How to implement Lean in five steps

The term Lean Production was first used in 1990 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Research Director James P. Womack in the book ‘The Machine That Changed the World’ to describe Toyota’s manufacturing business.

All of his research showed that Toyota was faster, with less costs and inventory, and was delivering a higher quality compared to the American and European automakers. It wasn’t by a small amount; Toyota used a small fraction of the inventory but was almost twice as fast in product development.

Toyota represented an entirely new paradigm to the westerners, who were used to moving assembly lines and mass production. When the western world moved from craft production – where everything was one-off and hand-made – to industries built on mass production and economies of scale, we strove to produce as much as we could on a given machine, even if it means producing more than the customer wants and building up inventory.

The Japanese didn’t have the resources, space or suppliers for mass production, so they developed a philosophy of “just in time” – make only what is needed, when it is needed, in the amount needed, and allow materials to flow to the customer as fast as possible so they are paid as soon as possible. Unsure what to call this radical new system, Womack came up with ‘Lean’ to reflect its athletic qualities of speed, agility, responsiveness and strength.

The ideas behind Lean Production as a business methodology come from The Toyota Production System, created by Leaders Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda between 1948 and 1975.

Lean Production is a method of removing waste from a process to create value for the customer. By implementing a set of principles and practices, businesses can create high-quality products and services using less money, time and effort.

Although the purpose and principles of Lean are relatively simple, implementing and sustaining Lean requires discipline and commitment from the whole business.

The first steps in Lean management are the most difficult and a huge portion of the teams that fail to implement it successfully give up early on.

The purpose of this guide is to introduce you to the five steps needed to implement Lean Principles and experience the benefits in your business.

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