Strategic Operation Management: Lean Philosophy and the Theory of Swift Even Flow


This article discusses the key elements of lean working and the theory of swift even flow as key frameworks for strategic operation management. It also identifies how the two are integrated and describes the importance of the theory of swift even flow to managing flow and maximizing productivity.

Part A: The Lean Philosophy and its Links to Theory of Swift Even Flow

The Lean philosophy is a theoretical framework that provides principles and operation management practices that maximize value while minimizing waste. It emphasizes continuous improvement, respect for people, and eliminating activities that do not add value. For example, in a manufacturing field, lean approaches focus on identifying and eliminating sources of waste in the manufacturing processes, such as unnecessary motion, waiting, overproduction, defects, excess inventory, and over-processing. Implementing lean approaches in an organization aims to streamline the process, increase efficiency, and ultimately deliver higher-quality products/services at a lower cost (Bicheno, 2016). This is where the theory of swift even flow comes into play. It is a concept within the lean philosophy that aims to create a continuous and smooth flow of products/services through a system without delays, interruptions, or bottlenecks. Schemener (2012) suggests that the theory of swift, even flow is based on the idea that a system with a smooth and uninterrupted flow is more effective, efficient, and responsive to customer demand. Based on this theory, an organization must first identify the steps, procedures, and activities required to deliver a product/service to the customer to achieve swift, even flow. Secondly, the theory emphasizes that an organization should streamline and optimize these activities to ensure that products/services flow smoothly from one process to the next without delays, waiting, or interruptions. An organization can achieve this efficiency level by removing all non-value-adding activities, improving communication and coordination, and reducing inventory and lead times.

The swift even flow is closely related to lean philosophy regarding lean concepts, including Just-In-time production, Kanban system, and continuous Flow Manufacturing (CFM). When an organization adopts the above lean concepts, it can create a culture of continuous improvement and strive for greater efficiency and effectiveness in its business operations.

The Key elements of the lean working and theory of swift even flow (TSEF)

The key element of lean working based on the lean philosophy include value, value stream, flow, pull, perfection, respect for people, and continuous improvement. Lean working defines value from the customer’s perspective and focuses on activities that add value (Bicheno & Kolweg, 2016). It is based on a set of management practices that create a value stream by identifying all the activities an organization requires to deliver a product or service to the customer, from raw materials to finished products (Slack & Brandon-Jones, 2018). It also ensures that products/services flow smoothly through the value stream without delays, bottlenecks, or interruptions. Additionally, lean working is a philosophical way that an organization uses to determine the production level based on demand rather than producing based on assumptions (Bicheno & Kolweg, 2016). Moreover, it involves striving for continuous improvement by eliminating waste, reducing defects, and improving processes and products to the highest perfection possible. It also recognizes the importance of empowering and engaging employees and treating them with respect and dignity.

On the other hand, the key elements for swift, even flow include flow analysis, work balancing, process improvement, standardization, pull systems, continuous improvement, and visual management. Flow analysis involves analyzing the flow of products/services through the system to identify bottlenecks, delays and other inefficiencies (Schemener 2012). Based on the theory of swift even flow, work balancing involves balancing the workload across the system to ensure that no one step or department is overloaded and that work flows smoothly and evenly through the system. As an element of the swift even flow, process improvement involves improving the process step to eliminate waste, reduce lead time, and improve the quality of the product or service provided to the customer (Schemener 2012). Standardization, based on the theory of swift even flow, involves developing standard work procedures and processes to ensure consistency and minimize variations. The pull system involves creating a pull system where an organization can produce products or offer services based on the customer’s demand rather than producing in advance. Continuous improvement involves a continuous improvement mindset, where employees are empowered to identify problems and inefficiencies while working together to develop and implement evidence-based solutions. As a key element of swift, even flow, visual management involves creating visual indicators, such as Kanban boards, to make the flow of products or services visible and easy to manage.

Overall an organization can achieve a smooth and efficient flow of products/services with minimal delays, bottlenecks, or interruption by focusing on the key elements in lean working and swift even flow. This can help an organization maximize productivity, reduce waste, and improve customer satisfaction, ultimately leading to more competitive advantages and success.

Relationship between lean working and theory of swift even flow

Based on the key element for both lean work and swift, even flow, the two are closely integrated in various ways. They both share different principles and approaches. They both emphasize a mindset of continuous improvement and respect for people and focus on eliminating waste, improving efficiency, and delivering value to customers (Onofrei et al., 2021). For instance, the lean philosophy provides an organization with a broad framework emphasizing continuous improvement, respect for people, and a focus on customer value as crucial factors for achieving organizational goals. Similarly, the theory of swift even flow provides an organization with a specific application based on lean philosophy that focuses on optimizing the flow of products/services through a system by identifying and eliminating waste and reducing lead times.

Additionally, lean working and swift even flow involved a mindset of continuous improvement, focusing on eliminating waste and reducing variability in processes. They both emphasize the importance of creating customer value by delivering products/services that meet their needs or exceed their expectations (Garn, Aitken & Schemenner, 2020). The philosophy emphasizes that an organization must identify areas for improvement and use tools such as Kaizen events, value stream mapping, and problem-solving techniques to drive improvement. Similarly, the theory of swift even flow emphasize that an organization must continuously seek ways to improve the flow of products/services by identifying and addressing bottlenecks, reducing waste, and improving communication and collaboration between different stages of the production or offering services.

Both Lean philosophy and the theory of swift even flow emphasize the importance of respect for people. They recognize the value of creating a safe, empowering, supportive, and encouraging environment for employees and other staff to be committed to achieving a common goal or organization’s goals (Bakri, 2019). Overall, Both lean philosophy and the theory of swift even flow have principles that can help an organization create a continuous improvement culture, where employees are motivated to identify problems and work together to develop and implement solutions.

Lean working and swift, even flow also go hand in hand. In practice, an organization that adopts the lean philosophy must also apply the theory of swift even flow as one of the tools and techniques for improving their processes and operations. For example, an organization that integrates lead manufacturing approaches can use the Kanban system to support the continuous flow of manufacturing processes and create a smooth and uninterrupted flow of products/services throughout the production or manufacturing processes. Overall, an organization must integrate both lean and swift even flow to achieve greater efficiency, reduce waste, and create a culture of continuous improvement and customer value.

Part B: Application of lean philosophy and theory of swift even flow in the Toyota Company

Toyota is one of the most successful companies in the automotive sector that have applied the lean philosophy and the theory of swift even flow in their operations management processes. The company has a production management system known as Toyota Production System (TPS), which is based on different lean philosophies and theories of swift, even flow core principles and operating management practices, including continuous improvement, elimination of waste, and respect for people (Polancich & Pilon, 2019). The company has managed to use TPS to create value for customers through producing high-quality products with minimum waste and lead times.

One of the key elements of TPS is the Just-in-Time (JIT) production system which allows the company to implement the theory of swift, even flow. Yamamoto, Milstead & LIoyd (2019) reveals that JIT is a pull-based system that allows Toyota Company to produce its vehicles and other automotive products based on demand rather than producing in bulk and storing them in inventory. This allows the company to produce only what is needed at the right time and in the right quantity while minimizing inventory costs, reducing waste, and improving the flow of products through the system.

Toyota also uses the Kanban system to manage inventory and production flow. Kanban is a visual management tool that allow employees in the workplace at Toyota Company to use cards and other visual signal to indicate when materials or products are needed (Dimistrescu et al., 2019; Htun, Maw & Khaing, 2019). This help ensures that materials are available when needed and that production is synchronized with customer demand. Additionally, TPS also integrates the concept of continuous improvement by integrating the Kaizen system into the production processes that engage all employees in the company (Kumar et al., 2021). For example, Toyota uses TPS to create an environment encouraging employees to identify and eliminate waste and continually improve the production system. This create has created a culture of continuous improvement, which empowers employees to take charge of their work.

Overall, Toyota’s success in the automotive industry is evidence of the power of the lean philosophy and the theory of swift, even flow. Toyota has created a highly efficient and effective production system that delivers high-quality products with minimum waste and lead time while empowering employees and creating value for customers. TPS allows the company to apply the principle of continuous improvement, elimination of waste, respect for people, and visual management tools such as Kanaban to ensure that materials are available when needed and that production is synchronized with customer demands. TPS also allows the Toyota Company to create a culture of continuous improvement that has help it become one of the most successful companies in the world.


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