Chapter 3

Lean Fundamentals


“All we are doing is looking at the time line from the moment the customer gives us an order to the point when we collect the cash. And we are reducing that time line by removing the non-value added wastes.”

Taiichi Ohno, Toyota's original “father” of Lean

Three concepts are fundamental to the understanding of Lean Thinking: value, waste, and the process of creating value without waste, captured into the so-called six Lean Principles. The concepts are described in this chapter in the general context of product development. The concepts are explained in a self-contained style to free the reader from the need to refer to other sources, but the reader who is new to Lean would benefit from first reading the classic book Lean Thinking [Womack and Jones, 1996].

A formal definition of Lean has been presented in Chapter 1. However, when considering the present Lean fundamentals, it is useful to think of Lean simply as “creation of best value with minimum waste.”

3.1 Value

At its simplest, value is what the customer says it is, considers important, and is willing to pay for. In simple applications, the customer states what he or she needs, and the contractor makes it and delivers it, hopefully satisfying or even delighting the customer. This works well when buying ice cream, but is vastly more challenging when ordering a new, complex technological system, especially for military users.1

Value is what the customer says it is, considers important, ...

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