Lean Manufacturing: Why You Should Consider It for Your Shop

February 12, 2021 3:37 pm

What do you think when you hear “lean manufacturing”? Improvement and optimization should be the first words to come to mind. Lean manufacturing does not and should not be an overwhelming transformation, and it doesn’t only apply to large companies. Big or small, transforming your manufacturing process into a lean one will help relieve headaches and increase profits. Lean manufacturing is about saving time and money, which ultimately equates to many other outlets of saving.

A Brief History of Lean Manufacturing

Without hosting a full-blown history lecture, let’s discuss the origins of the lean manufacturing philosophy.

The concept of lean manufacturing was originally introduced with Henry Ford’s assembly line. However, it was Kiichiro Toyoda who optimized Ford’s production style to develop the concept of lean manufacturing. (Hence the reference to the Toyota production system in many of the recommended books you will find below.)

If you’re interested in understanding the total influence of Toyota’s production on modern manufacturing and learning more specifically about the history of lean manufacturing, check out the book below.

The Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production– Toyota’s Secret Weapon in the Global Car Wars That Is Now Revolutionizing World Industry

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Lean Manufacturing Tools

In the lean manufacturing conversation, you will often hear the word “Muda”. Muda is the Japanese word for uselessness, which describes the waste that lean manufacturing eliminates. So how is this waste eliminated? With lean tools.

There are loads of different lean tools and selecting the ones to use really depends on your business since going lean will look different from shop to shop. A couple examples of said lean tools are

  • 5S: A 5 step system that improves a poorly organized work area that would result in wasted time looking for something.
  • Bottleneck Analysis: This approach works to identify which aspect of your manufacturing process limit overall throughput and how to improve that part of the process.
  • Continuous Flow: A concept that involves minimal or no buffers between each step of the manufacturing process. Ultimately, it’s a process to eliminate any unnecessary inventory, waiting time and transport time.

Want to dig deeper into lean manufacturing tools? Check out this book.

The Lean Toolbox

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Lean Manufacturing and Your Shop

So, what does it mean to go lean and why should you care? To go lean, in simple terms, means eliminating waste. Paul Akers, the modern-day father of lean, offers a great example that articulates the concept of lean very well. He explains that each and every step that is not the final product, is more or less waste. Each step that is taken to achieve the outcome must be absolutely necessary and executed in its simplest form.

Think about it. The journey to completing a machined part and delivering to your clients ’is multi-faceted. Thus, there are many points of potential waste and loss. When was the last time you broke down each step and optimized it?

Here’s the full interview with Paul Akers, who not only packages the idea of lean manufacturing in a digestible way, but removes any intimidation factor to help inspire others to implement it.


If you are considering going lean or simply interested in learning more about it, the best way to start, as we often say, is to read a book on the topic. However, since lean manufacturing is a trending topic, the amount of books and articles that you can find out there is can be intimidating.

Luckily, we’ve identified some of the best and most relevant books available… Here are our recommendations.

Recommended Books

Lean Production for Competitive Advantage: A Comprehensive Guide to Lean Methodologies and Management Practices

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This book introduces lean by using case studies to illustrate the effectiveness of the tools and philosophy of the concept. Consider this book a true introduction to the topic. Some of the topics covered in this book are: small batch production, setup reduction, pull production, preventive maintenance, standard work as well as synchronizing and scheduling lean operations.

Lean Manufacturing for the Small Shop

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Here is a prime example that any size shop can go lean. This book is an ultimate how-to guide to shortening delivery times, eliminating waste, improving quality, and reducing costs. This second edition not only describes what to do, but also how to do it. The biggest challenge of lean manufacturing is making sure to apply the right tool, at the right place, at the right time, while maintaining the flexibility and nimble nature required of smaller shops, and this book will help you tackle that.

Lean Manufacturing That Works: Powerful Tools for Dramatically Reducing Waste and Maximizing Profits

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Lean Manufacturing That Works provides insights into this remarkable strategy and shows how to put it to work immediately in your own operations. Engagingly written and easy to put to work, this book is specifically geared toward people whose daily work involves the manufacturing floor, and it features essential tools that can help streamline operations in any manufacturing environment.

Made-to-Order Lean: Excelling in a High-Mix, Low-Volume Environment

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This text is geared toward larger production companies that function on a build-to-order basis. The main goal is to articulate a strategy that eliminates on-value-added activities and institutes improvements on the most repetitive jobs, thus permitting more time to produce. Operational processes and indirect (transactional) processes account for significant costs and lead times in high mix environments, and this book well help you improve both of those systems.

The Lean Manufacturing Employee Training Manual

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For a company to truly function as lean, all persons involved in the organization must implement the specific working style. This employee training manual is for just that. All the basic topics of lean manufacturing are covered. If you want to know how to achieve the widest possible participation in the implementation of a lean manufacturing program, this book has the answer.

Fundamental Principles of Lean Manufacturing

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Fundamental Principles of Lean Manufacturing is an absolute classic from Dr. Shigeo Shingo, an engineering genius and driving force behind the successful realization of the Toyota production system and lean manufacturing. This book will give modern readers total access to the fundamentals of improving any manufacturing process.

Lean Supply Chain and Logistics Management

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This practical guide reveals how to identify and eliminate waste in your organization’s supply chain and logistics function. Learn about both basic and advanced lean tools as well as specific lean implementation opportunities. The focus on lean implementation methodology with critical success factors demonstrates how to effectively use this powerful strategy to achieve significant, long-term improvements and bottom-line savings for your shop.

Lean QuickStart Guide: A Simplified Beginner’s Guide to Lean

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Hoping to keep it short and sweet? The author leaves any confusing industry language at the door in this concise, self-paced guide. This guide to lean methodology provides the foundational tools needed to understand lean thinking and harness the power of the philosophy and the exact methods that have developed unmatched levels of efficiency and success for modern manufacturers.

The Lean Manufacturing Pocket Handbook

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The Lean Manufacturing Pocket Handbook is a reference guide covering the terms, concepts and techniques involved to not only understand lean manufacturing, but to help you begin implementation. This text has been written in an easy-to-understand way that is both engaging for the professional and digestible for the novice.



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  • Steve says:

    Excuse me. Lean manufacturing in a perfect world works very well, but in the real world, it is very dangerous because you are trusting your success and profitability in others whose performance you have little or no control over. Your call. I elect to NOT put that level of critical trust in others.

    • Isberg says:

      I agree completely. From almost an entire career in industry I can conclude that this can be a very dangerous way of thinking. Especially for small businesses. Have seen to many expensive mistakes due to consultants promoting similar ideas in an almost religious way. Know your business and have an intelligent strategy for keeping stock and maintaining efficient workflow. This is best done by knowledgeable and intelligent management. Also just in time is almost a joke in the current shortage of material and components.

  • K. M. Ryches says:

    If you change models of products every year then Lean Manufacturing is for you. But if you don’t, if you make many models exactly the same year after year it creates a massive amount of waste. I worked in a large shop (over 300 shop floor employees alone) and when we went to Lean it was terrible. Lots of wasted material, lots of wasted time and money. Not every shop churns out different Toyota models every year.

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