Many of the great techniques, philosophies and tools from the past were created out of need. Almost all techniques, philosophies and tools were the result of innovation or newly created. The term history is defined in part as “the study of past events”. In almost every definition of the term “history” we learn that there is in most cases a connection with someone or something. Like any other strategy, lean has some fascinating history behind it. That history helped form shape and innovate the strategy that we know today. Over the next few months this article will be updated to summarize the history of lean and look at some of the significant happening that helped form and shape lean today.
Taiichi Ohno was born in Manchuria, China in 1912 and graduated from Nagoya Institute of Technology in 1932. In 1943 Mr. Ohno joined Toyota as a production supervisor and eventually earned the name as one of the fathers of the Toyota Production System. He wrote many books supporting the Toyota Production System some of which are: Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production and Workplace Management.
Born in 1909 Shigeo Shingo would become one of the most influential figures in lean manufacturing. After graduating from Yamanashi technical college Dr. Shingo went to work for the Taipei Railway Company. Shortly after he was transferred to a manufacturing plant in Yokohama by the name of Amano Manufacturing. Dr. Shingo immediately went to work improving production by 100%.
Kaoru Ishikawa is recognized by many as the "master" and father of Quality. If not on a global scale than certainly in his native land of Japan. Kaoru Ishikawa was most noted for the development of the Ishikawa, Cause and Effect or Fishbone diagram, however his impact on quality spread much further than just cause and effect.
Shewhart was the first honorary member of the American Society of Quality. He brought together the disciplines of statistics, engineering, and economics which eventually earned him the right to be known as the father of quality.
In 1945 many quality associations began forming around the world. The benefits and passion surrounding quality and industrial activities were gaining momentum. Almost 40 years earlier, Romania would see the face of one, Joseph Juran. As one of six children Mr. Juran grew up with two sisters who shared his passion for learning. Juran would live first in România and then in Humorului for only a short time before his family would settle in Minneapolis. Here Juran would earn his High School degree from Minneapolis South High School in 1920.
There is not just one thing that Dr. Akao can be noted for. A true advocate of continuous improvement is the best way to sum up Dr. Akao. As the 24'th honorary member of the ASQ, Dr. Akao led many great projects with his development of Quality Function Deployment. Along with QFD, Dr. Akao developed several other methodologies that became normal practices in Japan. While methodologies were not foreign to Dr. Akao he was often found advocating strategic initiatives like Hoshin Kanri worldwide.
Frederick Taylor was a mechanical engineer who pioneered the principles of scientific management. He was passionate about improving efficiency during the late 1800's through the early 1900's. Frederick's efforts in applying engineering principles to factory environments were some of the first to later develop into what we know today as industrial engineering.
Taylor passed the entrance exam for Harvard but did not attend Harvard. Instead of pursuing extended education he chose to become an apprentice patternmaker and a machinist at Enterprise Hydraulic Works in Philadelphia. Eventually Mr. Taylor would complete his apprenticeship and move on to climb the ladder of the Midvale Steel Works. It was here that Fredericks talents would eventually lead him to hold such positions as chief engineer.
Philip Bayard "Phil" Crosby, (June 18, 1926 – August 18, 2001) was a businessman and author who contributed to management, theory and advocated quality in many different ways. Crosby initiated the Zero Defects program at the Martin Company. As the quality control manager of the Pershing missile program, Crosby was credited with a 25 percent reduction in the overall rejection rate and a 30 percent reduction in scrap costs.
Eli Whitney was a famous American inventor in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Most people know Mr. Whitney for his invention of the cotton gin. He was born in 1765 and attended Yale University. While his cotton gin invention was in fact revolutionary many people attempted to steal the idea which ultimately led to Mr. Whitney changing his focus to guns and ammunition. At this time muskets required a great deal of manual labor and time to build. To reduce the amount of time and complexity associated with building a musket Mr. Whitney began building interchangeable parts which certainly improved the changeover times and reduced the need for workers to setup and re-setup with each musket. As a result of these interchangeable parts the assembly or assemble to order concept was created. Along with the design of interchangeable parts Mr. Whitney spent a great deal of time studying the motion of workers and people. Mr. Whitney’s drive and passion for improving things then lead to what we know today as time and motion studies. One might guess that even during the industrial revolution many different forms of waste were revealed.
Reference: "Eli Whitney: Father of American Technology - Fast Facts ... - YouTube." 14 Dec. 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyvxFCMShNQ. Accessed 26 Nov. 2018.