There is a lot of lean jargon and so many terms and “funny” words when you get started with your Lean journey. To help you cut through all the Lean Jargon, TXM Lean Consultants have put together the meanings of the core Lean terms and how they can used to improve your manufacturing processes. Knowing the definitions of Lean terms is important to learning how to apply them when building a lean manufacturing system. These terms are not just to be talked about; they need experience from in implementing them.  Indeed, lean principles are the foundation for a great production system and will always work best when combined with respect, humility, flow and fix. It is by no means an extensive lean glossary and will be added to on a regular basis.

Glossary of Lean Terminology



5S 5S

Workplace organisation tool that standardizes a work area by:

  • Sorting – Leave only what is needed for the process
  • Setting – Arrange in the way you need it.
  • Shine – Keep it clean and simple
  • Standardise – Write the standards and share them
  • Sustain – Audit, inspect and improve the current standard – repeat

View A 5S Case Study – Food Manufacturing
Read why 5S is Essential for Sustaining your Lean Business Systems

A3 Plan A3 Plan

An A3 plan is simply a business plan or project plan expressed on a single A3 sheet of paper. A3 plans are used for summarising and explaining strategy (see also Hoshin Kanri), presenting projects and solving problems. By limiting the format to a single A3 sheet of paper and applying rules around layout A3 plans ensure that the essential information is communicated in a clear and concise fashion.

Read how to develop an A3 Plan
Read about what makes a good A3 Plan

Andon Andon

A visual feedback process that indicates a person has a problem in production or in part supply and needs assistance to fix the problem.

Lean more about Andon Lights from our Blog

Continuous flow Continuous flow

One element of a JIT system, continuous flow is where the production work in progress moves smoothly between work stages with little (or no) inventory buffers between each step.

Read our blog about production flow

Gemba (Original Place) Gemba (Original Place)

Usually taken to mean the place where value is actually created for the customer – the factory floor or workplace. To truly understand a situation one needs to go to “Gemba” or, the ‘real place’ ‘the place where the truth can be found’ – where work is done.

Going to the “Gemba” is a key habit of Lean Leaders.
Definition contributed by Tamera Lank at Tobul Accumulator

Key Indicators for your Daily Gemba Walk

Hansei (Self Reflection) Hansei (Self Reflection)

To acknowledge your own mistake and to pledge improvement. Deep personal reflection. Using mistakes as a chance to learn rather than a chance to criticise is a key principle in lean thinking.

Definition contributed by Tamera Lank at Tobul Accumulator

Heijunka (Level Scheduling) Heijunka (Level Scheduling)

A form of scheduling that is designed to manufacturing smaller bathed by sequencing or mix of product variants into the same product / process.

Read our blog about Level Production

Hoshin Kanri (Policy Deployment) Hoshin Kanri (Policy Deployment)

Hoshin Kanri is the term used to describe the system used by Toyota to deploy its strategy through every level of its organisation and also receive upwards feedback on the strategy. Hoshin Kanri uses A3 Plans to communicate strategy at each level.

Read more about Hoshin Kanri

Jidoka (Autonomation) Jidoka (Autonomation)

Giving machines the ability to stop working when an abnormal situation is automatically detected, allowing operators to multitask.

Read about Lean techniques to improve quality
(definition contributed by Sharon Hale, Skagit Regional Health)

Just in Time Just in Time

All production parts, consumables and sub-assemblies are pulled into the production according to customer demand, as opposed to the traditional pushing production based on a central schedule or ERP  / MRP system, regardless of current requirements or situation.

Read more about Just In Time and how it might apply in your business

Kaikaku (Radical Improvement) Kaikaku (Radical Improvement)

Japanese for meaning the “radical improvement of an activity” to eliminate non-value-adding waste. Usually implying “big step” changes rather than small step “kaizen” improvements.

(definition provided by Richard Nichols at the Bradbury Group)

Kaizen (Change for the Better) Kaizen (Change for the Better)

Applied to business organizations, it implies continuing improvement involving everyone. It usually refers to continuous small step improvement over a sustained period of time.Kaizen usually happens at the “Gemba” or workplace.

Read more about Kaizen in our Blog
Definition contributed by Tamera Lank at Tobul Accumulator

Kamishibai (Red Green Task Board) Kamishibai (Red Green Task Board)

A system whereby coloured “tee cards” are used to represent routine tasks in a workplace. In the typical application, the tags are printed red on one side and green on the other. They are then flipped from red to green as tasks are completed.

Learn more about Kamishibai (also known as red-green task boards) form our Lean Minute video

Purchase Kamishibai boards and tee cards

Kanban (Pull system) Kanban (Pull system)

A process to signal the need for work, either for Production to make something or stores, or supplier, to supply something. For kanban the signal is a physical indicator – it may be a card, an empty box or a returned trolley.

Learn more about Kanban from our Blog
Purchase Hardware for your Kanban System from our On-line Store.

Muda (Waste) Muda (Waste)

Waste – Anything in the process that does not add value from the customer’s perspective.

Learn more about the seven wastes

Mura (unevenness) Mura (unevenness)

A Japanese term meaning unevenness, irregularity, lack of balance. Mura is of the key causes of waste in processes – unevenness or imbalance. Use of Heijunka is aimed at eliminating Mura through leveling the rate of production.

Muri (Overburden) Muri (Overburden)

Japanese term meaning overburden or overloading. Muri is another key source of waste. This means when processes or people are overloaded beyond their capacity. Muri can lead to problems with poor safety, poor quality and inconsistent output as excessive output can not be sustained leading to unevenness or Mura.

Poke Yoke (Error Proofing) Poke Yoke (Error Proofing)

Methods that prevent or detect defects in products.

(definition contributed by Sharon Hale, Skagit Regional Health )

Value Stream Map Value Stream Map

Value stream mapping is a powerful lean manufacturing technique used to document, analyze and improve the flow of information or materials required to produce a product or service for a customer. Specifically, a “current state” value stream maps identify the value and waste in a process flow enabling the development of a “future state map” to eliminate that waste.

Read more about value stream maps.
Definition contributed by Tamera Lank at Tobul Accumulator