The basic definition of “Lean” is manufacturing without waste in order to achieve the best value from a customer’s perspective. Waste ("muda" in Japanese) is characterized in forms such as material, time, idle equipment, and inventory. Although it has recently gained popularity, examples of Lean Processes can be seen as early as the time of Benjamin Franklin. In his publication Poor Richard’s Almanac, he acknowledged that avoiding unnecessary costs could be more profitable than increasing sales when he wrote: “A penny saved is two pence clear. A pin a-day is a groat a-year. Save and have."
As the industrial revolution evolved there were other industrialists that continued developing Lean Processes to increase revenue. Eli Whitney became famous for the invention of the cotton gin. However, the gin was only a minor accomplishment compared to his perfection of interchangeable parts. He developed this idea about 1799 when he took a contract from the U.S. Army to manufacture 10,000 muskets, which at the time were created individually and its parts were not interchangeable.
Factors such as work methods and the individual workers themselves were regarded by few people until Frederick W. Taylor introduced standardization and best practice deployment. In his Principles of Scientific Management, he suggested that any new improvements were to be tested against old standards to determine its effectiveness and adopted as a new standard if found to be superior.
Nevertheless, all the elements of the manufacturing system did not come together until Henry Ford arranged people, machines, tools, and products in an assembly line for the manufacturing of his automobiles. His practices made the automobile affordable because of the reduction of waste achieved by using a production line in which the car was pulled through the shop on a rope, and each operator performed a specialized task as the car moved along. In his publication Today and Tomorrow, Henry Ford states: “...