Lean Time Line (History and Theory)


Quite Involved in Discussions

From the other discussion on Lean: https://elsmar.com/Forums/showthread.php?p=586466#post586466

I was wondering whether someone have an overview of the historic development of Lean, from way back to TPS and what was included, when was other concepts and pieces added to the Lean package. Were these concepts develop within the Lean area or did most of them exist before or independent of Lean? For instance JIT.

From an article back in 1988 (Krafcik) I understand that TPS goes back to the 1950s, but I would suspect that it has very little to do with what we call Lean today?
BTW Krafcik (1988) have some very nice Figures and tables with comparison of TPS and Fordism, but I don't think I should post them with respect for copyright etc..

Steve Prevette

Deming Disciple
Staff member
Super Moderator
I don't have such a timeline for Lean, but would suggest several of the Operations Research techniques from WW II made their way into Lean. Also, some principles from Deming were borrowed via Toyota / Japan.

Bev D

Heretical Statistician
Staff member
Super Moderator
JIT is a perfect example of taking one thing from the TPS and saying - this will work. Some individuals trying to study why Toyota was so successful saw Just in Time as THE core of TPS, but if course it's not. "Just in time" CANNOT work by itself, it is a result of a system of improvements that starts with culture.

there are several sites that cover brief timelines of Ford - Taylor - TPS - Lean.
LEI's site
SAE's site
Strategos site

Toyota started their Production system in the fifties. Like many great methods it evolved and grew from many sources; nothing is ever completely original...They took elements of Ford's approach to manufacturing and from supermarkets and came up with some of it themselves.

James Womack and others (the author you quoted in the other thread Krafcik was a colleague) wrote the Machine that changed the world and the term LEAN was coined for what Toyota had synthesized.

As an aside, Toyota did incorporate some aspects of manufacturing that Operations management deals with, TPS deals with them in completely different ways. For example, they don't really calculate the 'optimum inventory size'. they work continually to improve flow, reduce waste including defects which allows them to reduce WIP inventory as much as possible. They will reduce inventory to a level that will stress the system, creating tension and the need to improve the system once again to avoid stock-outs.

Three great reads on what TPS/Lean is actually all about:
"The Birth of Lean Conversations with Taiichi Ohno, Eiji Toyoda and
other figures who shaped Toyota management
", The Lean Enterprise Institute, Cambridge, Massachussetts
available at www.lean.org

"Remembering What Ohno and Shingo Said", Bob Emiliani and David Stec The Center for Lean Business Management Kensington, Connecticut. See attachment. (Thank You to Bob Emiliani who granted permission to post his paper here)

Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System, by Steven Spear and H. Kent Brown. Harvard Business Review.
available at www.hbrreprints.org


Last edited:


Quite Involved in Discussions
I was just wondering if anyone have something written before 1988?
Not that the links above are not useful, thx Bev D..

Bev D

Heretical Statistician
Staff member
Super Moderator
Here is a link to a blog that references really OLD papers (and even mentions the 1988 paper by Kafcik). Along with a condemnation of it as a nice try, but not a correct interpretation of TPS.


here are some blogs that discuss relevant information on Lean. I strongly recommend them





Note these are blogs by Bob Emiliani who co-wrote the paper "Remembering What Ohno and Shingo Actually Said" referenced in my first post above. Bob has granted permission to post this paper here as the electronic source is no longer active...you will find the paper attached to my first post
Last edited:

Top Bottom