Glossary of Lean Management and Supply Chain Management terms

For mutual understanding: short definitions of important terms from the world of continuous improvement and Supply Chain Management


Click on one of the letters beneath to check the glossary for terms beginning with that letter.



Japanese for reform

Kaikaku denotes fundamental and radical changes to improve a work or business process.


Japanese for change for the better

Kaizen is a combination of the Japanese words kai, meaning change, and Zen, meaning good, and denotes continuous, incremental improvement.


Japanese for visual signal or card

Colored cards (Kanbans) can be used to visually indicate when a material needs to be replenished, in accordance with the pull principle. A Kanban carries information and indicates when inventory levels have reached the minimum level and new inventory has to be delivered, in keeping with the motto: “If something’s gone, it has to be replaced!” Kanban cards replace the traditional production or transportation orders. The Kanban system guarantees a seamless work process without high inventory levels. The Kanban principle can be used in all areas of an organization, from administration to production. > Signal Kanban


Japanese for routine, or a way to think and act

The term Kata is borrowed from Japanese martial arts and denotes a choreographed series of predefined movements that determines the sequence of a fight. In an actual fight, the opponents engage in an instinctive series of movements.

In the lean world, this term is promoted by Mike Rother. Customer satisfaction and personal development are improved using two key elements: improvement routines and mentoring routines. The improvement routine (Kata) consists of four steps

1. Determine a vision or direction
2. Grasp the current condition
3. Define the next target condition
4. Move toward the plan through iterative > PDCA cycles

KPI (Key Performance Indicator)

A key performance indicator is a measurement used to indicate progress or the degree of performance with respect to important objectives or critical success factors within an organization.