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From the Lean Lexicon 5th Edition:

Heijunka:   Leveling the type and quantity of production over a fixed period of time. This enables production to efficiently meet customer demands while avoiding batching and results in minimum inventories, capital costs, manpower, and production lead time through the whole value stream.  With regard to level production by quantity of items, suppose that a producer routinely received orders for 500 items per week, but with significant variation by day: 200 arrive on Monday, 100 on Tuesday, 50 on Wednesday, 100 on Thursday, and 50 on Friday. To level production, the producer might place a small buffer of finished goods near shipping, More »
Heijunka Box:   A tool used to level the mix and volume of production by distributing kanban within a facility at fixed intervals. Also called a leveling box.  In the illustration of a typical heijunka box shown below, each horizontal row is for one type of product (one part number). Each vertical column represents identical time intervals for paced withdrawal of kanban. The shift starts at 7:00 a.  m. and the kanban withdrawal interval is every 20 minutes. This is the frequency with which the material handler withdraws kanban from the box and distributes them to production processes in the facility.  Whereas the More »
Heijunka: Mastering the Peaks and Valleys
By: Jeff Smith | May 1, 2015
Struggling to run different types of products down one line? Lean coach Jeff Smith explains the lean manufacturing concept of Heijunka (or production leveling) by way of a story. More »
Lean and "emotional heijunka" in a Time of Pandemic
By: James P. Womack | April 1, 2020
In this timely reflection, Jim Womack calls for "emotional heijunka": taking a deep breath, identifying the most important problems that must be addressed in a given process, and screening out the emotional inputs we are bombarded with so that we don't get into the dumps or soar with false euphoria. More »
Maintaining Emotional Heijunka During a Pandemic
By: James P. Womack | March 31, 2020
Columns; eLetters
In this timely reflection, Jim Womack calls for "emotional heijunka": taking a deep breath, identifying the most important problems that must be addressed in a given process, and screening out the emotional inputs we are bombarded with so that we don't get into the dumps or soar with false euphoria. More »
The Real Lean Challenge: Levelling Production
By: Ian Glenday | February 27, 2014
Most lean practitioners focus primarily on the waste elimination aspect of Lean and ignore levelled production. In his second piece for the Post, Ian Glenday explains why levelled production is so important to overall system improvement. More »
How Do We Manage Our Stock to Be Lean AND Responsive to Varied Customer Demand?
By: Ballé, Michael | December 22, 2010
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: We’re a tier two supplier and we’re trying to implement a pull system. We’re leveling our production schedules, but our customer’s variation in the demand for products immediately makes us miss shipments. Our OTD is not getting better. Although production runs more smoothly, people are getting frustrated. Where would you start? More »
Leveling to Build Capacity and Flexibility
By: Ballé, Michael | December 14, 2010
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: We manufacture a seasonal product and are working on leveling, but are having a tough time. Our peak sales occur in a four-month time frame, but we need to use year-round production for capacity. Any advice on how to level what feels to us an impossible cycle? More »
Lean Thinking Therapy Spreads Beyond the Shop
By: Chet Marchwinski | February 5, 2004
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams; Value-Stream Maps
Medtronic Xomed expanded the lean transformation beyond the shop floor to areas such as international distribution, product development, and domestic shipping. Along the way, company leadership also reorganized the operational structure by value-streams. More »
One Idea for Improving Hospital Emergency Room Care
By: Sami Bahri | June 12, 2014
Sami Bahri, dentist and author of "Follow the Learner: The Role of a Leader in Creating a Lean Culture," suggests an idea for improving hospital emergency rooms: level the workload across the ER and other departments. More »
Managing Suppliers
By: Ballé, Michael | September 16, 2009
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: We've done a lot of kaizen work in production and have something of a pull system running. We've started measuring on time delivery at every step of the process, and it appears that suppliers account for a large part of our instability. Should we extend the kanban to the suppliers? Is there a lean way to rank suppliers? More »
Knife Company Hones Competitiveness by Bucking the Status Quo
By: Tonya Vinas | June 5, 2008
Case Studies
Family-owned Buck Knives needed to reduce costs by at least 30% to keep its U.  S. operations open. In turning to lean, the company gained more than just improved efficiency. Leaders are making better decisions, and flexibility has given Buck a unique advantage even though it had more reasons than most companies to shun lean concepts. Despite the challenges, the company now does nearly everything differently from allocations of costs for shop-floor supplies to working with its key retail customer More »
Takt Time Thinking for a Low-Volume High-Mix Company
By: Ballé, Michael | August 23, 2011
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: Our company produces custom products that cannot be easily forecast in terms of when they will be ordered, and in what format. How can a company facing high-mix, low-volume, and unstable demand establish a production system that uses takt time? More »
Finding a Lean Cure that Respects the Health of Healthcare Workers
By: Eric Buehrens | May 10, 2018
In his prognosis of the health care system, LEI CEO Eric Buehrens says we need to improve the work to remove waste and create value; and be advocates for enough “social heijunka” to ensure that resources going to that sector don’t impoverish frontline workers across our society. More »
Lean Physician, Heal Thyself!
By: Phil Coy | August 12, 2015
"We [need] to equip people with the right tools to address the problems they must solve," writes Phil Coy. "New software is emerging that is designed to reduce waste in the process of lean transformation itself.  .. to reinforce lean principles of pull, flow, takt, and leveling.  " More »
Lean Transformation: Have You Hit the “Lean Plateau?”
By: Craig Stritar | July 7, 2016
After realizing that that their five-year track record of continuous improvement was leveling out, Craig Stritar and his team knew they would have to get creative. Find out the methods they used to fight their way off the "lean plateau.  " More »
The Backbone of Lean in the Back Shops
By: Chet Marchwinski | May 19, 2004
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams; Images
Learn why the lean concept of every part, every interval (EPEI) is the “backbone” of lean in this aerospace machine shop by leveling the mix in demand to create flow through a cell. More »
The Gold Mine (Charts and Maps)
By: Ballé, Freddy and Michael Ballé | May 9, 2005
Charts, Graphs and Diagrams; Images; Value-Stream Maps
Charts, maps, and illustrations of key concepts and lessons in The Gold Mine:An illustration of the breakers assembled by Phil Jenkinson's companyOperator Balance Charts (OBC)Original plant layoutSTR value-stream mapA sketch of how to create a levelled schedule based on takt timeAn illustration of how increased change-overs and deliveries lead to reduced lead-timeKanban in a heijunka box More »
The Wonder of Level Pull
By: Womack, Jim | March 31, 2004
Columns; eLetters
Many years ago in Toyota City I first witnessed the twin concepts of level production and the smooth pull of needed items throughout a complex production operation. My education occurred at a supplier of components to Toyota assembly plants that had created a small and precisely determined inventory of finished components near the shipping dock. Read more. More »
Sell One, Buy One, Make One: Transforming from Conventional to Lean Distribution
By: Chet Marchwinski | December 8, 2006
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams; Images
Big batches. Long lead times. Infrequent deliveries. Large inventories to cover fluctuations in demand. These aren't characteristics normally attributed to lean paragon Toyota, but they once accurately described the automaker's service parts distribution system -- but no more. More »
Once Again, Here's Why JIT Matters
By: Jeffrey Liker | May 13, 2021
Jeffrey Liker argues that recent media snipes fail to understand the crucial role JIT plays in a complete #lean system in surfacing problems & pressuring companies to fix them immediately More »
If lean really is about innovation, why does so much of it seem to be about logistics?
By: Ballé, Michael | December 11, 2017
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: If lean really is about innovation, why does so much of it seem to be about logistics, with truck preparation areas, leveling boxes, small trains, kanbans and so on? More »
LEI In the News: Leading Trade Journal Asks How Lean Principles Performed During the Pandemic
By: Mark Reich | May 18, 2021
Lean management principles didn’t fail during the pandemic; some companies failed to execute them correctly, especially the practice of just-in-time production, as LEI Senior Coach Mark Reich recently explained to a leading trade journal. More »
Method vs. Tool
By: Ballé, Michael | August 2, 2011
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: I think that TPM, JIT, SMED, Heijunka are methods and the 5S, VSM Kaizen are tools.  Perhaps we could use the expression “solutions” to include both methods and tools? Where do you stand on this? More »
The Gold Mine - A New Novel About Lean Manufacturing (Book Review)
By: Meyer, Kevin | June 17, 2005
Review of The Gold Mine by Freddy Ballé  and Michael Ballé from Manufacturers Alliance. Originally published on the Evolving Excellence blog on June 17, 2005. More »
What? My Pull System Is Supposed to Fail?
By: Ballé, Michael | July 11, 2014
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: We’ve given up on installing a pull system – every time we try, our on time delivery rate plummets, and we can’t let customer service suffer more than it already does. We’re doing a lot of A3 problem solving – isn’t that lean enough? More »
Any advice for how to implement real pull across the company?
By: Ballé, Michael | July 31, 2017
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: My boss, the operations VP, has asked me to implement a pull system across the whole company. I’ve practiced lean for many years and am a division lean officer, but not fully comfortable about real pull – would you have any advice? More »
Mega Mura Bubble Trouble
By: Womack, Jim | November 13, 2008
Columns; eLetters
I started writing my monthly e-letter in October of 2001 to speak to the worries of the Lean Community as the world economy slid into recession. So this month marks the end of one complete cycle -- seven years of bust, boom, and bust -- as the world enters a new recession. More »
Taking a Value Stream Walk at Firm A
By: Womack, Jim | March 12, 2003
Columns; eLetters
I was out walking through a company this past week, something I often do. The firm I visited had asked what I thought of their lean efforts to date and I paid a visit to find out. While flying home, it occurred to me that you might find my method and checklist of some use in your own improvement activities. So, let me share it with you. More »
Abbreviated Study Guide for The Gold Mine audiobook
By: Ehrenfeld, Tom | November 9, 2010
This guide contains excerpts of A Leader's Study Guide to The Gold Mine. Thought-provoking discussion questions and resources for further reading are included for each chapter to help listeners of the audiobook better understand lean as a system and how they can implement to tools in their own organization. More »
Deconstructing the Tower of Babel
By: Womack, Jim | October 7, 2004
Columns; eLetters
As the years have gone by, we seem to be building a lean Tower of Babel.    I hear the term applied very vaguely and used to mean many things: goals (highest quality, lowest cost, shortest lead time), general methods (just-in-time, jidoka), specific tools (kanban, poka-yoke), and the basic foundation (heijunka, standardized work, and kaizen, built on process stability.  )  Here’s what lean means to me. More »
Lean and Forecasting
By: Ballé, Michael | February 22, 2012
Columns; eLetters
Dear Gemba Coach: I’m in charge of the forecasting department in my company. My colleagues in production have been doing lean for several years and complain about my forecasts, particularly when it comes to what they call leveling. I have come across your column on lean.  org and wondered if you could help out with some advice on how to forecast in a lean way? More »
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