Menu 844-575-9210

Lean Production

Utilize the Practices of Toyota

“Improve faster than your competition – you win” – FitzGerald


If you need your business dynamic and rapidly changing, then Lean Production is the door into the future. Lean Production is a complete business focused system rather than Mass Production, a department based production system.  Lean Production is a system based production system.  The Toyota Production System is based on Lean Production. Subsequently, it’s manufacturing is it’s key to business success.

Consequently compare business requirements for the two different production philosophies:

Mass Production Overview

  • The assembly line is producing only a single product
  • Build is to estimated forecast
  • One product produced at a time
  • Runs large batches
  • Lots of inventory
  • Nearly 100 years old
  • Cost center
  • Easy to outsource
  • Continuous improvement is important but scattered
  • 100% production line up-time is the important metric

Lean Production Overview

  • Starting with a philosophy that a Lean culture sits on
  • The assembly line produces more than one product or model
  • Decreases inventory because the assembly line “builds to order” or “changes to order”
  • Leveled production
  • Standardized work
  • Seamless integration with partners
  • Agility is a clear business differentiator
  • Kata drives manufacturing to solve business challenges
  • Quality is a driving factor – eradicate defects
  • Rapid changeover is important when changing from one product build to another
  • Maniacal focus on minimizing non-value added activities
  • Inventory is strategic
  • Rapid problem resolution
  • Visual control decreases errors due to obvious displayed deviations from standards
  • Executive (CEO) commitment demonstrated by frequent visits to Gemba or site of customer value add
  • Continuous flow, no pause in adding value to a product or service
  • Continuous improvement is constant
  • Flow where you can, pull where you must
  • Growth means adding new products to the product line

If your business environment is relatively static and unchanging than it may make sense to stay with Mass Production. However, there are some advantages in Lean Production that could also be used in Mass Production.

If your production environment is dynamic and looking to take on additional work, and the company supports a dynamic business environment then Lean Production is the direction to go.

The Toyota Production System used by Toyota is the Business system that consequently replaced Mass Production because Toyota could not afford all defects and excess inventory they noticed in Mass Production plants.  They built andon as a defect reduction methodology due to the cost of defects.

The Transformation to Lean Production. Start your Lean Production Journey for less than $1M and 1.5 years.


A list of characteristics of a Lean Production Plant:

  • At the Lean Plant everyone understands the customer value they personally deliver
  • At the Lean Plant everyone is engaged adding value for the customer
  • There is a fair amount of Automation and Manufacturability is key
  • Remove inventory to surface problems
  • Management spends time where value is added
  • Any line worker is responsible to stop the line if they come across a defect
  • Authority and responsibility are pushed down the chain of command
  • There exists a tried and true process to determine and eradicate the root cause of problems
  • A Lean philosophy is ingrained
  • An andon board keeps employees in the loop
  • Respect is a two-way street, and
  • Workers are confident management understands Lean Production

Improvement means change. Does your company have a culture of change? First of all is there a pervasive understanding of waste or non-value added activities? Does management want to lead, not emulate? Does the company rely on management and engineers for all the “good” ideas?  Let Lean Six Sigma into your environment to give you a fresh view. Lean Production will consequently change your manufacturing capabilities.  As a result manufacturing will position the business for the future.

Reassess your capabilities and benchmark yourself against your competition. Implement a strong Lean Six Sigma program and attack business weaknesses.  This will change the culture of your company and allow you to leap past competitive pressure.

Target situations to move to Lean Production

Lean Production does not work in every manufacturing situation.  These are some of the manufacturing environments that will work for Lean Production:

  • Flexible Manufacturing: The ability to manufacture either at least two products or two models of one product on the same assembly line (preferably at the same time).
  • A product line generates 50% or more of the profit: This focuses the company on what is most important.
  • Use Lean Production when the product is expensive and complicated..
  • The company focuses on a single product: This may be a challenge for production leveling but if you can overcome that then it makes sense.
  • Lead time is long; This means that there is a long time to change a configuration should a customer order come in.
  • Management commits to excellence: Lean Production is a flexible, adaptive manufacturing system that drives out defects while delivering to customer orders.


Lean Production is most effective on a single assembly line because it narrows the focus.  You can’t just lay it down on a manufacturing environment, it is assembly line focused.  There are some components of Lean Production that can beneficially apply to Mass Production environments and we should explore them with you.

Lean Production, as opposed to Mass Production, is a holistic solution encompassing customer interaction to production result. Toyota has worked on their Production system for over 60 years.  For Toyota, it takes a new plant 10 years to come up to speed with the Toyota Production System.  Toyota is still changing with a goal to reach perfection.

Toyota Way Principles are Especially Relevent

It makes sense to review the 14 Toyota Way Principles as stated in Liker, Jeffery K. (2004) The Toyota Way, Page 37.  These Principles stand as guidance for running a company with a philosophy that has lasted 60+ years. As a result of their success, consider your Principals:

  1. Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.
  2. Create continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface.
  3. Use pull systems to avoid overproduction.
  4. Level out the workload.
  5. Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time
  6. Standardized tasks are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment
  7. Visual control surfaces problems
  8. Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes
  9. Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others
  10. Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy
  11. Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve
  12. Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation
  13. Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly
  14. Become a learning organization through relentless reflection and continuous improvement

Working Definitions

Production Rate – this refers to the rate of production. Hence, Value Stream Cycle Time or the time between products or services coming off the assembly line.

Product Complexity – is the number of parts contained in the product.

Lead Time – is the time it takes to move for a product to go through the assembly line, not counting storage time after it’s produced.

Build to Stock – a departmental based production methodology (Mass Production) focused on department performance. Does not base production on orders.

Build to Order – production scheduling focuses heavily on orders (Lean Production).   Because manufacturing is based on orders inventory is reduced.

Change to Order – a flexible manufacturing technique (Advanced Lean Production) that changes product features during the production run.  This is a follow on to Lean Production and is dependent on the factors in the table above.

In Conclusion, a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt is a master of this process. In addition, let us lead your business to an efficient, quality driven future.


Relevant Related Videos:

Lean Six Sigma Manage by Value Streams

Toyota is the Best Company

Toyota is either the best run company or one of the best.  Take 30 min and see how.

US Steel needs to move to the next manufacturing methodology to remain competitive.  This shows how you start.

The Road-map towards building a Lean Production System since Mass Production has too many disadvantages today.

Production Statistics – Statistics monitor the performance of your business environment.  This is Part 1.


Production Statistics – This is a most noteworthy discussion of statistics which includes Non-Parametric statistics, not normally distributed populations.


Lean Six Sigma, The Toyota Production System and Time. Time is important because it can be competitive.

Business supports Lean Production hence a fully competitive force is delivered.

The Failure of Mass Production is Overproduction hence inventory.  Take a look.

The opposite views of Mass Production and Lean Production from an ecosystem point of view.

Toyota Production System, Lean Production

Transform Your Business (844-575-9210) Email