How to Train Your Employees on Lean Principles

Lean principles just make sense. Whether you’re looking to adopt the 5S methodology, perform a bottleneck analysis, or measure your key performance indicators, training your employees on lean principles is the foundation of measurable progress in your facility—in terms of efficiency, productivity, and overall workplace morale. Get started here.


You need a strong, defined management team to implement lean principles throughout your entire organization. Gather your core team and talk through all the areas where you see room for improvement (i.e., waste).

  • List off impediments or hurdles to progress you may run into. Low employee morale? Shortage of resources? Lack of leadership experienced in lean principles?
  • Assign roles to share responsibility as you implement your strategy. This opening conversation will guide your strategy and clarify the wisest balance of responsibility across your management team in training your employees on lean principles.
  • Document and share your working strategy with your entire organization.


What is lean? In Henry Ford’s words, “We will not put into our establishment anything that is useless.” Lean manufacturing is a method of running a manufacturing system, plant, or facility. Regardless of the application, the method is guided by an underlying principle: the elimination of all forms of waste that don’t add value to the business. To implement the methods for a leaner manufacturing plant, this principle must be understood by your entire workforce. Call this introduction the first step of training your employees for a lean manufacturing plant.

“We will not put into our establishment anything that is useless.”-Henry Ford


Before you brainstorm solutions you need to identify the problem. When talking lean manufacturing and training your employees, this means identifying all forms of waste in your facility. Sit down with your team and talk through all these forms of wastes you want to eliminate in your plant. This likely includes:

  • Overproduction
  • Transportation
  • Non-value adding processes
  • Inventory waste
  • Motion waste
  • Waste of defective products
  • Waste of unsafe conditions
  • Human energy waste
  • Searching waste
  • Waste of unsafe conditions


Standard operating procedures matter because they ensure consistent, repeatable results within your organization. If you want to implement lean principles in your plant through sustained progress, a documented strategy is key—i.e. standard operating procedures. Without documenting every facet of your strategy, execution will fall short.  Training or re-training your team on your facility’s pre-existing SOP’s is a prerequisite to implementing these lean principles, so everyone is aware of the current state, the gap, and how you’re going to close it. SOP’s may include:

  • Inventory tracking
  • Cleaning and operation of major machinery
  • In-process checking
  • Material processing
  • Quality control
  • Product assembly

In order to implement lean principles throughout your organization, your entire workforce must be aware of the current deficits in efficiency (i.e. waste). Identifying the gap is the first step in closing it.


The idea behind Kaizen is that all employees are actively engaged in the regular, incremental improvement of the company. How? Through organized events focused on improving specific areas within the company. This creates the culture of continuous improvement needed to facilitate your new lean principles. You need your workforce to be on board with the goal of improving the company. Whether in terms of employee morale, productivity, efficiency (i.e. lean principles), or safety, Kaizen is a tried-and-true framework for catalyzing the team collaboration that necessitates marketable progress.

Consider Kaizen in seven phases:

  • Identify opportunity
  • Analyze process
  • Develop solution
  • Study results
  • Standardize solution
  • Plan for future
Downloadable 5S checklist
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