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5 Books to Understand “What is Lean Manufacturing?”

Lean Manufacturing was invented in 1935 and it kept changing and evolving. Today, If you look for a definition of Lean Manufacturing you will find a wide variety. The most accepted definition is that Lean is a way of thinking for your business. A philosophy that allows you to use the right tools to optimize every process of your business. Lean manufacturing does not focus on reducing your costs but on looking at your customer timeline, and detecting all unnecessary spending in order to trim out any non-value-added wastes.

There are thousands of books on lean manufacturing around the world and they all tell a different story. Every book is unique because the term “Lean” applies to every company in its own distinct way. Lean manufacturing is about developing the right principles for your organization. Establishing the specific set of rules that helps you perform at the highest level and add value to your customers and society.

Lean manufacturing has been a topic discussed and narrated all around the world, but with such a wide variety of books, it is very difficult to choose the right one for you. In the next section, you will find some of the best books available, but beware, this is not your ordinary hierarchical list of the best-sellers in lean manufacturing.

1 – The Toyota Way : 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer (2004)
by Jeffrey K. Liker

(buy the book here) 

If we want to talk about lean manufacturing, it must start with the Toyota Way

The Toyota Way by Jeffrey Liker was the first book about lean manufacturing that focused on Toyota´s business philosophy and their management principles. Instead of mentioning all the technical aspects of the Toyota Production Systems (TPS), it is a book that forces you to personalize your own methodology. The book explains the importance of identifying and eliminating unproductive waste. By doing this the author shows you that copying exactly what Toyota did will not work the same way inside your business. Guided by the 14 key management principles that define the TPS, the book works as a guide into defining your own strategy of lean manufacturing.

2 – The Machine That Changed The World (1990)
by James Womack, Daniel Jones and Daniel Roos

(buy the book here)

If you want to understand the benefits and universalization of the TPS

After 5 years of studying the Japanese automobile industry in Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Womack, Jones and Roos documented the Toyota Production System and compared Lean manufacturing to the mass-production system used in the western world. The comparison between both systematic methods applies to businesses of every industry all around the world. Their valuable research helped them reach the conclusion that the practice of Lean manufacturing was going to rise in the near future. This discovery made the world realize that even though it started in the automobile industry, it was not confined to it.

3 – Lean Six Sigma Pocket Toolbook 
by Michael L. George

(buy the book here)

If you want to improve your process performance

A tool book that thoroughly explains the concepts of Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma. It provides expert advice on how to determine which tool to use, and gives you examples and step by step instructions of how to use them in the real world. One of the biggest advantages of this compact tool book is that it groups tools by their purpose and gives you tips on how to apply the most efficient methods of lean manufacturing. The authors describe the book as a guide for all the tools available, tells you “What they are, how they work and which to use”.

4 – The Lean Turnaround (2012) 
by Art Byrne 

(buy the book here)

If you want an example of the application of Lean Manufacturing

Even though many companies could consider themselves as Lean it is hard to measure how successful your Lean manufacturing strategy is working because it is always envisioned as a long term goal. Byrne was the CEO of Wiremold. In his book he gives us his point of view on the important role senior leaders have into making lean happen. The Wiremold company from West Hartford, Connecticut is an excellent example of how its lean strategy lead to increased quality, better customer service and more innovations. This book is a great resource for any executive wanting to expand their knowledge in the implementation of a lean strategy.

5 – Toyota Kata (2009)
by Mike Rother

(buy the book here)

If you want to go a step forward in lean manufacturing

The book every master lean manufacturer should read. In this case the label of master implies that they are someone who found success with the principles of lean manufacturing after struggling to adapt and optimize all levels of an organization. Mike Rother translates lean manufacturing into a simplified routine focused on continuous improvement and coaching throughout the company. The Kata methodology implies that a competitive advantage is not a solution by itself, but the capacity for an organization to routinely find solutions disregarding what route they take.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin 

If that applies for humanity and its survival as the dominant species, would it apply to your specific industry? How would the Toyota Production System apply to your business?

Cesar Guerra

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