lean production

Contributor(s): Jim Malloy

Lean production is an assembly-line methodology developed originally for Toyota and the manufacturing of automobiles. It is also known as the Toyota Production System or just-in-time production. Lean production principles are also referred to as lean management or lean thinking. 

Engineer Taiichi Ohno is credited with developing the principles of lean production after World War II. His philosophy, which focused on eliminating waste and empowering workers, reduced inventory and improved productivity. Instead of maintaining resources in anticipation of what might be required for future manufacturing, as Henry Ford did with his production line, the management team at Toyota built partnerships with suppliers. In effect, under the direction of Engineer Ohno, Toyota automobiles became made-to-order. By maximizing the use of multi-skilled employees, the company was able to flatten their management structure and focus resources in a flexible manner. Because the company was able make changes quickly, they were often able to respond faster to market demands than their competitors could.

Many industries, including software development, have adopted the principles of lean production. The ten rules of lean production can be summarized:

1. Eliminate waste
2. Minimize inventory
3. Maximize flow
4. Pull production from customer demand
5. Meet customer requirements
6. Do it right the first time
7. Empower workers
8. Design for rapid changeover
9. Partner with suppliers
10. Create a culture of continuous improvement (Kaizen)

This was last updated in October 2009

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The creators of Lean (and TPS) actually don't define either of those as a methodology. The book This is Lean describes TPS as a operational strategy. 

The strategy optimizes organizations (not just manufacturing) for reduced waste and a balance between flow and resource efficiency by identifying 7 types of waste (muda) as well as returning management to the place where the work is happening (the gemba). 

The main identifying trait of a lean shop is the ability to identify what aspect of the business has been improved from yesterday or las week or last month. 
Lean is bigger than ever in all sorts of industries today. As the above article indicates, there are many great results of implementing Lean but it isn't always as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot of commitment and continuous development. To read more, visit this site:


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