Recently, I was invited by my business coach—who runs the entrepreneur group I’m in—to go to a workshop on “LEAN” that was being hosted by the DVIRC (Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center). To be quite honest, I knew almost nothing about the DVIRC or LEAN for that matter. For all I knew, LEAN was the name of a breakfast cereal or a granola bar.

So, What is LEAN?

The idea of LEAN is the concept of constant or continuous improvement. It’s a pretty simple concept that’s been around for a long while, from before Benjamin Franklin’s time, but it came to the forefront largely from Dr. Deming, who tried to show this production practice that considers the expenditures of resources for any goal, other than the creation of value for the end customer, to be wasteful. And thus, these need to be eliminated. He first demonstrated this to the automotive industry in Detroit. Money was flowing, and this was in the 1950′s. Post-war auto production was at its peak, and he was literally laughed out of Detroit. The now famous Dr. Deming, who is studied in almost every business school today, headed off to Japan (where he’s now considered a hero) to help them rebuild, and the concept of a LEAN warehouse design was later developed by Toyota, the company that’s best known for originating LEAN Manufacturing. The actual term was eventually coined by John Krafcik (Toyota Quality Engineer and MIT Researcher) in his 1988 article, “Triumph of the Lean Production System.”

This concept of LEAN is no longer just being applied to manufacturing; it is now being spread to broader applications in the retail and service industries, and as seen in the latest book by Womack and Jones, “Lean Solutions,” these lean principles apply to logistics …read more