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Unlike most cost-reduction books, Lean Thinking has a strong conceptual underpinning for thinking about improving your operations. The authors move beyond the narrowest application of the lean manufacturing model (the original Toyota system) to explore key concepts like value (what do the customers want? as opposed to what do they choose from the limited options we give them?), flow (continuous production is faster and more efficient than batch processing), pull (letting immediate demand determine what is produced rather than sales projections), and perfection (thinking through the ideal way to do things, rather than just improving from where you are today somewhat). Providing this conceptual framework makes it easier to understand the benefits of operating a lean enterprise. People who did not understand the message in Direct from Dell would find Lean Thinking to be a useful framework.
One of the strengths of this book is that it is deliberately full of examples of companies which took traditional methods in existing plants and converted them into lean operations. I know of no other set of case histories half as useful on this subject.
The key limitation of this book is that most people new to lean manufacturing would not be able to implement solely using the book as a guide. The conceptual perspective, while being uniquely valuable, leaves the inexperienced person with few guideposts. Some of the key requirements are simply described as "get the knowledge" and so forth. As a follow-up, I suggest that the authors team with those who have done this work and write a hands-on guide. Much more benefit will follow.
If you are interested in understanding how a new business model of how to provide your products and/or services might work and what the benefits might be, Lean Thinking is a good place to start. Most executives and operations managers have never seriously considered going from batch to cell-based production. This will open your eyes to the potential.
Based on my many years of experience with improving business processes, you will actually need to go visit some of the companies cited to fully understand the issues and what must be done. I know that visits to Pratt & Whitney can be arranged and are very insightful. You might try to start with that one.
One area may turn you off. The cited examples moved forward pretty ruthlessly. That may not be your cup of tea. You may be reminded of some of the early reengineering. My own experience is that such changes can be done in a more positive and constructive way. Stay open to that possibility as you read the cases. They basically all use command and control to create more flexibility. You can also use other methods like those encouraged in The Soul at Work and The Living Company to create these kinds of results. Keep that in mind.
I recommend that everyone who uses batch and sequential operation methods read this book. It will open your eyes to great potential to grow faster and more profitably.
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on 1 October 2002
It is now nearly three years since I first read this book and it's message is as valid today as it was then.
In an easy to read style it sets out the steps taken by different people as they first faced a looming crisis and then journeyed down the road to Lean and reaped the success that was achieved by their hard work.

For any manager or improvement agent it is an excellent introduction as it tells the stories of several companies from different industries and dispells some of the myths of Lean.
For me it has been an inspiration as I now work educating and helping companies implement Lean as described in this book.
One thing is certainly true, survival is optional, and as this book shows with Porsche, a big name and fantastic quality are no defence if you can't keep your costs down. Lean methods saved them and it can do the same for your company, you need to be convinced? Read Lean Thinking, I still dip into it on a regular basis!
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on 5 February 2000
An excellent book to follow on The Machine That Changed The World, this concentrated on the stories of some very different businesses and how they used the 'Lean' manufacturing principles to improve the way they do business. The stories of these companies served to illlustrate how Mass production is not the answer to the modern customer driven business. The way forward for the manager of the future is to embrace the concepts of lean, reduction of waste, produce what the customer wants, when he wants it and at a reasonable cost whilst making a profit. This book illustrates how to achieve these things and more, but for the manager a change in mindset is shown as the major stumblng block to success. If there is one message from this book for the Western industrial world it is the dire warning that those who do not change will be left behind. I was inspired by this book, you will be too.
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on 11 June 2000
Do you want to improve business performance? Whatever industry or business you come from, this book is where you should start.
Lean Thinking is not another book of the latest management theory and concepts. Nor is it the latest "flavour of the month" management fad. It will show you simply how to achieve dramatic improvements in productivity and growth, while reducing costs. It provides real case studies of business performance improvement from real people in real businesses.
If you aren't from a manufacturing background, do not put this book down at the first reference to the automotive industry. What is contained in this book can be applied to any business and indeed has.
Lean Thinking pursues perfection by eliminating any activities that do not add value to the products or services your customer wants.
Take your blinkers off, open your mind and be inspired.
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on 1 March 2000
An extremely interesting and thought provoking introduction to the principles underlying lean manufacturing (and the Toyota Production System). The authors build on the concepts outlined in The Machine That Changed The World, but this is not simply a rehashing of previous ideas. The authors move away from Machine's heavy focus on benchmarking and the motor industry and illustrate the successful use of lean thinking in a variety of manufacturing situations. Although the book focuses far more on the practical implementation of lean thinking than Machine, it does so at quite a high level, using case study illustrations rather than providing a 'how to' guide. Lean Thinking's value lies in challenging accepted mass production thinking and introducing the reader to new, thought provoking principles and approaches. On this basis, it is a superior work to Machine and one that I'd recommend to anyone interested in manufacturing, production or operations management.
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This book presents a clear message to all businesses, of any persuasion, whether it be a mass producer, job shop or service provider, of how to get ahead and stay there. There are clear examples of applying lean thinking techniques to brownfield sites around the world, in different cultures. It also gives a glimpse into the sturggle of the current experts of lean thinking, namely Toyota,past and present. This helps those embarking down the difficult path of implementing lean thinking to know even in these island of muda reducing environments things are never easy, however the prize of sustained performance is worth the struggle. At the back is an excellent Notes section explainng the reasonign behind certain comments and a good bibliography if further reading is required
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on 26 May 2008
I have bought half a dozen `Lean' books from Amazon in addition to several from other book shops, and this book stands head and shoulders above the rest. The difference is this book provides the `Why' behind Lean with the primary five steps (define value, map value, create flow, create pull, strive for perfection) and solid examples from internationally recognised companies. You get the feel for the `philosophy' and key principles which allow you to see the bigger picture. You will need other books to give you the tools that you require and there are several excellent ones available. The best analogy I can give is that if Lean was cooking, the `Lean Thinking' teaches you to cook, most of the rest are a series of superb recipes. And if you can learn to cook properly, you can try your own recipes.
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on 12 July 2016
It was only today i found myself going back referring to this book again. I orginally bought it in 2012. It is as relevant today as when i first ordered it almost 4 years ago.

What i like about this book it is dispels myths on lean along the way but offering solid examples of how to do it the right way. I couldnt recommend this book more to people who have a interest in the field of lean thinking and implementation.
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on 14 April 2014
Ok so its been around for a while but the principles remain the same even thought the applications may have changed

After an introduction about the merits of lean over older models of production and manufacturing improvement, the book divides into chapters focusing on case studies or various large companies who have successfully put lean methods into practice

This book is as much of an academic work as a book for the general public
It is well written and interesting
Many key developments leading up to lean thinking are covered
Many key lean principles are covered and enlarged upon

This book is well worth reading for anyone with an interest in lean thinking or manufacturing
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on 20 June 2014
I read this right after Taiichi Ohno's "Toyota Production System" and it contributed hugely to my understanding of the subject. It also brings things up to date with more case studies (and a follow up on those case studies if you get the anniversary edition). Very well written.
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