2 A Brief History of Lean, Notable Principles and the Approach Taken by this Book

Having explained that the application of lean made a significant difference to internal audit within AstraZeneca, this chapter sets out some background about lean: where it came from, its key principles and the benefits that are likely to result from putting it into practice.


Some argue that the story of lean can be traced back to boat construction in 16th Century Venice, but I suspect we could go back further to road building techniques and weapons manufacture in Roman times. However, the story of lean as a holistic set of principles, tools and techniques is widely understood to centre around Toyota’s achievements after World War Two.

Influenced by developments in the US and elsewhere, for a period of over a decade Toyota developed various production line techniques into a complete management system, called the Toyota Production System (TPS). TPS comprised a range of product and process development techniques, supply chain management techniques, new approaches to problem solving (such as root cause analysis), improved approaches to customer service and new approaches to leadership and teamwork. In 1965 the Deming prize for quality was granted to Toyota for TPS.

As a result of TPS, Toyota became capable of making cars at a significantly lower cost than a number of major US motor manufacturers, despite their scale advantages. Toyota, alongside many ...

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