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13 Best Lean Manufacturing Books

When it comes to lean manufacturing, a wide range of industries have adapted these principles to fit into their specific operations. Due to the number of lean thinking methods and the many ways they can be applied to a company, many different perspectives have developed regarding this topic. As such, there are countless books that cover these perspectives in great detail. Below, we’ll check out 13 of the best lean manufacturing books that dive into its many operations applications.

1. “The Toyota Way” by Jeffrey Liker

“The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles” by Jeffrey Liker explores the 14 management principles that Toyota used to make improvements to their operations. Considered the first book about lean manufacturing, “The Toyota Way” takes a deeper dive into the company’s management style and how it was used for reducing costs, speeding up slow processes, and improving the quality of their automobiles. The book features organization profiles and the philosophies that were used to help shift the workplace culture toward success.

2. “Toyota Production System” by Taiichi Ohno

“Toyota Production System” covers the evolution and history of, you guessed it, the Toyota Production System. The book is written by one of the founders of the TPS, Taiichi Ohno, as he details why the Toyota Production System was created and how this system dealt with the economic and social changes occurring in the auto industry at the time. Lean manufacturers that are interested in Just-in-Time (JIT) productions, regardless of industry, can apply Taiichi Ohno’s philosophies and methodologies to develop strong lean production systems in time to embrace Industry 4.0.

3. “Workplace Management” by Taiichi Ohno

Based on several interviews with Taiichi Ohno, “Workplace Management” gives readers an overview of the Toyota Production System, and also discusses kaizen lean manufacturing methods. Taiichi Ohno is credited as one of the founders and pioneers of the Toyota Production System, with his lean management methodologies helping to make Toyota into the world's greatest manufacturer of automobiles over the past century.

The interviews and commentary from global visionaries give readers a glimpse into how Toyota’s management team tackled operational problems while reducing waste and cutting costs.

4. “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek

“Start With Why” by Simon Sinek takes a different approach by asking and answering tough real-world questions: Why does it always seem that some people — and organizations — are just more influential, innovative, profitable, and successful than others? “Start With Why” aims to help leaders apply these questions to their own organizations, to induce the problem-solving necessary to create a lean enterprise. The book shows readers how many of history’s greatest influencers think, communicate, and act in order to attain success.


5. “The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

“The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt takes a different approach, discussing the Theory of Constraints (TOC) methodology. Instead of a dull table-side read, the book is written like a fast-paced thriller. It follows a plant manager, behest with issues, as he tries to make his plant more efficient before the corporate headquarters shuts down operations. In the process, we see the plant undergo a lean transformation. Eliyahu Goldratt incorporates exciting storytelling elements while weaving in a larger message about management operations.

6. “Critical Chain” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

In “Critical Chain,” Goldratt details how project and supply chain management can improve by using critical chain theory. Like many of Goldratt's books, this one is written more like a novel and follows the protagonist, a professor seeking tenure at a university. Through the character's journey, Goldratt turns the Theory of Constraints (TOC) into an exciting discussion, and illustrates common problems that can be solved with lean principles.

7. “Lean Thinking” by James P. Womack & Daniel Jones

For anyone looking for an introduction to lean thinking principles and a how-to about lean manufacturing, “Lean Thinking” by James P. Womack and Daniel Jones provides a good balance. The authors are both analysts who discuss business systems that combine value-based strategies with operational excellence. The book was written in 1996 and updated in 2002, and provides comprehensive details about implementing lean manufacturing elements to define business value, eliminate waste, and further understand a company's value stream mapping.

8. “Lean Solutions” by James P. Womack & Daniel Jones

“Lean Solutions” — also by Womack and Jones — goes a step farther. In this follow-up to “Lean Thinking,” Womack and Jones explore how a lean mindset creates a bridge between customers and companies. It details the values that companies can incorporate within their business processes to create products with greater value to customers, as a way to meet their ever-changing demands. By establishing lean principles, companies become more competitive and profitable within their industry.



9. “Toyota Kata” by Mike Rother

“Toyota Kata” by Mike Rother looks at how employee and management relationships function. Using the example of the work culture at Toyota, the book shows how applying kata principles with employees improves operations. As a result, the company became more efficient. “Toyota Kata” covers employee-management routines, and illustrates how certain aspects of them may hinder a company seeking continuous improvements.

By understanding these routines, companies can bring out the best in all their employees. This is especially important when most manufacturing firms are small businesses — roughly 75% of these firms have fewer than 20 employees.

10. “Kaizen Express” by Toshiko Narusawa and John Shook

John Shook, an American manager working in Japan, wrote “Kaizen Express” along with Toshiko Narusawa. This book was written in order to help teach the principles of the Toyota Production System to people working in Japanese companies around the world. In “Kaizen Express,” readers learn about the initiatives and fundamentals of lean thinking, and about implementing it within their operations.

11. “2 Second Lean” by Paul A. Ackers

Implementing lean principles may seem like a daunting process, but in “2 Second Lean,” author Paul Ackers shows readers that improvements can be made to a company in as little as two seconds. With lean production simplified in this book, Ackers outlines how he was able to change the workplace environment and culture at his company, FastCap, during their lean journey. He breaks down continuous improvement strategies that leaders can apply within their own organizations.

In addition to using lean thinking in the workplace, Ackers also advises readers on how these lessons can even carry into our personal lives.

12. “Grow Your Factory, Grow Your Profits” by Timothy McLean

Timothy McLean has traveled around the world helping small and medium enterprises improve their manufacturing operations. His book, “Grow Your Factory, Grow Your Profits,” is a start-to-finish practical guide that details his lean startup experiences. McLean offers practical examples, illustrations, charts, and case studies from real businesses that show solutions to common production issues that manufacturers within their industries.

13. “Lean Manufacturing Implementation Strategies that Work” by John Davis

“Lean Manufacturing Implementation Strategies that Work” is designed to provide an understanding of how lean principles can apply to manufacturing operations management. This resource by John Davis is written as a handbook, divided into three sections: manufacturing difficulties that companies have; how lean principles can solve the issues; and advanced aspects of lean manufacturing. Davis also discusses some of the complications and stumbling blocks that companies face when trying to implement lean manufacturing strategies.

Drive Lean Initiatives at Your Factory with Amper

When it comes to lean manufacturing, there are many principles, perspectives, and strategies to discover and benefit from. The 13 works outlined above are good books that provide a solid look at how lean principles may inspire continuous improvement in your processes and workers — but they are just the tip of the iceberg.

Amper provides products like machine monitoring that can help small and large businesses in their pursuit of lean manufacturing. Learn more about how Amper can drive lean initiatives and help your operations become more efficient.

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