What is Lean?
Lean is a customer-centric philosophy with a comprehensive set of rules, tools and methods that focuses on eliminating non-value added activities (waste) while delivering quality products and services on time at least cost with greater efficiency. Lean applies in every business and every process. It is not a tactic or a cost reduction program, but a way of thinking and acting for an entire organization.
Where did Lean come from?
Lean thinking started in the auto industry with Henry Ford. Ford was obsessed with efficiency, saving money, and reusing materials. Ford was continuously figuring out how he could deliver high quality products to his customers while keeping his employees happy and working efficiently. This thinking is what lead to the design and standardization of the assembly line, metal recycling, tool orientation, and rotating staff shifts. An efficient workplace fosters efficient workers, and Ford was a master at building and maintaining efficiency.
Fast forward a few years, and Lean thinking had made its way across the globe. Toyota of Japan took the Lean concept and really revolutionized work flow processes. They coined the "just in time" (JIT) inventory method and hosted efficiency studies that, combined with post-war industries of scale, rocketed Japan into the global auto market as a dominant figure; a status that has withstood the test of time and is still true today. Toyota is generally regarded as the industrialized giant that standardized the modern day version of Lean thought, and continue to teach it under their "Toyota Production System" moniker.