How many Lean Principles are there? To implement lean, you need to understand several key lean manufacturing principles. Failing to understand and apply the Lean principles correctly may result in a lack of commitment from everyone in the organization. Without commitment the process becomes ineffective.

The top leaders must embrace the commitment and communicate it to the entire company. The full understanding and commitment to lean principles will foster a common approach and strategy throughout the organization.

Depending on your Lean circle, there may be a different understanding of the “Lean Principles”. There are many “principles” that different Lean circles refer to. In this discussion, we will focus on two groups of principles.

The first group consists of the 7 Lean Manufacturing Principles, which apply to the entire system. The second group includes the 5 Lean principles, which some say pertain more to the implementation process. Both are extremely important for Lean Leaders to understand.

The 7 Lean Manufacturing Principles for the Lean System:

This page will provide a review of some of the more critical lean manufacturing principles and assist you in getting started. Consider that there are other guiding principles of lean manufacturing that have not been included, these are the “guiding principles”.

1. Elimination of Waste – 7 waste

One of the most critical principles of lean manufacturing is the elimination of waste. The Toyota Production System also knows waste as muda. Many of the other principles revolve around this concept. There are 7 basic types of waste in manufacturing:

Over Production

Waste of Unnecessary Motion

Waste of Inventory

Production of Defects

Waste of Waiting

Waste of Transportation

Waste of Overprocessing

The elimination of waste allows the company to focus on the core value-add activities for the customer. Every Lean Manufacturing principle ultimately gears towards bringing more value to the end customer.

Originally, we intended to focus the lean waste only on manufacturing processes. The lean industry has now applied the lean approach in many different types of businesses and industries. Your organization can eliminate wasted activities regardless of the type of processes. All organizations have the opportunity to identify waste and eliminate it.

2. Continuous Improvement – Kaizen

Continuous Improvement (commonly referred to by the Japanese word kaizen) is arguably the most critical principle of lean manufacturing. It should truly form the basis of your lean implementation. Without continuous improvement your progress will cease.

As the name implies, Continuous Improvement promotes constant, necessary change toward achievement of a desired state. Big and small improvements will be necessary to bring significant change to a process. (often many small changes are required to achieve the target). The process truly is continual as there is always room for improvement.

People often describe the Kaizen approach as the PDCA problem solving cycle. The constant trial and error process of the PDCA cycle allows for quick kaizen improvement and learning.

Continuous Improvement should be a mind-set throughout your whole organization. Avoid solely seeking the big ideas and getting caught up in them. Small ideas will often times lead to big improvements.

3. Respect For People

The next lean manufacturing principle has to do with people. The most valuable resource to any company are the people who work for it. Without the people, businesses do not succeed.

Toyota describes their lean principle of Respect for people as one of their two pillars of the Toyota Way. The respect for people principle consists of Respect and Teamwork. This approach allows the company to leverage and utilize the collective problem solving capability of the employees to drive improvement.

When people do not feel respected, they tend to lose respect for the company. This can become a major problem when you are trying to implement lean. Team members need to feel safe, secure, and challenged within their jobs.

Most people want to perform well in their jobs. The employees want to earn a decent living and have a sense of worth while working. They want to feel like they have contributed to the company goals, like their work and effort has meant something. A company supporting a respect for humanity philosophy will appreciate their workers efforts and keep them in high regard.

4. Levelized Production – Heijunka

One of the foundational lean principles of lean manufacturing is levelized production. The basis of this principle is that the workload is the same (or level) every day.

Most manufacturing companies are at the mercy of their customers for orders. Before producing product, they wait to get orders. This leads to increased delivery lead time which may not satisfy customer requirements.

On the other end of the spectrum, some companies will produce based strictly on a forecast. The customer may not require excess product as a result of this.  Levelized production, or Heijunka, takes into consideration both forecast and history. There are many different ways to implement the principle of Levelized Production (Heijunka), depending on the industry and company.

Focusing on a levelized production schedule will make it easier for a company to implement other Lean manufacturing principles.

5. Just In Time Production – JIT

The next key principle to mention is Just In Time (JIT) production. This principle aims to build what is required, when it is required, and in the quantity required.

Working in conjunction with levelized production, this principle works well with kanbans (a pull system). It allows for movement and production of parts only when required. This means components are not used in product that is not required and no time is wasted building unsaleable product.

The JIT lean principle along with Jidoka (Quality built in) are the two pillars of the Lean manufacturing house. JIT uses continuous flow and takt time to connect production directly with the pace of the customer sales.

6. Built In Quality – Jidoka

Another key lean manufacturing principle is Quality Built In, or Jidoka. The principle relies on the idea that the manufacturing process incorporates quality into it.

Quality is built into the design of the part. Quality is built into the packaging. Throughout all areas of the product, from design to shipping, quality is built into the process.

Jidoka builds quality into the process through detection or prevention. Each lean manufacturing process will highlight any abnormality so that the employee can stop the process. Stopping the process so that the problem can be fixed is a key part of the Jidoka lean principle.

Automation with a human touch falls within this lean manufacturing principle. Machines that can detect defects and stop production are an excellent example of this principle. There are many examples of equipment that have the prevention or detection capability build directly into them.

In Lean Manufacturing (or any other system), the focus must be on doing it right the first time.

7. Lean Management Principles – Lean Management

The lean manufacturing industry continues to learn more about what is necessary to be successful with a lean system. The lean management principle has become increasingly important as we learn the critical role of management in creating a lean culture.

Leadership needs to design and own the management system in order to highlight and communicate problems. A well designed lean management system will encourage employees to solve problems and improve the process.

The 5 Lean Principles of Lean implementation

In today’s business world, companies always look for ways to work better, waste less, and give more to customers. Lean principles, derived from the Toyota Production System, provide a powerful framework for achieving these goals. By embracing the five lean principles, organizations can create a recipe for improving workplace efficiency and driving continuous improvement. Let’s delve into each principle and explore its significance:

1. Defining Value:

The first lean principle is to define value from the customer’s perspective. Organizations must understand what their customers truly value and align their processes and activities accordingly. By focusing on value-added activities and eliminating non-value-added activities, organizations can optimize their resources and enhance customer satisfaction. Defining value helps organizations streamline processes, prioritize activities, and eliminate waste.

2. Mapping the Value Stream:

Mapping the value stream is the next step in the Lean journey. Value stream mapping visually analyzes how materials, information, and activities flow to deliver a product or service to the customer. It helps identify areas for improvement and optimize the process.

This analysis is done through visual representation. This mapping exercise enables organizations to identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and areas of waste within their processes. By visualizing the value stream, organizations can make informed decisions, optimize flow, and identify improvement opportunities.

3. Creating Flow:

Creating flow is a critical lean principle that focuses on minimizing interruptions, delays, and disruptions in the value stream. It involves designing processes and workflows to enable smooth and continuous flow. By reducing batch sizes, eliminating unnecessary handoffs, and optimizing process layouts, organizations can enhance efficiency and productivity. Creating flow ensures that work moves seamlessly from one step to another, reducing lead times, improving responsiveness, and increasing throughput.

4. Using a Pull System:

The pull system is a cornerstone of lean thinking. Instead of pushing work based on predictions, a pull system works based on what customers actually want. It involves producing and replenishing products or services only when requested by the customer or downstream process. By embracing a pull system, organizations can minimize overproduction, reduce inventory levels, and achieve a more demand-driven and responsive operation.

5. Pursuing Perfection:

The fifth and final lean principle is the pursuit of perfection. Lean organizations understand that improvement is a never-ending journey. They continuously strive for perfection by relentlessly seeking ways to eliminate waste, enhance quality, and optimize processes.

Pursuing perfection involves fostering a culture of continuous improvement, empowering employees to identify and solve problems, and encouraging experimentation and innovation. By embracing this principle, organizations can achieve sustainable growth, drive innovation, and stay ahead of the competition.

When combined, these five lean principles create a powerful recipe for improving workplace efficiency. Companies that follow these principles can achieve impressive outcomes, like shorter wait times, better quality, higher efficiency, and happier customers. However, it is essential to note that implementing lean principles requires a holistic and long-term approach. It involves engaging employees at all levels, providing training and support, and fostering a culture of collaboration and continuous learning.

Lean principles have proven their effectiveness across a wide range of industries and organizational settings. From manufacturing to healthcare, service sectors to software development, the principles remain applicable and adaptable. To improve workplace efficiency, define value, map the value stream, create flow, use a pull system, and strive for perfection. By embracing these principles, organizations can unlock their true potential, drive sustainable growth, and deliver exceptional value to their customers.

Lean principles improve workplace efficiency by focusing on value, streamlining processes, creating flow, adopting a pull system, and pursuing perfection. Organizations that embrace these principles can achieve significant improvements in productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction. The key lies in adopting a systematic and continuous improvement approach, engaging employees, and fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation. By applying the lean recipe, organizations can transform their operations and thrive in today’s dynamic business environment.

More Principles of Lean Manufacturing

As mentioned at the beginning of this page, there are other lean manufacturing principles. We have made mention of those that we consider critical based on our experience. Use the browser above to navigate through more lean definitions, tools and concepts that will help you understand and implement lean.

This book, Kanban Just-In-Time at Toyota, will also help increase your knowledge of lean manufacturing principles. This is a good book for understanding the basic concepts of the Toyota Production System, the basis for lean manufacturing. The book does a good job of explaining the fundamental principles of Lean manufacturing.