Lean comes from the world of car manufacturing after World War II. Taiichi Ohno is considered to be the father of the Toyota Production System, which became Lean Manufacturing in the U.S.[1] Ohno and Toyota looked at the Ford Motor Company and U.S. supermarkets for inspiration [2], perhaps seeking principles, and combined what they learned from the United States with their own ideas and formed their own set of methods which they called the Toyota Production System.[2] Toyota developed a way of making cars with less inventory because they could not compete head to head with the huge inventories of American car companies given the difficult economics of post-war Japan. What Toyota learned to do with less resulted in their production process. Toyota called their method the Toyota Production System.[3] [4] Their production system was described as "Lean Manufacturing."

The term lean thinking [5] was coined by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones to capture the essence of their in-depth study of Toyota’s fabled Toyota Production System.[6] Lean thinking is a new way of thinking any activity and seeing the waste inadvertently generated by the way the process is organized by focusing on the concepts of:

  1. Value,

  2. Value streams,

  3. Flow,

  4. Pull,

  5. Perfection.[6]

These are the five main Lean principles.

During the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, Toyota continued to be one of the largest auto manufacturers in the world. Their success has drawn others to look to Toyota as an example of Lean Manufacturing and Lean Thinking.

Lean principles have been applied in other industries and product development successfully. See the 2011 book, Lean for System Engineering, by Bohdan W. Oppenheim for a complete example of applying Lean to another product development domain. There are many written works about Lean now.

There is a large amount of information on the Internet about Lean and the in-depth history of Lean is beyond the scope of this book.

1. Reproduced from Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiichi_Ohno under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.
2. Wikipedia contributors, "Lean manufacturing," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lean_manufacturing&oldid=698653017
3. For more details, see The Machine That Changed the World by James P. Womack, Daniel Roos and Daniel T. Jones, 1990.
4. Wikipedia contributors, "Toyota Production System," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Production_System
5. See Lean Thinking, by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones, 1996.
6. Reproduced from Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_thinking under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

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