All Courses
Login / Sign up
Get started

By signing up, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.
Reset your password
Enter your email and we'll send you instructions on how to reset your password.

History Of Lean Pioneers

The list here shows names of individuals who have done major contributions to the concept of Lean Enterprise.

The list includes:

  • Frederick W. Taylor

  • Henry Ford

  • Sakichi Toyoda

  • Kiichiro Toyoda

  • Eiji Toyoda

  • Shigeo Shingo

  • James Womack

  • Daniel Jones

  • Anand Sharma

  • Michael George

We will look at the details of each of these contributors: 

Frederick Winslow Taylor

“One of the most important influences of the 20th century and most lasting since Federalist papers” these were the words of Peter Drucker about Frederick Taylor. In 1977, the American Management Association considered the top 71 contributors to management thought and practice and Taylor ranked first receiving 31 votes. Henry Ford received the second most votes. Mr. Taylor’s books were considered vital during economic recovery of Japan after World War II. Born in a wealthy Philadelphia family, Frederick Taylor choose to be an engineer. His career started working as an apprentice in a machine shop and later became a foreman. He obtained a Mechanical Engineering degree from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1883. His focus was always on improving the methods of work and achieving efficiencies of the shop. This characteristic no doubt led him to develop his own system and thus be called,“The Father of Scientific Management”. 

Frederick Taylor was also known as an Efficiency Expert. He was the original time and motion study specialist. He propagated application of scientific methods to obtain maximum output. This was accomplished by having management in control of the workplace and by detailing the minute routine of the worker. The complexity of the job was removed through operations analysis. Thus, he could take a person from the street and train that person to do a simpler operation. “Taylorism” was “the application of scientific methods to obtain maximum efficiency in industrial work.”(Kanigel, 1999). One can have high employee wages and low manufacturing costs. Maximum prosperity can exist as a result of maximum productivity.

Some key Taylor concepts are:

  • Understand each element of the task

  • Select, train, and develop the worker

  • Have a division of work between management and worker

  • Cooperate with the worker to follow the procedure (Taylor, 1911 and 1998)

Some selected highlights of Frederick Taylor’s career are:

  • 1878 – 1890: Midvale Steel (earliest contributions).

  • 1883: BSME, Stevens Institute of Technology

  • 1898 – 1901: Consultant to Bethlehem Stee

  • 1901 – 1915: Spokesman and author on scientific management

  • 1906: President of ASME(American Society of Mechanical Engineers)

Henry Ford (1863 – 1947)

Henry Ford was born and grew up on a farm near Dearborn, Michigan. An early part of his career included a job as an apprentice machinist, a sawmill operator, and an engineer. In 1983, he became the Chief Engineer for Edison Illuminating Company and later left this organization to find Ford Motor Company. The introduction car of Ford Motor Company which was founded in 1903 was Model A. Model T was created in 1908 after 20 design changes. Ford vehicles were designed for both the ease of manufacture and use. Vehicle parts were interchangeable and simple. A Common man was able to drive and repair his own car.

In 1927, Model A was launched to meet the features offered by other U.S. competitors. Henry Ford was known to be a master of “mass production”. The successful implementation of the assembly line at the Highland Park Plant in Detroit, in 1913 reduced cost and increased productivity for Ford Motor Company. The reduced manufacturing costs made cars more affordable for Americans. In 1908, the workers required an average station task time of 514 minutes. With improved work techniques, time and motion studies, the average task was reduced to 2.3 minutes. In 1913, the introduction of the assembly line pushed the average task cycle time down to 1.19 minutes. This was accomplished by reducing the complexity of the task.The operator did not need to be a skilled craftsman. It must be noted that the use of the assembly line resulted in a labor turnover rate of 380% in the beginning of 1913, and 900% by year's end.

On January 4, 1914, wages were doubled to $5 per day. The increased wages resulted in a much-improved retention rate. In 1915, the Highland Park Plant had 7,000 workers, and there were 50 different languages spoken in the plant. Therefore, the reduced complexity of the task aided in the training of new workers. Henry Ford did not just focus on managing the internal resources of the plant. He also sought to reduce cost and increase productivity by controlling the costs of raw materials. The River Rouge plant near Dearborn, Michigan was a great example of vertical integration. Ford Motor Company had a steel mill for producing steel, a glass factory for making windshields, rubber plantations in Brazil and iron ore mines in Minnesota. Ford owned the ships that carried the ore.

Some basic facts on the River Rouge plant for the year 1930:

  • 81,000 employees

  • 6,952,000 square feet of production space

  • $268,991,552 In investment cost

Some examples include:

  • Using straw from his farm to make “Fordite” for steering wheels.

  • Reworking and reusing worn steel rails

  • Remelting scrap steel at the River Rouge plant

  • Reworking broken tools and equipment

  • Converting used paper, rags, and hardwood into binder board

  • Mass production techniques involved the interchangeability of parts, interchangeability of workers, simpler tasks, and better organization.

  • These techniques were widely used for 60-70 years and were adopted by companies in North America and Europe.

Some highlights of Ford’s accomplishments:

  • 1896: Built his first automobile, the Quadricycle

  • 1903: Founded Ford Motor Company, serving as the Vice-President

  • 1913: Started the first moving assembly line at the Highland Park Plant

  • 1918: Constructed the world’s largest industrial complex (River Rouge Plant)

  • 1919: One of every three cards purchased is a Model T

  • 1927: The 15 Millionth Model T was produced

Sakichi Toyoda (1867–1930).

Sakichi Toyoda was a businessman and was called the “King of Inventors”. He was a carpenter by trade and, thus, able to work with his hands. He had his first patent in 1980, and in 1987 invented the first Japanese power loom. Because other members of Toyoda family and friends were in the cottage industry of weaving, this led him to try to reduce the amount of manual labor and effort required for weaving. For his efforts, he used the steam engine as a source of power for the looms. As an engineer, he spent many hours working and reworking the steam engine to operate properly and then to link to the looms to obtain a power loom. 

A prime concept used at Loom Works was jidoka (automation with a human touch). This invention was designed to stop the loom whenever a thread broke. A human did not have to be always present to oversee each loom. This enabled workers to handle more than one loom and provide more value-added work. He followed up with the founding of Toyoda Automatic Loom Works in 1926. In 1929, the sale of the patent rights to the Platt Brothers (England) for 100,000 British Pounds (one million Yen or $500,000 US) provided the research funds for entry into the automotive industry.

 Kiichiro Toyoda (1895–1952)

Kiichiro Toyoda was the son of Sakichi Toyoda and Second President of Toyota Motor Company. He was a mechanical engineering graduate of the Tokyo Imperial University with a focus on engine technology. In 1929, Kiichiro Toyoda went to England and negotiated the patent rights to the “mistake proof” loom. The funds from the sale helped to finance the automotive efforts of Toyoda Automatic Loom Works. Kiichiro Toyoda made a tour of US Auto plants in 1929, followed by his own research effort on motor vehicles in 1930. In 1935, the company was able to produce three model A-1 passenger cars. During that year, the government mandated the building of trucks, causing the passenger car activities to end.

There were 18 Model G-1 trucks built by the end of 1935. The Toyota Motor Company (TMC) was spun-off as a separate company in 1937. From the beginning, the concept of Just-in-time was used. Due to a lack of materials, this concept had to be used for economics and to increase cash flow. Mr. K. Toyoda was very much influenced by his trips to Ford plants and by seeing the supermarket process of restocking goods on the shelves. Toyota Motor Company faced bankruptcy during the post-war years due to inflation and credit management problems. The situation even led to the layoff of workers and to a series of strikes.

In a classic show of the sense of obligation and responsibility, Kiichiro Toyoda took responsibility for this failure and resigned as President. By 1950, after 13 years of manufacturing, 2,685 automobiles had been produced by TMC, compared to 8,000 per day from the Ford River Rouge plant.  Kiichiro Toyoda was asked to return as President in early 1952 but died suddenly within the year at the age of 57.

Eiji Toyoda (1913 – 1999)

Eiji Toyoda was a younger cousin to Kiichiro Toyoda. He also attended Tokyo Imperial University studying Mechanical Engineering (1933 - 1936). Upon graduation, he was persuaded to join his cousin’s business and started a research lab called the “car hotel. This garage housed Eiji and his staff as they conducted research on engines, repaired cars, and worked on other special projects. Eiji Toyoda was drafted into the army but released back to industry within 2 months. He worked in the auto business during the war effort, making trucks. He became the Director of Toyota Motor Company in 1945 and Managing Director in 1950. That was a bad year due to the labor strike and resignation of President Kiichiro Toyoda.

During 1950, he traveled to U.S for a 3-month tour of the auto plants and their suppliers. This trip provided evidence to Eiji Toyoda that little Toyota Motor Company could compete in the automotive arena, but not using the same “mass production” techniques. Toyota was producing 40 units per day, While Ford Rouge was at 8,000 per day. In 1955, Eiji Toyoda drove the first “Crown passenger car off the assembly line. The Crown is credited with transforming TMC into a large company. E. Toyoda was President of Toyota Motor Company from 1967-1982. During that time period, he sponsored Taiichi Ohno’s hard work inside TMC. Upon the merger of Toyota Motor Company and Toyota Motor Sales, he served as Chairman from 1982 - 1994.

Taiichi Ohno (1912-1990)

Taiichi Ohno was the creator of the Toyota Production System. He graduated from Nagoya Technical High School and joined Toyoda Spinning and Weaving in 1932. ln 1943, he transferred to Toyota Motor Company. By 1947, he managed the machine shop where he experimented with parallel lines and/or L-shaped processes. Of course, there was much resistance from the machine operators. Since he was from the weaving company, he was aware of jidoka (automation with a human touch) and used it productively in the auto company. In the 1950s, he also toured the United States auto plants to view and evaluate the “mass production” process. From the tour, Ohno learned that the mass production system could achieve economies of scale.

Earlier, Kiichiro Toyoda had set an “impossible” goal for Toyota Motor Company to catch up with America. The initial estimates of productivity were 9:1. That is, it took nine Japanese workers to equal the productivity of one American. The adoption of the customized mass production system with the elimination of waste could be the method for catching up.

 Shigeo Shingo (1909-1990)

Shigeo Shingo was influenced ‘by Frederick Taylor’s book:

"The Principles of Scientific Management. He first read a Japanese version in 1924."

Shingo was one of Japan’s foremost consultants on manufacturing operations improvement. He has written many books on improvement including:

  • "Revolution in Manufacturing: The SMED System"

  • "Zero Quality Control: Source Inspection and the Poka-Yoke System"

The Toyota Production System from an Industrial Engineering Viewpoint. Shingo graduated in 1930 with a Mechanical Engineering degree from Yamanashi Technical College and started to work at Taipei Railway Factory. In 1945, he became a consultant to the industry through a Japan Management Association (JMA). He started performing quick exchange work in 1950 at-Toyo-industries. By 1959, Shigeo Shingo formed his own consulting firm, Institute of Management Improvements, and provided consulting throughout the Far East. Much of his work centered on mistake proofing, zero quality control, and supplier sourcing. It was not until 1969, at the Toyota Motor Company, that Taiichi Ohno demanded the impossible, and the SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die) concept really came to life. Ohno’s demand was to reduce setup changes from 1.5 hours to 3 minutes. It had previously been 4 hours, so 3 minutes seemed impossible. But, within three months, the goal was accomplished. (Utah State University,2006) 

Shigeo Shingo trained and consulted for TMC from 1954 until 1982. During that time, he conducted over 87 sessions involving over 2,000 students. While he was not a Toyota employee, he was a consultant who assisted in the development of the Toyota Production System. ln 1988, he was awarded as    "An Honorary Doctorate in Business" from Utah State University. The Shingo Prize was established by the College of Business, Utah State University to promote Lean! World-class business practices to enable a company to compete globally. The first winner, in 1989, was Globe Metallurgical, inc. Cincinnati, Ohio.

Some selected career highlights of Mr. Shingo are:

  • 1930: Started work at Taipei Railway

  • 1945: Became a consultant for Japan Management Association

  • 1950: Conducted initial work on SMED

  • 1959: Formed his own firm, The Institute of Management improvement

  • 1954 - 1982: Consulted at Toyota Motor Company

James Womack and Daniel Jones

James Womack and Daniel Jones have been linked together as researchers on the capabilities of the automotive industry since 1979. MIT Professor Daniel Roos recruited them for an aggressive study of the automotive industry titled: “The Future of the Automobile.” The “Future” was published in 1984 with one of the conclusions showing a 3:1 productivity difference between Japanese and American workers. This was an incredible turnaround from Taiichi Ohno’s initial estimate that the Japanese to American worker productivity ratio was 1:9 in the 1950s. Their report induced a total of 36 companies, agencies, and countries to support a more intensive $5,000,000, A 51-year study of the Toyota system and the rest of the industry. This study led to the monumental book "The Machine that Changed the World". This book changed the world of mass production by detailing how lean manufacturing produces products with perhaps one-half the resources.

As before (human effort, space, investment, engineering, and time). Womack and Jones jointly published two more Lean books:

  • “Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation” and “Lean Solutions"

  • How Companies and Customers can Create Value and Wealth Together.”


Dr. Womack received a Ph.D. in Political Science from MIT in 1982 and was a research scientist at MIT from 1979 to 1991. Professor Jones was Professor of Manufacturing at Cardiff University Business School in 1989 and Founding Director of the Lean Enterprise Research Centre (1994-2001). Womack and Jones have established a global network on Lean manufacturing with individual networks in America and in Europe. (Daniel T. Jones n.d.), (Kleiner 2006).

Anand Sharma

Anand Sharma is President and CEO of TBM Consulting Group, Durham, North Carolina. He has been profiled by Fortune magazine as one of the “Heroes of U.S. Manufacturing” (March 2001). ln 2002, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers awarded Mr.Sharma the Donald C. Burnham Manufacturing Award for achieving manufacturing excellence without sacrificing human capital. His supporters state that he is an expert who can figure out what is wrong with an organization by walking the shop floor.

He proclaims, “Where other people see complexity, I look at how simple things can be.” His company, TBM Consulting Group, employing over 70 employees, has worked with over 500 enterprises on improving manufacturing productivity and profits. Mr. Sharma prides himself on refusing to work with firms that will lay off workers due to the use of his system. Mr.Sharma is a graduate of the University of Roorkee (India). After an initial position in India, he moved to the U.S. working for a variety of companies. His last corporate position, before consulting was Vice President of Strategic Planning at American Standard.

Mr. Sharma learned the Toyota Production System from the Shingijutsu Group in Japan. Mr.Sharma has an M.B.A. from Boston University and has recently co-authored two books on Lean:

The Perfect Engine: How to Win in the New Demand Economy by Building to Order with Fewer Resources

The Antidote : How to Transform Your Business for the Extreme Challenges of the 21st Century.

Michael George

Michael George is Chairman and CEO of The George Group based in Dallas, Texas. His company has worked with over 300 clients. Focusing on operational performance and shareholder value through six sigma, lean six sigma, management of complexity, and innovation efforts. Mr. George has a B.S. in Physics from the University of California and an MS. in Physics from the University of Illinois. His first assignment was at Texas Instruments in 1964. In 1969, He founded international Power Machine, which he sold to Rolls-Royce.

The funds from the sale enabled him to travel to Japan to study the Toyota Production System. The George Group was formed in 1986. Mr. George is the holder of several patents on the reduction of process cycle time and complexity.

He has authored or co-authored a multitude of lean six sigma books including: Fast Innovation, Lean Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma for Service, and Conquering Complexity in Your Business.



0 Comments

Add Comment

Subject to Moderate