6.2 History

Lean was established during the 1940s at Toyota. However, it was not a completely new thing that time as it has its roots in flow production, standardization and continuous improvement.

Flow production

  • Standard war galleys produced in high volume in very short period of time (hours) during 1500’s in Venice (after 400 years of learning and optimization)

Standardization, process improvement

  • Objective: process improvement
  • Frederick Taylor, Gilberth, Henry Ford
  • Standardized manufacturing methods for achieving efficiency and productivity
  • Simplify work (e.g. layering a brick reduced from 18 steps to 4.5, 300% improvement)
  • Workers are considered as property/resources and not as thinking people

Lean Manufacturing

  • Objective: deliver value to the customer, empower the workers and teams
  • Toyota Production System: the basis of Lean methodologies are established (1948)
    • “The Machine that Changed the World” book introduced the term Lean (MIT, 1990)
    • “Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation” (MIT, 1996)
  • Competing continuous improvement methodologies:
    • Total Quality Management: holistic quality management in daily work (U.S. Navy, 1984)
    • Six Sigma: rigorous improvement process measured in dollar savings (Motorola, 1986)
      • Became famous with General Electric, 1995
    • Theory of Constraints: discover and eliminate bottlenecks (1992)
    • Reengineering the Corporation: business process reengineering (1993)
  • All of the methodologies have Japanese roots and some relations to the Toyota Production System
  • Boeing Production System

Lean Adoption

  • Applying continuous improvement not just in the factory but in the office, accounting, software development, etc.
  • New application areas: health care, banking, insurance, etc.


Figure 6.1: Lean History