For factory managers immersing themselves in the lean philosophy, there’s no shortage of books to read. Unfortunately, many of them read like textbooks. They have superb concepts and do a fantastic job of teaching those ideas. But they sometimes fall short of bridging concept and application.
For learners seeking a more practical reading approach, we’ve compiled a reading list that takes lean concepts one step further, delivering practical examples and thought-provoking questions. If you’re learning the ways of lean manufacturing and haven’t read them already, these five books deserve a place on your shelf.
- The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer. While textbooks do a great job of teaching the language, tactics, and methodologies of lean, this book harkens back to its roots: a concept called just-in-time (JIT) production. It does a tremendous job of explaining where lean came from, how it was originally put to work, and how it evolved into what it is today. It covers everything from the development of lean systems to the magic behind lean culture — all focused around Toyota, the driving force behind lean in the late 1950s.
- Outbound Air: Levels of Work in Organizational Structure. This book does a great job of helping readers understand the organizational structure of a business and how lean concepts fit into it. The book particularly focuses on time and project management. It’s also a great read for developing company culture. The story-style narrative is easy to follow and poses thought-provoking questions that’ll keep readers engaged and constantly thinking. At 230 pages, it’s a relatively quick read, too.
- All I Need to Know About Manufacturing I Learned in Joe’s Garage: World Class Manufacturing Made Simple. Few books are able to take complex lean practices and philosophies and break them down as simply as this book does. It doesn’t so much teach lean concepts as it does train your brain to think about things from a lean point of view. It’s a lighthearted read that might make you laugh out loud a few times — but when you’re done, you’ll look at manufacturing in a whole new light.
- Andy & Me: Crisis & Transformation on the Lean Journey. It may be fiction, but this book is a superb teaching tool for learning how to communicate the benefits of lean to those who may not understand them or who are unwilling to accept them. The author is no slouch, either! Pascal Dennis is the author of four books about lean concepts — all of which have won the Shingo Prize for outstanding research in the field of operational excellence. This book is an engaging read with lessons learned on every read-through.
- The Lean Mindset: Ask the Right Questions. Implementing leaner manufacturing is one part understanding the concepts and one part visualizing them in your workplace. This book helps with the latter concept. Learning how to ask the right questions is a cornerstone in implementing lean philosophies to their fullest. This book provides tips on how to change your thought process and your approach to identifying problems, setbacks, barriers, and waste.
All of these books are relatively light reading and a great departure from some of the dry textbooks associated with lean manufacturing. If you’re looking for something more engaging that’ll deliver just as much insight, give one (or all!) of them a read.