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Lean production system is the western term for Toyota Production System.

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 management or lean thinking or simply Lean.

This is now widely used in auto industry around the world. This system is not only used in auto industry but also in other non-auto industries involved in assembling process.
Historical Perspective:

In order to understand lean production system, it is important to understand it in its historical perspective first.  If we study the history of automobile industry, it can be separated in three eras, which can be termed as milestones of automobile industry. These milestones are:

  1. Invention of Automobile (1880)
  2. The Henry Ford’s Mass Production System (1910)
  3. The Toyota or Lean Production System (1933)

Engineer Taiichi Ohno is credited with developing the principles of lean production after World War II.  The focus was on eliminating waste and empowering workers, less inventory and more productivity. Toyota automobiles became made-to-order. Since they were 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 as:

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)

The 2 main purposes of Lean
A. Provide Customer Satisfaction
B. Do so Profitably

Everything that you do should provide value to the customer, anything else is a waste. If the customer does not explicitly want it why are you doing it? This is why when you look at any process your first question should always be “WHY?” Too many practitioners of lean jump straight into applying principles to a process without even questioning why the process exists; often they make a wasteful process more efficient and you end up getting better at doing something the customer does not even want.

Benefits of Lean

Lean manufacturing allows production of one unit at a time, at a formulated rate, while eliminating non-value adding wait time, queue time, and other kinds of delays.

One of the significant features of lean manufacturing is that the product is pulled as per the customers’ demand rather than pushing it on the basis of planning system. It reduces lead time.  Lean manufacturing provides the ability to change output rate every day according to the changes in customer demands. It cannot be copied easily hence it helps companies to earn sustainable competitive advantage.

Other advantages offered by lean system include shorter response time to customer demands, reduced inventory, reduction in working capital requirement, enhanced quality, improved productivity, better floor space utilization, reductions in scrap and rework, increased employee participation and empowering them to make quality decisions etc.
Well-known companies following Lean:-
Indian companies:
Tata Motors
Maruti Suzuki
International Companies:
John Deere


Kimberley-Clark Corporation

Caterpillar Inc.


Illinois Tool Works


Parker Hannifin



The following book will be useful for a detailed understanding of Lean, 5S etc. especially in the context of the Indian production system.

“Made in India for Make in India”

By C Narasimhan



Categories: BOOKS

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