Lean Production

The original form of the lean revolution in production systems, developed in the 1940s at Toyota’s factory in Japan, under the direction of Taiichi Ohno. It maintained low backup stocks of parts and finished goods, and that forced the whole productive process to develop rapid reactions and to achieve very low rates of error. This in turn meant that workers had responsibility for taking timely decisions in response to local circumstances, forestalling errors rather than waiting for them to happen.

Since then, lean production has evolved into the more broadly-based system of management called lean thinking, the guiding principle of Lean Logic. It is important, however, to note two qualifications to this.

First, Lean Logic’s application of lean thinking to the question of how to survive the closing down of the market economy is a considerable stretch from the original vision, and sometimes the strain shows (as discussed in Lean Thinking). The use of the concept in Lean Logic may stray from the lean thinking which industrial practitioners and teachers of lean thinking would recognise.L178

Secondly, the application of lean production in industry varies from place to place, and some are far from being a model for our future society. For example, lean production’s precision and synchronised timing has in some places been coupled with ruthless treatment of the participating workers. The value of lean production and the lean thinking that came out of it is to be found in its insights, and not always in its commercial practice.L179


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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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