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A Lean History Lesson


The very foundations of Lean can be chased all the way back until the Terracotta Warriors in Xian China around 246 BC, followed by the Venetians kitting out their warships using flow principles.

It was in the 1450’s, when rigorous process thinking in manufacturing in the Arsenal in Venice first made an appearance. But, the individual who can be associated with the first fully integrated production process was Henry Ford in 1913, founder of Ford Motor Company.

After many years of integration and subsequent success, this process began to lose its way as Ford’s nearest competitors were weighing in on the market, offering different models of car with plenty of different options. Ford was not able to provide this level of variety.

Enter Toyota, the world’s leading Lean example, who embraced a model like that of Fords in the 1930’s, before pushing and innovating after the second world war. Kiichiro Toyoda, Taiichi Ohno and their team realised that just by making a few changes, they could provide the continuity that Ford could, and the variety they couldn’t. This is the Toyota Production System, something the world now replicates.

The Wastes (The Muda’s)

  1. Over Production

  2. Waiting

  3. Transporting

  4. Inappropriate Processing

  5. Unnecessary Inventory

  6. Unnecessary / Excess Motion

  7. Defects

The Lean process will look to remove these wastes as a method to make your costs less than your selling price, thus increasing profits. As prices are largely dictated by the market, the only way you will increase your profits is to reduce your costs.

But, it’s not only your profits that waste will have a major impact on, customer satisfaction will also take a hit. Customers want the right price, perfect quality and on time delivery, something that cannot be achieved with the wastes present.


ISO18404:2015 is a new International Standard which can certify both organisations and their key personnel for the successful implementation of Lean and/or Six Sigma. ISO18404 will look for peoples’ competencies instead of only knowledge, which is a cut against the grain in the market. ISO18404 personnel certification will begin in December.

Prior to this, Organisations have been certifying Lean and/or Six Sigma professionals for their knowledge, in most cases these certifications hold little or no credibility and can be obtained at a very cheap cost leading a lucrative market to become abused.

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