Whether you’re just starting to learn about lean manufacturing or a seasoned expert, we think these books should be required reading for all lean manufacturers. These recommendations range from the classics that were foundational in the evolution of lean manufacturing to contemporary lean thinkers, from practical guides and workbooks on lean methods to primers on lean management principles–there’s even a thriller-style novel in the mix for good measure.

Below, you can find our picks for the 10 essential books on lean manufacturing.

But first...

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Augmented Lean is a practical management framework developed to provide leading manufacturing executives with a playbook on how to take a human-centric approach to digital transformation within their organizations.

In it, they provide a step-by-step walkthrough of the augmentation framework that shows readers when how, ​why to augment their workforce, as well as concrete strategies on how to scale augmentation methods throughout your operations.

The book is available for purchase beginning in October, 2022, but you can pre-order your copy of Augmented Lean today!

1. The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer

The Toyota Way

By Jeffrey Liker

The Toyota Way was the first piece of lean literature to clearly articulate the source of Toyota’s success to the masses. Rather than instructing readers on the technical aspects of TPS, Dr. Liker focuses on the 14 key business philosophies and management principles that define the Toyota style of management, without which organizations who aim to copy TPS techniques will undoubtedly fail to generate results.

2. The Machine that Changed the World

By James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones

The first book to coin the term “Lean,” The Machine that Changed the World is a thorough account of the triumphs of the Toyota Production System over the prevailing mass-production system of the time. Authors Womack and Jones were the first to articulate the principles of Lean, exhaustively documenting its advantages and the reasons behind Toyota’s success. This book is an essential guide for leaders seeking a successful lean transformation for their organizations.

3. Kaizen Express: Fundamentals for Your Lean Journey

By Toshiko Narusawa and John Shook

Written by John Shook, who learned about lean management while working at Toyota (he became the first American manager in Japan and later became general manager of administration and planning at Toyota’s North American engineering, research, and development center) and helped transfer lean systems from Japan to the rest of the world, Kaizen Express was originally developed as an aid for teaching the essentials of TPS to Japanese readers and non-Japanese readers working together at Japanese factories around the world.

The book guides individuals and teams through the fundamentals of lean principles and implementation, stressing the importance of learning by doing. It includes a glossary of TPS terms and standard forms that can be used to implement TPS at production sites.

4. The Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production

Taiichi Ohno Toyota Production System

By Taiichi Ohno

Written by the Toyota Production System’s primary contributor, Taiichi Ohno, this book provides insight into history and evolution of TPS from the point of view of one of its founders. From the social and economic forces that drove the creation of the TPS to its historical rise, this book allows readers to get inside Ohno’s mind, offering present-day lean thinkers valuable lessons on the philosophy behind the system.

5. Gemba Kaizen

By Masaaki Imai

Masaaki Imai, founder of the Kaizen Institute, illuminates the concept of the gemba, or “the real place,” in this formative lean manufacturing book. Gemba Kaizen reveals how to implement cost-effective, incremental improvements in critical business processes through comprehensive coverage of gemba kaizen concepts, including workplace organization, eliminating muda (waste), visual management, and the roles of management in the lean workplace. The book also includes real-world case studies from a wide range of industries.

6. The Lean Six Sigma Pocket Toolbook

By Michael L. Jones and John Maxey

This compact-yet-comprehensive book is a must-have reference for Lean and Six Sigma tools and concepts. The Lean Six Sigma Pocket Toolbook features summaries and examples of the 70 most important tools in Lean Six Sigma, grouped by purpose and usage–including expert advice on how to determine which tool is best for different purposes.

7. Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation

Lean Thinking by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones

By Daniel Jones & James Womack

From the authors of The Machine That Changed The World, Lean Thinking is a practical follow-up that explains the “how-to” of lean manufacturing. Jones and Womack teach the defining principles that should govern any lean implementation, from defining your business’s value and clarifying the value stream to striving toward perfection by eliminating muda (waste).

8. Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate Muda

The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

By Mike Rother and John Shook

In this workbook, Mike Rother and John Shook (author of Kaizen Express) introduce the tool of value stream mapping–the blueprint for lean transformation–through an easy-to-read, step-by-step instruction manual. The value-stream map represents the flow of material and information that provides managers and executives a picture of the entire production process. Learning to See engages and educates readers of all backgrounds through maps, diagrams and illustrations, and practical case studies.

9. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

By Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox

A must-read for anyone studying production systems, The Goal–set as a fast-paced thriller-style novel–elucidates the importance of defining goals that set organizations on a path to continuous improvement. The Goal follows the story of a plant manager who has 90 days to save his plant from closing–and must break out of his conventional ways of thinking in order to succeed.

10. 2 Second Lean

2 Second Lean by Paul A. Akers

By Paul A. Akers

Author Paul Akers wants you to know that you can improve your workplace, company culture, or life by making 2-second improvements. In 2 Second Lean, Akers outlines his path to transforming the culture of his company, FastCap, from the humble beginning of his lean journey to a success story about training people in a culture of continuous improvement. Akers breaks down his concepts into easily digestible lessons to help readers apply Akers’ learnings to their own organizations.

For more, check out our Complete Lean Manufacturing Guide.

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