“Lean” was first used by James Womack to describe what was found in a study of the car industry in 1989. Dr. Womack and his team began to study the Japanese automotive industry. He wanted to find out why companies like Toyota were surging ahead as GM and Ford retreated. They soon realised that the story wasn’t about the Japanese auto industry as a whole. Moreover, it was about the Toyota Production System (TPS) and the broader Toyota management system.
Dr Womack and his team discovered that Toyota had developed a universally applicable system, now known as Lean management. Instead of focusing on an organisation’s policies, systems and authority structures, the Toyota management team worked with their people and the work within the company. In short, Lean focused on helping people work more effectively.
Certain unique behaviours and attitudes to how people were carrying out their work at Toyota Motor Company were observed. In fact, the results were outstanding. What Dr Womack and his team saw was a company that:
Dr Womack and his team have had a lasting impact on manufacturing across the globe. Some manufacturing companies still consider Lean to be primarily an inventory management methodology. Lean is a management philosophy.
In conclusion, the main focus of Lean is to create more value for customers. This can be achieved by finding new ways for employees, suppliers and customers to work together more effectively.