What is Lean Production System

The Lean Production System (sometimes known as the Toyota Production System) is a well-established operating system based on the idea of relentlessly eliminating waste and non-value added activities from the production process. The manpower freed up from these non-valued added tasks is reassigned to other tasks that do add value for the customer. It is truly an operating system that impacts every aspect of the production and can truly be called a culture. There are many toolkits and techniques associated with Lean Production but mindset transformation is the key. There is only one way to run any process step: every employee uses this method and every employee is responsible for helping to improve his section of the plant – through Lean events and not as an individual. Heroics don’t factor into lean.


Not all Lean implementations are successful – many have a limited effect and lapse slowly back into the old status quo. The danger is that it is seen as a project with a beginning and an end and after that we move on to something new. It really has to be a cultural transformation that dictates a new way of working; almost a new DNA with a very definite leadership component from day one. A common problem is that of job security – no-one willingly works on their own demise – and in a business that is being challenged by sales stagnation, a lean initiative will quickly be seen as a workforce reduction program. It is a hugely effective program to grow a business without adding overhead by offering employees more control over their process and their future.


  • In the short term you will see cycle time reductions and improved quality & reliability.
  • As the program grows and the teams take on the more structural problems, the organisation will start to change with people being diverted from low grade activities that have been eliminated or automated to activities to which the customer attributes a definite value.
  • The products become better (more customer-centric) demand increases and maybe the price increases. Somewhat of an idyllic picture but that is the vision behind the Toyota Production System.
  • One thing is clear – eliminating work to which the customer attributes no value is a sound business move, and if everybody does that every day good things will happen.