Lean management


The first study of the lean management concept in the scientific literature appeared in 1986 when management specialists took a closer look at the success achieved by Japan’s Toyota. Starting in the 1940s as a small family business, it soon became a tycoon in the automotive market. One of the reasons for this success was an innovative approach to management. Intuitive focused on creating the highest quality resources while minimising waste of energy, materials, processes, and human labour. The original concept of lean manufacturing (so-called ‘lean’ production) has been developed over time as a general management concept.

What is lean managment?

Lean management is, by definition, an approach based on principles to minimise waste in terms of work, processes and any resources that do not add any value to the final product.

It is, therefore, a concept aimed at increasing the company’s competitiveness through a rational approach to the manufacturing process. Using appropriately advanced tools, the aim is to optimise operations. In addition, the introduction and application of lean management allow tangible financial benefits for the company.

An extension of the lean management concept is lean six. This is combined with the 6σ(six sigma) methodology. In supply chain management, lean management is associated with agile manufacturing and referred to as a leagilemet hodology. It applies the term lean enterprise to the whole enterprise, and the five principles of lean management are simply lean thinking.

It should be noted that this concept can be successfully applied to the manufacturing industry and most other industries – the service sector, healthcare, IT, construction, logistics and even higher education or public sector institutions.


The basic principle is to minimise waste. However, the non-standard approach to its causes was revolutionary here. Lean management assumes that all waste is blamed not on people but on wrong procedures. Man is, by definition, fallible. This should be counteracted by developing procedures to minimise the likelihood of error.

Every employee must be involved in the process of improving company performance. This is done by giving employees a high degree of autonomy to act and emphasising appropriate education (training, self-development).

Principles of lane management, so-called lean thinking:

1. Determining the product’s value from the customer’s point of view. Anything that occurs during production that does not add value to the product is waste.

2. Value Stream Mapping (VSM).

3. Continuous flow of value – preventing downtime due to interruptions in the supply of materials and semi-finished products.

4. Pull system, i.e. doing the work only when needed.

5. Continuous pursuit of excellence(kaizen) – lean management is not a one-off change but a never-ending process.

A key element of the lean concept is to teach all organisation members to recognise and eliminate waste. To this end, specific types (jap. muda): overproduction, unnecessary movement, waiting, unnecessary transport, excessive stocks, defects, overprocessing and unused employee potential.

To facilitate the improvement of production processes, several tools and techniques have been developed that, in line with this concept, are designed to be simple to use and yet produce specific, measurable indicators.

  • TPM (Total Productive Management) – total productive maintenance. CMMS systems, which streamline the work of maintenance services, work well in this role.

  • JIT – reducing unnecessary storage of materials. Instead, they are only supplied when these are needed.

  • 5S – Sort, Systematise, Clean, Standardise, Self-improve.

  • SMED (Single Minute Exchange Of Die) – fast machine retooling.

  • Poka-Yoke – wrong procedures are to blame for errors, not the person implementing them.

  • Visual management – information is to be visible and understandable.

  • 5W (FiveWhy) – 5 “why?” questions sufficient to locate the cause of a problem.

There are also many other facilitators of production process improvement among which we can mention such as Kanban, Jidoka (i.e. autonomisation), performance indicators (OEE), production levelling, employee suggestion programme, spaghetti diagram (i.e. a way to detect unnecessary employee movement), DFMA, Ishikawa diagram.


Implementing and adhering to lean management principles allows for increased productivity, improved product quality, optimal use of machinery, and reduced inventory and storage space required. Lean management is also about creating the right working atmosphere and culture in the company, with the equal involvement of employees and management. This fosters a common drive for ever-better solutions and, in particular, translates into:

  • reducing operating costs,

  • increasing flexibility and speed in adapting to changes in demand and customer requirements,

  • increasing productivity,

  • improving the quality of the products and services produced,

  • reducing stocks and improving the stock turnover ratio,

  • reducing customer lead times,

  • reducing time to develop and market new products and services,

  • improving cash flow,

  • learning and acquiring new skills by employees,

  • improving health and safety at work,

  • reducing the number of accidents at work,

  • reducing the company’s negative impact on the environment.


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