Lean principles are derived from the Japanese manufacturing industry. The term was first coined by John Krafcik in his 1988 article, Triumph of the Lean Production System, based on his master's thesis. Lean manufacturing, lean enterprise, or lean production, often simply, "lean", is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. Working from the perspective of the customer who consumes a product or service, "value" is defined as any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for.
 Toyota Production System
The term Lean is most often associated with lean production or lean manufacturing as developed and practiced by the Toyota Motor Company. The Toyota Production System (TPS) is Toyota’s unique approach to manufacturing. It is the basis for much of the “lean production” movement that has dominated manufacturing trends (along with Six Sigma) for the last 20 years or so. Perhaps the most recognized reference is The Toyota Way by Jeffrey K. Liker. Based on 20 years of studying Toyota, his book identifies 14 principles that comprise the foundation of TPS as practiced by Toyota in its plants around the world and that has imbued its culture from top to bottom generations.
 14 Toyota Principles
1. Base your management decisions on long-term thinking
 Process (Eliminate Waste)
2. Create continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface
3. Use “pull” systems to avoid overproduction from customer back through every step of production
4. Level out the workload (work like the tortoise not the hare)
5. Build a culture of stopping to fix problems to get quality right the first time
6. Standardized tasks are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment
7. Use visual control so no problems are hidden
8. Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes
 Develop Your People and Partners
9. Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others
10. Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy
11. Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve
 Problem Solving (Continuously Solving Root Problems Drives Organizational Learning)
12. Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation
13. Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement rapidly
14. Become a learning organization through relentless reflection and continuous improvement
 TPS Summary
Taiichi Ohno, founder of TPS, summarized: All we are doing is looking at the time line from the moment the customer gives us an order to the point when we collect the cash. And we are reducing that time line by removing the non-value-added wastes.
In his book, Mr. Liker posits that most implementations of TPS have been fairly superficial due to focusing more on the tools used in TPS (such as 5S and just-in-time) without understanding Lean as an entire system that must permeate an organization’s culture.
 Lean Thinking
In another well-known reference Lean Thinking, the authors James Womack and Daniel Jones define lean manufacturing as a five-step process:
- Defining customer value
- Defining the value stream
- Making it “flow”
- “Pulling” from the customer back
- Striving for excellence
 Applying Lean to Non-manufacturing Businesses
Many companies have attempted to apply Lean to their business with varied success. When applied outside manufacturing, some of the tools and methods do not apply as well, but any enterprise can benefit from implementing the high-level principles of long-term thinking, eliminating waste from its work processes, respecting its people and partners, and continuously learning and improving.
- Triumph of the Lean Production System, John Krafcik, article (1988)
- The Toyota Way, Jeffrey K. Liker, McGraw-Hill (2004)
- Lean Thinking, James Womack and Daniel Jones, Free Press; 2nd edition edition (2003)
- Lean manufacturing page on Wikipedia
- The Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc. (LEI), founded by James P. Womack in 1997, is a nonprofit education, publishing, research, and conference organization with many resources on Lean.
The author of this article is John Macpherson.
John Macpherson is currently Chairman of the Board of the Anvil Corporation. Anvil is a 100% ESOP-owned corporation providing full-service engineering, design, procurement, and project management services in the U.S. and Canada.
John joined Anvil in 1971 and served as Anvil's President from 2003-2009. He has extensive experience in business management, engineering management, project management, and design engineering, primarily for the petroleum refining industry. John led Anvil's efforts to apply computer technologies to all aspects of engineering, project management, and resource management.
John holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California at Davis. He also attended the Program for Management Development at the Harvard Business School. He holds Professional Mechanical Engineer licenses in the States of Washington and Alaska.