Getting More from Lean: Seven Success Factors
When Toyota created its lean production system in the late 1950s—drawing on the thinking of Henry Ford and W. Edwards Deming—the Japanese company revolutionized auto manufacturing. Since then, lean techniques have moved far beyond the shop floor. Still, the principles of lean production remain the same: an integrated, end-to-end process viewpoint that combines the concepts of waste elimination, just-in-time inventory management, built-in quality, and worker engagement—supported by a cultural focus on problem solving and the use of tools such as kaizen (continuous improvement), kanban (ongoing replenishment), poka-yoke (error proofing), 5S (workplace organization), and value-stream mapping.
Despite the ongoing popularity of lean tools and techniques, however, we've seen a variety of outcomes in our work with major companies around the world. Toyota's success with lean is, of course, legendary. But what types of results are other companies getting from their lean initiatives? And what are companies with the best outcomes doing differently than their less successful peers? To find the answers, BCG conducted interviews with executives at a wide range of companies with varying degrees of lean experience. We then combined those insights with our own observations, gleaned from helping clients succeed in their lean initiatives.