Lean Production - Introduction

Understanding the basics of Lean Production

Almost all those who deal with Quality have heard of Lean manufacturing. The methodology is commonly associated with Japanese companies and, in particular, to Toyota.

The term that describes this philosophy, was coined in the '80s by a group of MIT researchers who were devoted to the study of the Toyota Production System. The team, headed by Dan Jones and James Womack, published their studies in the famous "The Machine That Changed the World".


The Toyota Production System was born in the mid-'50s through Sakichi Toyoda, his son Kiichiro Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno to their chief engineer, three men who managed to make Toyota a growing company in an industry that, at that particular historical period, was in crisis around the world.

This same philosophy, which is still the basis of production, logistics and interaction with customers and suppliers in Toyota, is due in large part, to the teachings of W. Edwards Deming who convinced the Japanese that, to achieve the quality, it was necessary to stop depending on mass production and rework, instead, focus on process improvement and build quality of the product early in the process.

So what is the secret of Lean manufacturing also known as Lean production? Simply "use less to produce more."
The lean thinking, in fact, rests on the foundation that we must give the customer what he wants, using a minimum of resources, ie, producing less:

  • human efforts
  • waste, as defined in Japanese as "muda", Taiichi Ohno, who has identified:
  • excess or advance of production (resulting from inefficient production planning)
  • lack of standardization
  • wasting time, waiting and delays (may result from poorly organized layouts, lead times that are too long, or even by inadequate equipment and maintenance)
  • handling and transport
  • stocks
  • poor process performance (occurs when the process is outdated, lack of training, if the procedures are unclear or if the indicators to monitor performance are not effective)
  • production of defective products¬†
  • costs

And requiring less:

  • space for the production
  • investment

The lean methodology involves the improvement of quality of products throughout the chain, then from the suppliers who will, in turn, think "lean", providing the right things in the right place at the right time, constantly improve, to be very flexible and be able to change quickly, implement automated processes and visual control and smooth production flow.

The genius of lean production is in the simplicity of the methodology: do only what they need, creating value for customers and eliminating all forms of waste. There is therefore no magic button to press to switch to lean production: on the contrary, it is continued improvement carried on day after day.

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