Lean Principles

Using lean principles can transform your analytical laboratory services.

The arguments for lean are compelling: reduce waste, raise efficiency, increase productivity and drive competitiveness.

The concept of ‘lean’ was first developed by the car manufacturer Toyota soon after the end of the Second World War. Adopting an overriding principle to eliminate waste and maximise value. Now dubbed ‘lean manufacturing’, the framework redefines waste as “anything that does not add value” – not only unused materials, like offcuts and defective products, but any action or process for which a customer is unwilling to pay.

Viewed this way, you quickly grasp why a lean approach is also powerful in a quality orientated, highly regulated business. You systematically remove waste to deliver exactly what your customers need: a simplified, customer-focused service with high quality assurance and a compelling promise to deliver on time.

Tepnel – applying lean principles to a service industry

The incredible success of lean across the globe has made it the new paradigm for all manufacturing businesses, including within the pharmaceutical sector; for example, the stringent requirements for regulatory compliance (product quality, quality management, data integrity, etc.) encourage drug manufacturers to adopt lean principles. Lean supports compliance whilst helping a business be cost effective, reduce development times and minimise the potential of any drug supply shortage.

For the past 2 years, Tepnel has been transforming our analytical laboratory services through the implementation of lean principles: Our aim, to boost productivity, maintain excellent service quality and improve communication and relationships with our customers.

One of the biggest areas of investment has been the training of the leadership team. The move to a lean approach has required a radical change to the work culture. Instead of a top-down, “need-to-know” management style, lean embraces participation; it values the expert insights of each employee on their specific activities. Managers must accept that the people most involved in a process are in the best position to analyse them and improve them.

An external specialist has supported senior managers to define their new operational culture and identify all the values and tools they need to create sustainable, long-term growth. They have received coaching and mentoring for leadership skills so they can “live out” Tepnel’s core values and effectively drive the cultural change.

Project managers have also participated in training on how to achieve significant service improvements, business growth – through lean approaches. Indeed, all employees, including laboratory analysts and administrative staff, have been involved in skills training and coaching to embed this new mind set: a culture of continuous improvement and active participation in customer engagement. A variety of different lean concepts and principles have been used to improve our service offering for customers; including excellence, kaizen, poka yoke (error-proofing), value stream mapping and PDCA problem solving.

If you would like to talk to someone about lean principles, please contact Vikki Renwick on +44 (0)1506 424270.

Click here to request more information.

Benefits of lean for service companies

  • Simplicity
  • Right first time
  • Rapid turnaround time
  • Error prevention
  • Customer responsiveness
  • Increased productivity
  • High efficiency
  • Best practice
  • Consistency
  • Improved quality
  • Team empowerment
  • Operational excellence

The house of lean

The lean model is often described as a house, built with a foundation, pillars and a roof. First, you need an underlying culture of participation driven by strong leadership with a vision for change and a willingness to adapt continually to customer needs, employees and the environment.

With this foundation in place, a business can raise the ‘pillars’ – tools and methodologies for systematic analysis and modelling which will identify and remove waste and add customer value. The simplification of operational processes is an example of how the pillar of continuous improvement (known as ‘kaizen’) is applied. Kaizen is often implemented in tandem with ‘just in time’ manufacturing, ‘customer pull’ (where manufacturing is governed by customer demand rather than internal operational factors) and ‘value stream mapping’.

Finally you attach your roof to the house. This represents the outcomes from your lean programmes, for example shorter turnaround times, simplicity or “unconscious competency” which all help to create a sustained performance culture. With the roof in place your house is built; you have a business constantly striving for excellence.


The key tools for lean implementation are listed below:

  • Value stream mapping
  • Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) problem solving
  • Kaizen
  • Poka yoke (error proofing)

To read our latest white paper on Tepnel’s approach to lean principles, please click here.