Fundamentals of Lean Methodology

A lean methodology is a systematic approach that focuses on value-based work. It can be applied to any organization and trains people to do their tasks efficiently. Lean is an approach that helps organizations reduce waste with the help of various tools and techniques.

What is Lean?

Lean methodology is a process improvement approach that seeks to eliminate waste in all areas of an organization. The goal of lean is to streamline processes and make them more efficient, effective, and customer-focused.

In many cases, lean is used as a synonym for the Toyota Production System (TPS), developed by the Japanese automaker Toyota. TPS has been extremely successful in helping Toyota become one of the most efficient and profitable automakers in the world.

While TPS is perhaps the best-known application of lean thinking, lean principles can be applied to any organization in any industry. Lean methodology has been used successfully in healthcare, manufacturing, service industries, government, and many other sectors.

There are eight key principles of lean: identify value, map the value stream, create flow, establish pull, seek perfection, pursue continuous improvement, respect people, and take a systems view. These principles are described in more detail below.

The History of Lean

The history of lean methodology can be traced back to the Toyota Production System, which Taiichi Ohno developed in the early 1950s. Ohno's system was designed to address mass production issues, such as high inventory levels and long lead times. The key principles of the Toyota Production System were later codified by W. Edwards Deming and became known as the Deming Cycle.

In the 1980s, these principles were adopted by several American companies, who adapted them to their manufacturing processes. John Krafcik first coined the term "lean" in 1988 in an article for the Sloan Management Review. Krafcik argued that lean manufacturing could be applied to any manufacturing process, not just those in the automotive industry.

Since then, the lean methodology has been adopted by organizations across a range of industries, from healthcare to construction. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in applying lean principles to office and service-based work environments.

Lean Principles and Methodology

Several lean principles guide the methodology. Lean thinking is based on the following key principles −

  • Define value from the customer's perspective

  • Identify and map the value stream

  • Create flow to eliminate waste

  • Pull from the customer rather than push the product

  • Seek perfection through continuous improvement

These lean principles can help organizations significantly improve productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction while reducing costs.

Lean Manufacturing Processes

The term “lean” was first coined by John Krafcik in an article for the MIT Sloan Management Review in 1988. Krafcik defined lean as “a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste” within a manufacturing system. The goal of lean is to streamline production to minimize waste while still meeting customer demand.

Several key principles make up the lean manufacturing process

  • Identify value − The first step is identifying the customer's values and then aligning the production process to meet those needs.

  • Map the value stream − This step involves mapping out all the steps in taking a product from start to finish. This will help to identify any areas of waste in the process.

  • Create flow − Once you have identified waste areas, the next step is to create a smooth and efficient production process that eliminates those bottlenecks.

  • Pull production − In traditional manufacturing, production is often push-based, meaning that products are made whether or not there is actual customer demand. In a lean setting, production is pull-based, meaning that only those products that customers have ordered are produced, which helps to avoid overproduction and wasted inventory.

  • Pursue perfection − The goal of lean is continuous improvement. Even after implementing these other steps, there is always room for further improvement, and lean is an ongoing journey, not a destination.

The Lean Transformation Process

The Lean transformation process is a journey that requires commitment and discipline from everyone involved. It starts with a baseline assessment to identify where improvements can be made. Once the areas for improvement are identified, a plan is put in place to implement the Lean methodology.

The key to success is sustaining the improvements that are made, which requires buy-in from all levels of the organization and a continuous improvement mindset. The goal is to make small, incremental changes that have a big impact on the bottom line.

If you are thinking about embarking on a Lean transformation, there are a few things you should keep in mind −

  • Lean is not a quick fix – it takes time and dedication to see results.

  • You need buy-in from all levels of the organization – top-down support is critical.

  • There must be a commitment to continuous improvement – this sustains the gains made during the transformation process.

Goals of a Lean Manufacturing System

A lean manufacturing system aims to eliminate waste and create value for the customer. The lean philosophy is based on the principle of continuous improvement, which means that every process in the manufacturing system is constantly being evaluated and improved.

There are four main goals of a lean manufacturing system −

  • Eliminate waste
  • Create value for the customer
  • Reduce lead time
  • Improve quality

Types of Lean System

There are three main types of skeletal systems: manufacturing, service, and hybrid. Each type has its own unique set of benefits and challenges.


The main benefit of a lean manufacturing system is that it can help to increase efficiency and reduce waste in the production process. This can lead to lower production costs and higher-quality products. One challenge of implementing a lean manufacturing system is that it can take time to change established workflows and processes.


Service lean systems are designed to help businesses improve the quality of their customer service. By reducing waste and increasing efficiency, service lean systems can help businesses save money and improve customer satisfaction. One challenge of implementing a lean service system is that it can take time to measure the impact of changes on customer satisfaction levels.


Hybrid lean systems are a combination of manufacturing and service lean systems. They are designed to provide the benefits of both types of systems while mitigating some of the challenges. Hybrid systems can be customized to meet the specific needs of a business, making them a flexible option for many organizations.


The Lean methodology is a great way to streamline your business processes and make them more efficient. By eliminating waste and focusing on value-added activities, you can improve your bottom line while providing a better customer experience. The Lean methodology is worth considering if you're looking for ways to improve your business.

Updated on: 16-Dec-2022


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