Based on the principles of lean manufacturing and Six Sigma, lean Sigma combines the best of both worlds to create a holistic approach to process improvement.

Implementing a successful lean Sigma program requires a clear understanding of the methodology and a strong commitment from leadership and employees. Here are 10 steps to help you get started:

Define the scope of your lean Sigma project. What process do you want to improve? What are the specific goals you hope to achieve? Clearly defining the scope of your project will help ensure that you stay focused and make the most impact.

Identify and engage key stakeholders. Lean Sigma projects require the involvement and buy-in of key stakeholders, including employees, leaders, and customers. Engaging these stakeholders early in the process will help ensure that you have the support you need to succeed.

Collect and analyze data. Data is the foundation of lean Sigma, so it’s important to collect as much relevant data as possible. This can include process flow data, customer feedback, and performance metrics. Once you have your data, use statistical analysis tools to identify patterns and opportunities for improvement.

Develop a hypothesis. Based on your data analysis, develop a hypothesis about how you can improve the process. Your hypothesis should be specific and testable, and it should take into account the needs and constraints of the process and the stakeholders.

Test and validate your hypothesis. Use experiments and simulations to test your hypothesis and validate your assumptions. Be sure to measure the results of your tests and compare them to your baseline data.

Implement and standardize your solution. If your tests show that your hypothesis was correct, it’s time to implement your solution. Be sure to clearly communicate the changes to all stakeholders, and work with them to ensure that the new process is followed consistently.

Monitor and sustain your improvements. Once your solution has been implemented, it’s important to continue monitoring the process to ensure that the improvements are sustained over time. This may involve collecting additional data and making additional changes as needed.

Share your successes. Don’t keep your lean Sigma successes to yourself! Share your results with others in your organization, and consider presenting your findings at industry conferences or in professional journals.

Continuous improvement. Lean Sigma is a continuous process, so don’t stop once you’ve achieved your initial goals. Look for additional opportunities to improve efficiency and reduce waste, and keep the cycle going.

Train and educate your team. Lean Sigma requires a skilled and educated team to be successful. Consider providing training and resources to your employees to help them understand the principles of lean Sigma and how to apply them in their work.

Implementing a lean Sigma program can be a challenging undertaking, but the rewards are well worth it. By following these steps and staying committed to continuous improvement, you can create a culture of excellence that drives long-term success for your organization.

The impact of Artificial Intelligence on Third Level Education

GPT (short for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer”) is a type of natural language processing (NLP) model developed by OpenAI. It has the ability to generate human-like text by predicting the next word in a sequence based on the context of the previous words. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about education, particularly at the third level.

One of the main benefits of GPT for education is its ability to provide personalized learning experiences. Traditional education often involves a one-size-fits-all approach, with students expected to learn at the same pace and in the same way. GPT, on the other hand, can adapt to an individual student’s needs and learning style. For example, a student who is struggling with a particular concept could be provided with additional resources and explanations explicitly tailored to their needs.

GPT can also be used to create interactive learning materials, such as chatbots or virtual tutors. These tools can provide students with immediate feedback and support, making it easier for them to stay on track and stay motivated. Moreover, students can access these resources at any time, from any location, which can be especially beneficial for those who are unable to attend in-person classes due to geographical or other constraints.

Another potential application of GPT in education is in the creation of customized course content. Instead of being limited to pre-existing materials, teachers could use GPT to generate custom lesson plans and assignments based on the needs and goals of their students. This could allow for a more dynamic and engaging learning experience, as well as provide an opportunity for students to explore topics of particular interest to them.

Of course, it’s important to note that GPT is still a work in progress, and there are limitations to what it can currently do. For example, it may not be able to fully replicate the nuance and critical thinking skills that are so important in higher education. However, as technology continues to evolve, it is likely that these limitations will be overcome, leading to even more transformative applications in education.

Overall, GPT has the potential to fundamentally change the way we think about education, and it’s an exciting development to keep an eye on. Whether it’s through personalized learning experiences, interactive learning tools, or customized course content, GPT has the potential to revolutionize the way we learn at the third level and beyond.

Interesting times ahead.


How should the principles of lean be revised based on what we learned from the covid pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on organizations around the world, forcing them to adapt and innovate in order to survive. As a result, many have turned to the principles of lean to help them identify and eliminate waste, reduce variability, and improve efficiency.

However, the pandemic has also highlighted the need to revise some of the core principles of lean in order to better address the challenges of the modern business environment. Here are three key ways in which the principles of lean should be revised based on what we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic:

Emphasize flexibility and adaptability: One of the biggest challenges that organizations have faced during the pandemic is the need to quickly adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. This has highlighted the importance of flexibility and adaptability in lean processes, as well as the need to build in mechanisms for responding to unforeseen events.

Prioritize customer needs: The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of putting the needs of customers first, as organizations that were able to quickly adapt to changing customer preferences and behaviours were more likely to survive. As a result, lean processes should be designed with the customer in mind and should focus on delivering value to customers in a way that is efficient and effective.

Focus on collaboration and cross-functional teamwork: Finally, the pandemic has demonstrated the need for organizations to work together and share knowledge and resources in order to survive. This has highlighted the importance of collaboration and cross-functional teamwork in lean processes, as well as the need for organizations to foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for organizations to revise their approach to lean in order to better address the challenges of the modern business environment. By emphasizing flexibility, customer focus, and collaboration, organizations can use lean principles to drive business results and build resilience in uncertainty.

Value Streams need to be Agile – not Stable

AgLean thinking has been built on the assumption that you first must develop a stable value stream before you try to improve the processes. There was a time when developing a stable value stream was a possibility, but in today’s world of disruption, caused by medical, political, sustainable or climate agendas, the likelihood of seeing a stable supply chain is a distant vision. We must focus, not on stability but on agility. Agility to be able to adapt to different environments that we are working in. Every part of our strategy, mission, product, process, organisation and culture must adopt agility to be able to react to the known future and the unknown future.

In the recent pandemic, many companies quickly recognised that agility with the availability of raw materials was essential. Many organisations built businesses based on the assumption that a cheap supply of raw materials would be available from the far east. This assumption has proven to be very simplistic and narrow-minded. ‘Cheap’ is not a good strategy if you cannot get access to materials. Many businesses will now look for alternative and multiple sources of materials. Processes to certify alternative sources will also have to be optimised and put in place. Moving to ‘Just in Case’ as opposed to ‘Just in Time’ may not be considered a poor strategy in the short term.

Agility also refers to products. The motor industry in the US is struggling today as it has millions of cars partially manufactured and cannot be completed due to the unavailability of semiconductors. There may be a desire for electronic technology but ultimately may not be a need for such technology. You would imagine that there would be a strong market today for a new car, that is safe, reliable, sustainable, repairable, functional and does not need to be upgraded every month with the latest technology and software. Such simplicity is becoming very attractive as it allows the customer to maintain control of the elements that are important to them. Technology is marketing a desire for unrequired features and upgrades that add little value. The role of technology should be to support the value of the product, rather than the product being a marketing tool to subscribe to the latest technology.

Finally, agility applies to the organisation and the individual. Organisations that are agile are more likely to survive than those which resist change. The same principle applies to people. Those who foresee the future and develop the skills to adapt to such an environment will perform better. Again, one of those competencies is the ability to challenge decisions that technology drives – “Do we really need a credit card and a digital identity to buy food?”, “Do we need a vaccination passport to leave our homes?”. Critical thinking will become one of the most important competencies as we develop our agility for the future.

If you would like advice on preparing your organisation for the future, give me a call and I am happy to support you on your journey.

Finbarr Sheehy

Lean Construction

Lean Construction

Lean Construction

“It is about managing and improving the construction process to profitably deliver what the customer needs”
Finbarr Sheehy
Founder, BusinessExcellence.ie

The Lean Principles

•Eliminate waste
•Precisely specify value from the perspective of the ultimate customer
•Clearly identify the process that delivers what the customer values (the value stream) and eliminate all non value adding steps
•Make the remaining value adding steps flow without interruption by managing the interfaces between different steps
•Let the customer pull – don’t make anything until it is needed, then make it quickly
•Pursue perfection by continuous improvement

What is lean construction?

Lean construction is a philosophy based on the concepts of lean manufacturing. It is about managing and improving the construction process to profitably deliver what the customer needs.  Because it is a philosophy, lean construction can be pursued through a number of different approaches. This fact sheet outlines the elements of lean manufacturing and  suggests how these might be adapted to deliver lean construction in practice.

Lean manufacturing

Lean manufacturing was initially pioneered and developed by the large Japanese car manufacturers. It has been implemented by a number of Japanese, American and European manufacturers with considerable success, and has been widely applied outside the automotive industry.
Lean is about designing and operating the right process and having the right systems, resources and measures to deliver things right first time. Essential to this is the elimination of waste – activities and processes that absorb resources but create no value.
Waste can include mistakes, working out of sequence, redundant activity and movement, delayed or premature inputs, and products or services that don’t meet customer needs.
The primary focus is on moving closer and closer to providing a product that customers really want, by understanding the process, identifying the waste within it, and eliminating it step by step.

Production and management principles

Lean is focused on value, more than on cost, and seeks to remove all non-value adding components and (especially) processes whilst improving those that add value. It aims to define value in customer terms, identifying key points in the development and production process where that value can be added or enhanced. The goal is a seamless integrated process (value stream) wherein products ‘flow’ from one value adding step to another, all driven by the ‘pull’ of the customer.
The idea of ‘right first time’ is essential to the lean philosophy. ‘Right’ in this context means making it so that it can’t go wrong. This approach involves an extremely rigorous, questioning analysis of every detail of product development and production, seeking continuously to establish the ultimate source of problems. Only by eliminating the cause at source can the possibility of that fault recurring be removed.

Design and product development

Lean manufacturers have developed systems for product development which first identify the right product (in terms of customer needs), and then design it correctly so that it can be manufactured efficiently.
‘Design’, in manufacturing terms, is concerned with the development and integration of systems and components into coherent, efficient and buildable products, not just the styling of the exterior appearance, a task which is often undertaken by external agencies. Tools have been developed to capture and analyse customer perceptions and requirements for product quality and performance. These tools also enable product development and manufacturing performance targets to be established. Design development targets include reductions in design changes and process iterations.

Critical success factors

•Design is informed by extensive data on the performance of products, systems and components
•Carry-over to new models of a high proportion of systems and components from previous models
•Front-loading of resources towards design to prevent problems during manufacture
•Concurrent working between manufacturing

Lean Production

Lean manufacturers arrange production in closely located ‘cells’ so that work flows continuously, with each step adding more value to the product. The standard time for all activities is known and the objective is to totally eliminate all stoppages in the entire production process. However, only optimum stocks of material are kept as buffers between processing stages.  For this system to be effective, every machine and worker must be completely capable of producing repeatable perfect quality output at the exact time required. Workers are responsible for checking quality as the product is assembled, and in some instances given authority to stop production if defects arise. In this way, quality problems are exposed and rectified as soon as they occur.
The workforce is kept informed of progress towards their production and cost targets by use of information displays so that everyone is able to see the status of all operations at all times. Work teams in lean manufacturing are highly trained and multi-skilled, and
many of the traditional supervisory and managerial functions have been devolved to them.

Critical success factors

•In depth understanding of production processes and resources involved in them
•Responsibility and authority placed with the workforce
•Real time feedback on performance
•Training and multiskilling
•Supply chain management & supplier relationships
•Lean manufacturing is based on the elimination of waste, including time lost waiting for missed/delayed supplies, unnecessary storage and the value tied-up in large stocks of parts waiting for assembly. ‘Just in time’ (JIT) delivery is therefore a vital element, and to deliver this lean manufacturers have had to develop their network of suppliers. Significant efforts are applied to encourage them to adopt the same lean manufacturing principles and systems, often company-wide, rather than solely related to that part of the suppliers’ operations that affect the manufacturer.


•Supply chain management and rationalisation of the supply chain to integrate all parties who contribute to the overall customer value into a seamless integrated process.
•Transparency of costs – the elimination of  waste in both processes and activities requires a clear and complete understanding of costs to ensure decisions on customer value can be taken. Confidentiality of cost and cash flows must be addressed.
•The concept of partnering, all involved parties contributing to a common goal with the boundaries between companies becoming less critical.

Production Planning

•Benchmarking to establish ‘best in class’ production methods and outputs
•Establishment of a stable project programme, with clear identification of critical path.
•Risk management – to manage risks throughout the project


•Just-in-time delivery of materials to the point of use eliminates the need for on-site storage and double handling Construction
•Clear communication of project plans
•Training, teamwork, multi-skilling
•Daily progress reporting and improvement meetings
•A well motivated, well trained, flexible and fully engaged workforce.
In summary lean construction is a philosophy based on the concepts of lean manufacturing. It is about managing and improving the construction process to profitably deliver what the customer needs.  Its success in the organisations ability to marry the tools and techniques with a culture that drives a behaviour of improvement, collaboration and the desire to provide the customer with what they value.

Contact Finbarr

For more information contact Finbarr Sheehy

How Lean Sigma can improve your business

Six Sigma SuccessLean Sigma is a set of statistical tools that act as a lens through which hidden problems can be identified and root causes uncovered. It provides the metrics required to reduce variability in process execution so as to enable on-going improvement in competitiveness and manufacturing and business operations.

There are many different ways that Six Sigma not only can benefit your business, but can transform it to becoming more agile and respond faster to change. Here are the top 6 benefits:

  1. Increase Productivity
    Utilising people effectively at all times is a difficult task for any business, but especially for manufacturers who typically have a large workforce to manage that operates across different locations, regions, languages and cultures.

    Six Sigma can empower you to precisely measure time spent on direct and indirect activities and identify the root causes of low productivity. You may think you’re employing too many staff but find it’s actually insufficient training or supply chain issues that are holding up production. Applying a methodological approach across locations helps to provide clarity on what the real issue is, to then address it most effectively.

  2. Reduce Costs
    Defective processes cost money. Understanding operations with a view to improvement is one of the most efficient ways to reduce costs in any business. At the core of the Six Sigma methodology is its process improvement framework which consists of the following five steps: Define, Measure, Analyze, Implement and Control (DMAIC).Statistically, this process has been shown to reduce problems to less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. By spending less on reworking defective products, a company could typically reduce its cost of achieving quality by 20% and increase its operating revenue by 50%. Accomplish this improvement across multiple sites and you can literally transform your operations to a new level of cost effectiveness.
  3. Improve Market Share
    Companies that have been implementing Six Sigma correctly for some time have reported profit margin growth of around 20% each year for every Sigma process shift. Sigma process shifts allow the operator to calculate how near (or far) a process is from Six Sigma. As most companies start around 3 sigma, the earlier Sigma shifts have a dramatic effect on the amount returned to the company’s bottom line. Sustained improvements in profit margins over years empower companies to continue to create products and services with added features and functions, allowing them a consistently greater share of the market.
  4. Increase Competitive Edge
    How well a company performs in respect to customer-facing activities has a strong impact on revenue generation and forms a significant part of its cost structure. While every customer encounter is different, Sigma recognises that having too many variables within customer-facing procedures can be as detrimental as it is in back-end processes – perhaps more so. Six Sigma will identify common components that can be standardised in order to dramatically enhance performance and provide the information needed to strengthen and improve consistency across customer relations. Data gathered can also be used to empower marketing strategies and put a company ahead of the competition.
  5. Reduce Waste
    Waste within a business and manufacturing environment can relate to many things apart from time, costs and materials. Six Sigma can help identify the unnecessary movement of information, people and products and reveal untapped employee creativity, ideas and skills.Referred to collectively as Lean manufacturing, excess work processes that add no value in the eyes of the customer can be a serious drain on resources. These activities can be eliminated, as can overproduction, by showing where to cut the manufacturing of products and output of services beyond the requirements of immediate use. In this way, Six Sigma can be an ideal complement to a Lean manufacturing program.
  6. Increase Employee Satisfaction
    Dealing with employee queries relating to the finer points of pay entitlements, terms of contracts and company regulations can eat into production time, frustrating employees and bog down HR and supervisory staff. Six Sigma can take the guesswork out of what qualifies as overtime, premium time and vacation allowance.Errors resulting in under and over-payments, and the time and effort it takes to correct them, can be eliminated. Enabling employees to access their own accurate and updated payroll data during their free time not only saves time but can be a real boost to staff morale too.

In conclusion, Six Sigma can be a powerful and strategic methodology to consistently measure results, which can then become a new baseline for improved performance, ultimately getting you closer and closer to operational excellence. Those organisations that can embrace this philosophy across their enterprise can effectively transform their manufacturing operations into a world class, unstoppable leader.

Contact us today to see how Six Sigma can improve your business

Talk to Finbarr

Original Post by Ammy Harris

The Application of Mind Mapping


The Application of Mind MappingActive Image

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.

It is an image-centered diagram that represents semantic or other connections between portions of information. By presenting these connections in a radial, non-linear graphical manner, it encourages a brainstorming approach to any given organizational task, eliminating the hurdle of initially establishing an intrinsically appropriate or relevant conceptual framework to work within.

A mind map is similar to a semantic network or cognitive map but there are no formal restrictions on the kinds of links used.

The elements are arranged intuitively according to the importance of the concepts and they are organized into groupings, branches, or areas. The uniform graphic formulation of the semantic structure of information on the method of gathering knowledge, may aid recall of existing memories.


 ApplicationsActive Image

Mind maps have many applications in personal, family, educational, and business situations, including notetaking, brainstorming (wherein ideas are inserted into the map radially around the center node, without the implicit prioritization that comes from hierarchy or sequential arrangements, and wherein grouping and organizing is reserved for later stages), summarizing, revising and general clarifying of thoughts. For example, one could listen to a lecture and take down notes using mind maps for the most important points or keywords. One can also use mind maps as a mnemonic technique or to sort out a complicated idea. Mind maps are also promoted as a way to collaborate in colour pen creativity sessions.

Mindmaps can be drawn by hand, either as ‘rough notes’, for example, during a lecture or meeting, or can be more sophisticated in quality. Examples of both are illustrated. There are also a number of software packages available for producing mind maps (see below).

The best-selling fiction paperback (August 2007) in the UK , “The Naming of the Dead” by Ian Rankin, features a detective, Inspector Rebus who uses mind maps to solve crimes.
To see many examples of mind maps, just type mind map into Google and search the ‘Images’ rather that the ‘websites’
I really liked the mindmaps produced by Shev Gul on his site mindbodyresources.com.