Reflection on the Evolution of the Lean System from the IE Perspective

Topics: Lean manufacturing, Manufacturing, Toyota Production System Pages: 12 (4256 words) Published: March 27, 2014
Reflection on the Evolution of the Lean System from the IE Perspective
Abstract— Reading the six books recommended by our professor to illustrate the historical evolution of lean systems, I have found the book The Machine that Changed the World by Womack, Jones and Roos to be the most informative. This book demonstrated the roots of lean systems to where it is being applied today. The first one, craft manufacturing, focused mainly on providing exactly what customers ask for regardless of the cost and paying little mind to the amount of output. Next, mass production, pioneered by Henry Ford, revolves around the philosophy of being able to produce more. The philosophy of lean system is to eliminate wastes in all aspects of production and achieve perfection. Its success can be attributed to the benchmarking method done on its predecessors.

Keywords— Lean Production, Toyota Production System, Just in Time, Muda, Kanban, Kaizen,


The entirety of the lean systems originated from the automotive industry. The competitive and innovative nature of the industry and its various players brought about multiple types of manufacturing styles which ultimately culminated into the one we know today.

Lean production, a management approach developed by the Japanese, aims in cutting the non-value adding activities or simply the wastes of production. This approach was pioneered by Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda. It uses the half-life concept by using half the human effort, half the manufacturing space, half in investment in tools, half the engineering hours to develop new products using half of the inventory. Moreover, lean covers improvements on quality, cost and cycle time.

The adoption of its principles has inevitably spreads beyond the auto industry and will change everything in almost every industry, from manufacturing to service. I have read the six books recommended by our professor to discuss the historical evolution of lean systems.


Given that there were several materials to be read, a good strategy must be developed. I have used the main topics to look for at each book and then I have listed down the summary per topic. This approach will allow me to dissect the specific details continuously from one book to another. The recommended books are scattered in four different libraries within University of the Philippines. The reserved books were photocopied and the circulation ones were borrowed for two-week duration.


The history of Lean Manufacturing all began in the automotive industry, it’s challenging and shifting environment brought about vastly different production philosophies. The very root of production systems stems from 1887 when Panhard ET Levassor (P&L) started the producing automobiles using Craft Manufacturing [1].

A.Craft Manufacturing
This system utilized a highly skilled workforce; a decentralized organization concentrated in a single city, general purpose machines and tools and had very low production volume and high product variation. This workforce was needed to adapt to the prevailing environment of customers wanting to get exactly what they want and there was no high demand at the time due to the high prices demanded by the costs of worker’s wages that were making the products. I was able to surmise from the readings that the human workforce, at the time, was tasked with the major processes in the manufacturing of the finished product, thus their skills were highly coveted and well compensated. The trade off in using people to do the major processes was that even though there was a high variety in the product mix, the output was severely limited due to the myriad of constraints that humans had, such as, working time, pace of work and consistent repeatability. Machines and tools at the time were only used for the smaller jobs such as general processes, I have noted that they must have been poorly utilized...

References: [1] J. P. Womack, D. T. Jones and D. Roos, The Machine That Changed the World: How Japan‘s Secret weapon in the Global Auto Wars Will Revolutionize the Western Industry, 1st ed., HarperCollins Publishers, 53rd Street, New York, 1991.
[2] W. J. Hopp and M. L. Spearman. Chapter 4, Factory Physics, 2nd edition, McGraw-Hill, Boston, MA, 2000.
[3] J. P. Womack and D. T. Jones, Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, 1st edition, The Free Press, New York, 1996.
[4] R. Schonberger, Japanese Manufacturing Techniques: Nine Hidden Lessons in Simplicity, 1st edition, The Free Press, New York, 1982.
[5] R. Schonberger, World Class Manufacturing: The Lessons of Simplicity Applied, The Free Press, New York, 1986.
[6] R. Schonberger, World Class Manufacturing: The Next Decade Building Power, Strength, and Value, The Free Press, New York, 1996.
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