What is an example of a Lean Pull Process?

A Lean Process Improvement Pull System refers to a production/service process that is designed to deliver products or services once establishing that they’re needed by customers or by the next stage of the production process. This system is also known as a built-to-order production/inventory system. This article also includes a Lean Pull Process Case Study based on Mcdonald’s.

What is a pull system?

A pull system is a lean technique to reduce waste in production. A pull system allows for new work to be started only if there is demand. You can minimize storage costs and overhead by using this system.

How to Manage a Push System in Four Steps?

The concept of the pull system is now widely used in many industries. It is used by professionals not only in manufacturing, but also for software development, customer service, and other areas.

Pull systems are used in workflow management to allow workers to begin their next task as soon as they are able. It can help you to prioritize tasks and stop teams from being overloaded. This will help your team stay focused and execute the most important tasks just in time.

You need to take into consideration these four steps if you want to increase your productivity and improve the efficiency of your workflow by using a Pull System. Let’s look at them in more detail.

1. Create a pull system by visualizing your workflow

Only when you are able to see the entire flow of work, identify bottlenecks and eliminate wasteful activities can you establish a pull system that works? It is easiest to achieve this by mapping out your workflow using a Kanban board.

It is important to understand your workflow before you can create a visual one. You will be able to track and record all the valuable information once you put it on your Kanban board. This will give you a complete overview of your workflow and allow you to take control.

By using the concept of the “pull system”, teams will pull new items to work when there is a demand from customers and a capacity for them. This practice, in turn, does not allow for the completion of many tasks simultaneously and focuses only on those that are requested.

2. Use Pull Signals to Improve Flow Management

Pull signals are used to indicate that a task is ready for the next step in a process. These signals can stop team members from adding more work to the process without completing the current tasks.

In customer-facing scenarios, for example, teams often have a column in which all customer tickets received are stored. Once a request enters the column, all team members are aware that it is ready to be dealt with.

3. Control the system with WIP limits

You need to learn how to manage your visual pull system after you have built it. is a common way to effectively manage your pull system. This is one of Kanban’s core practices. It is a widely used pull system.

4. Make process policies explicit

Teams can use process policies to ensure consistency and put them on their Kanban boards. This Kanban practice is designed to create a shared process understanding among team members. Kanban Policies are agreements between employees that outline a set of guidelines to be followed during the course of their work.

Lean Pull Improvement Process with a Mcdonald’s Case Study

Let’s start with a story about establishing the Lean Pull improvement process with a Mcdonald’s case study…

When I was 18, my family and I had just returned from an accompanied tour with my father (a U.S. Marine) in London, England. We were in Jacksonville, NC, for about two weeks when he received orders to ship off to the Middle East to be a part of “Desert Storm.”

I was preparing to go to college in Greenville, NC which was about three hours from Jacksonville. When we got the news that my father was to be deployed again, I changed my plans and decided to go to the local community college so I would be able to watch after my mom and two sisters.

Once I was registered for school, my first order of business was to find a job.

The only employment I found that would work around my school schedule was McDonald’s. I was hired as a night shift cook. I have always had the mind to be frugal with money. Like teaching, you don’t enlist in the Marine Corps to get rich. I say this because I immediately saw waste at Mcdonalds’, even though at the time I did not know the concepts of Lean nor Six Sigma.

For those of you who remember in the early 90s, McDonald’s used to cook their burgers and place them in a heating bin. We would place a marker behind a batch of burgers to let everyone know when those would expire (thus becoming waste).

mcdonalds case study
A Six Sigma McDonalds case study

Management either used “gut feeling” or forecasting to predict demand. Most would over-predict during peak hours (especially when the rumor of a bus full of hungry athletes was coming) and under-predict during non-peak times.

In either case, they were taking a risk. I saw the result of that risk in the waste bin every day. This was the case during my 1.5-year employment at McDonalds.

Jump ahead 15 years. I was waiting in a McDonald’s line during the peak of lunch and I saw that the bins were empty except for special orders.

I thought that maybe I had come in on the tail end of a big rush and they were trying to catch up. I decided to sit in the lounge where I could watch their process.

I discovered steaming bins (like small closets with trays) where the cooked meat was being stored next to the place of sandwich assembly. Every order was assembled immediately after the order was made. I was impressed with the improvement, and I thought to myself; this is a perfect example of establishing the Lean Pull Improvement Process!

The old process included creating an inventory of burgers and storing them under a heating lamp. The constraint in the whole process that kept it from being “just in time” was cooking the meat.

In this new system, that constraint is removed.

I also remember that when you received your hamburger from the bin in the old process, the ketchup and mustard would soak into the bun, making it lose some of its “fullness.”

In the new Pull Process, the bins for the cooked meat are referred to as the “Supermarket.” When the orders are placed, the meat is pulled from the Supermarket into the assembly area. The hamburger is assembled just in time to fulfill the order.

Do you have any examples of a Lean Pull Process that you can share like the McDonalds case study?