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Topic Title: BPR versus Lean
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Created On: 10/31/2010 11:37 AM
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11/01/2010 01:04 PM
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22767
Sam Tomas



I'm having a problem understanding what the key differences are between Business Process Reengineering (BPR) and Lean. According to Wikipedia, BPR is a technique to help organizations fundamentally rethink how they do their work in order to dramatically improve customer service, cut operational costs, and become world-class competitors. Reengineering identifies, analyzes, and redesigns an organization's core business processes with the aim of achieving dramatic improvements in critical performance measures, such as cost, quality, service, and speed.

Isn't that essentially what Lean does?

I'd appreciate anyone's comments on what they feel the differences between BPR and Lean might be. I'm beginning to get the feeling that Lean is just another flavor of the month.

Sam Tomas
11/01/2010 04:22 PM
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Boeing_Lean
Ken Hunt



uh.....

Lean as a flavor of the month? Not quite sure how to respond to that, except for with how long the term has been used, it's been quite the long month.
11/02/2010 09:01 AM
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pc2
P. Cartagena



Sam,

Note the wording;

"... is a technique to help organizations fundamentally rethink how they do their work in order to dramatically improve customer service, cut operational costs, and become world-class competitors. Reengineering identifies, analyzes, and redesigns an organization's core business processes with the aim of achieving dramatic improvements in critical performance measures, such as cost, quality, service, and speed."

is all in terms of the destination, not the journey. It's also vague, unspecific and generalized.

If this were the sole, singular and complete definition of BPR then one could say that any business activity with these goals and intentions could be called a form of BPR, including Lean.

But that's not how the term has been used in practice. If you read the multitude of books and articles, or discuss specific methods, techniques and actions dispensed by the myriad of consultants promoting BPR, you'll find a very different picture of what people mean by BPR.

I believe you'll find that BPR, as it has been widely promoted and practiced, is the antithesis of Lean.



Originally posted by: 22767

... I'm beginning to get the feeling that Lean is just another flavor of the month....

Sadly, I don't doubt that for many (most?) organizations, it is.

Whether something is a flavor-of-the-month or not is a function of the user, not the something.

If I may make an unusual analogy, how do you feel about bike pants? Yes, bike pants, i.e. tight spandex shorts. They were a (thankfully) short-lived fashion item back in the late eighties.

While I'll admit I think they looked good on some women, most of the population looked somewhere between silly and downright yucky when wearing them in public. And like so many other fashion fads before them, they faded into obscurity.

But, if you watched the Tour de France in July, or any bike race for that matter, you saw a whole bunch of guys wearing bike shorts.

Were they caught in some kind a fashion time warp? Did they miss out on a quarter century of apparel flavors-of-the-month? Of course not, they're not wearing them for fashion and fad.

Today's racers wear them for the same reason racers have been wearing them for decades, because they're functional. For them, spandex shorts are equipment, just like carbon fiber fames and titanium axles. They don't get hung up on your saddle when you shift positions. They minimize friction with the saddle and frame. They minimized aerodynamic drag. They wick sweat from your body out to their surface for evaporative cooling. They even provide a space for team sponsors' advertising.

So, is Lean just another fad, put on for show because it's currently stylish? Or is it a way of life, now and for the future?

That's up to the user.



pc.
11/02/2010 09:02 AM
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GaryPurcival
Gary Purcival



Uh X2...

The Venitian ship builders have been using lean since the 16th century... So it has been a very, very long month! ...
11/04/2010 08:50 AM
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Cormac
Cormac Acevedo



BPR (Business Process Reengineering) on the surface sounds like a grand idea! By that I mean large. It sounds attractive for those who desire quick results. Words like "fundamentally, rethink, reengineering, redesign, dramatic, critical" are all large words, big change. The problem is we often equate large change with quick results. Who doesn't want that, sounds easy enough. Lets assign a group of engineers to the task and have them report the results back to us...

In my view, this totally ignores the psychology behind change. When I think of why the Toyota Production System works so well, it is not the result that enables this, it is the process. Primarily of engaging team members. I think of how Andon supports them and Kaizen enables them. Focusing on the details and making small changes allows change to be safe and palatable, so that it is sustained. In the process, we make use of the vast brain power available in ALL of our empoloyees.

Fads in business are just like most weight loss programs. They do not address what is going on in the brain, in ADDITION to the body. Take this pill, eat this food. It might taste bad, but you will lose weight. But, they come and go, as do the coveted results along with them. Why, because our brains are afraid of change. The larger the change, the quicker we fall back into old habits. That is Psychology 101, and it happens every day in business, and it is ignored all too often.
11/04/2010 03:44 PM
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22767
Sam Tomas



Gary, excellent example. I had forgotton about how effectively and how fast they built their ships. Excellent example of working Lean.

Tomas
11/04/2010 03:44 PM
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22767
Sam Tomas



Cormac, I'm finding out more about BPR. I read that it is typically recommended in three situations. First is by companies that have failed. They have to change the way they conduct business since their current business model isn't working.

Second is a company on the verge of failing. They too realize they have to make some drastic changes to how they operate their business in order to keep from failing.

Third are companies that have no problems. They are operating very successfuly but have decided they need to do even better. Maybe their stock holders are pushing them to grow at a faster rate. They realize that making incremental or continuous improvements will not provide the quantum leap in performance they are looking for and have therefore decided to reinvent themselves by introducing BPR. An example of a company that did that was identified as Wal Mart.

Sam Tomas
11/05/2010 05:20 AM
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Alan Foley



BPR is a concept. Lean is an approach or even a methodology. Lean is a subset of BPR.
BPR speaks about an idea; the WHAT. Lean on the other hand speaks about a solution, the HOW.
11/05/2010 08:36 AM
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Robert_Simonis
Robert Simonis



Sam,

I think the major difference between BPR and Lean is how they are done.

BPR (in my limited experience) was done TO the people doing the work, usually by consultants and/or management. Lean is about working WITH the affected employees, or better yet, it is done BY the employees that the changes will affect.
11/05/2010 10:22 AM
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29569
Bill Roper



Sam

I would say that a few of the key differences between lean and reengineering are:

- lean process improvement engages employees directly via kaizen events, daily improvement, etc.; reengineering as practiced back in the 90s was performed by a bunch of (supposedly) smart people and done for, or to, the organization; in my expereince engagement breeds commitment to the new approach, which helps with implementation acceptance
- lean focuses on making things better rather than making things perfect and accepts that multiple rounds or improvement will be necessary, and are in fact desirable, to help move the change process along
- as others have noted, lean if far from a flavor of the month (unlike reengineering); aside from all the historical examples of shipbuilders, Henry ford, et al, lean has been a key operational improvement practice since the late 70s / early 80s when we first started to understand TPS; the expansion of lean understanding since then has been steady as has its application, e..g from primarily repetitive manufacturing, to all manufacturing, administrative processes, healthcare, etc.; lean is still in a growth mode from both an understanding and application perspective
- lean is "common sense, commonly applied" to quote Imai and "making the right work easier to do," to quote Ken Lowe of HPP; it is easy to explain and once people grasp it, they can do it on their own through daily process improvement

At the end of the day, processes are improved / reengineered using either approach. I believe the key differences are lean's employee engagement approach to process improvement, the resulting acceptance and sustainability of the new process and the longevity of the approach. We are all still learning what makes lean work and how best to apply it to new situaitons.

Bill Roper
11/08/2010 11:48 AM
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oberkele
Owen Berkeley-Hill



The posts so far adequately describe the differences between BPR and Lean.

I would just like to add a historical perspective. Reengineering the Corporation was published in the early 90s. This was a time when the big corporations had already benchmarked the Japanese with little if any useful learning from this expensive exercise. In fact, if anything, the conclusions drawn by these highly paid bench-markers were often misleading. for example, we were told that, "The Japanese got it right first time!". I can think of no greater inhibitor to change and improvement: the sub-text of this message being that making mistakes was a capital offence.

That the US and Europe were uncompetitive was in little doubt: you may recall some of the less principled politicians publicly smashing Japanese equipment in the US to show their patriotism. This was also the time that people were beginning to realise that trying to automate existing processes without improving them first only resulted in very complicated IT systems which were very late, very expensive, bug ridden and of dubious value. This was Michael Hammer's prime target. You may remember him accusing the IT industry of "paving corporate cowpaths" rather than building the information super highways of the future. As someone who struggling to deliver an IT project, there was a lot of truth in what he said. The problem with Hammer was that to get his message across he had to over indulge in the glib and the hyperbole (but which guru published by Business Week or the HBR has not). And it is for this reason he came out with expressions like "Don't automate, obliterate!". Perhaps the collective fear of being uncompetitive insisted on the radical and the dramatic: small, incremental improvements were all very well but there was no time. I cannot count the number of times we were promised that this or that strategy and methodology would overtake the Japanese (read Toyota) in five years: there were many short-lived plat du jours.

Hammer was also a tad light on the "hows", and this probably resulted in almost anything being called Reengineering. Eventually, Reengineering became synonymous with "down sizing" and soon lost a lot of credibility.

Will Lean go the same way as Reengineering? I hope not because I do believe it has substance and is the gateway to an alternative management philosophy. But there are no guarantees.
11/08/2010 11:48 AM
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22767
Sam Tomas



Bill, thanks for your inputs.

I've developed a different understanding of the differences. Let me try it on you for your opinion.

For a definition of reengineering I went to the book. Reengineeering the Corporation by Hammer and Champy. They described Reengineering this way: Reengineering, properly, is "the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business proesses to achieve dramatic improvement in critical, contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service, and speed."

They further stated: "Reengineering a company means tossing aside old systems and starting over. It involves going back to the beginning and inventing a better way of doing work." Clearly, Reengineering and Lean are not similar.

For Lean, I went to the APICS dictionary. The dictionary does not define Lean by itself but refers you to Lean Production. The Lean Production definition sates, "A philosophy of production that emphasizes the minimizaton of the amount of all the resources (including time) used in the various activities of the enterprise." The word "philosophy" would have to refer to the word, "Lean", and not the word Manufacturing. Lean then would be the philosophy of using minimum resources to accomplish a task.

From this I concluded that Lean means simply, the use of minimum resources. Lean accounting would mean the use of minimum resources in conducting accounting actvities; Lean procurement would mean the use of minimum resources in procurement activities, and Lean process improvement would mean the use of minimum resources in improving processess.

So with this definition, IMai could have been thinking that Lean was the application of common sense in deciding what minimum resources would be required that could be used to make the work easier to do.

If this definition of Lean makes sense, then some statements like, "Lean is a process of continuous improvement", would be incorrect since Lean is not a process. A company would first have to decide that they wanted to implement a continuous improvement program and then decide if they wanted to do that by using minimum resources, or running Lean.

You could also challenge other statements such as, Lean is a process for waste elimination or reduction. You would have to say that Lean is the use of minimum resources needed to eliminate a particular waste, lead time in asssembly for example.

So, what do you think Bill? Any comments?

Sam Tomas
11/08/2010 11:49 AM
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rwesttx
robert west



BPR no doubt sought out savings in ways that were not at all lean. economy of scale, beating up supplier, stripping employee benefits, and anything else to make a quick buck. At least that is the first thing that I thought of when someone mentioned Walmart.
11/08/2010 11:49 AM
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3744
Ronald Turkett



From my experience BPR is a subset of lean. Even though there have been a huge amount of consulting money made over BPR it is only one element of Lean as practiced by Toyota. As personally experienced TPS is an entire value stream approach from concept to customer.
Ron Turkett
11/09/2010 10:12 AM
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22767
Sam Tomas



Ron, if reengineering is "the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical, contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, servce, and speed," as stated by Hammer and Champy, then how can it be a subset of Lean when Lean refers to the minimum use of resources to accomplish a task. Lean doesn't redesign business processes. It may make some corrective changes but it doesn't redesign them.

Tomas
11/09/2010 10:37 AM
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Boeing_Lean
Ken Hunt



Sorry Sam, but I disagree with your statement that Lean doesn't redisign business processes. I have been a part of several processes improvements that were so radically redesigned using Lean tools that you wouldn't recognize them, much less believe that it was a way of doing business for so many y

Ron is correct..
11/10/2010 08:42 AM
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EALean
Andy Sommer



Originally posted by: 22767


If this definition of Lean makes sense, then some statements like, "Lean is a process of continuous improvement", would be incorrect since Lean is not a process. A company would first have to decide that they wanted to implement a continuous improvement program and then decide if they wanted to do that by using minimum resources, or running Lean.

Sam Tomas


Sam,
This definition of lean does not make much sense to me. This interpretation of Lean is actually what has given Lean a bad reputation as an excuse for downsizing and squeezing every little bit of work out of as few people as possible. The Association for Operations Management (APICS) supports lean, however you will not find a definition of TPS which is the process that creates Lean production. I see Lean Production (as defined by APICS) as the output of a highly effective business that is based on the principles and philosophies of TPS.
Andy
11/10/2010 09:11 AM
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SetupGuy
Thomas Warda



In my humble opinion, BPR was most certainly a flavor of the month - many months ago. It has truly come and gone like most other flavors of the month. Like most flavors, it was widely oversold as "the answer" to all business problems. Probably the biggest flaw in BPR had to do with its "big bang" implementation process. You basically blew the process up (once) and introduced (once) the new kick-butt replacement process. This "one and done" methodology appealed to many folks looking for instant answers to all of their problems. As with all of the "lose weight instantly with no change in diet or exercise" pills, it didn't work because it simple could not do all of that.

Lean on the other hand is a deep, overarching system of interlocking philosophies, tools and systems. It takes years to learn, practice and implement and is never really fully implemented. Just ask Toyota and look at how long they've been at it.
11/10/2010 11:13 AM
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Benny
Andrew Bentley



Hi,

I have to say this, Venitian ship builders did not use lean, nor did they understand the concept of lean, they just built products based on moving them forwards 'not' in one complete ship they actually moved them along a channel part built (I am told though the 'story' is an open one).

Sadly I & most other were not able to see it, certainly Toyota or Ford had little influence,

Venitian ship builders & lean
11/10/2010 03:26 PM
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3744
Ronald Turkett



There is a great difference in Lean as in TPS and lean that is the downgraded approach of TPS. TPS is a value chain systematic approach that includes process reengineering. For example, a new welding line reengineering is developed off line, implemented in one facility, refined and then spread globally..

The definition of reengineering also varies. Radical change does not always axxomplish more than deciplined and well planned reengineering.

GMs reengineering to add rotots to assembly many years ago resulted in robots replacing people, the addition of skilled trades to keep the robots running and reduced output. This was a radical change that did not accomplish the objective.

Ron Turikett
FORUMS : Manufacturing : BPR versus Lean

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