10 Best Lean Books Ever Written

We rank the lean manufacturing book based on tools, popularity, industry awards and endorsements from lean leaders and the result are the best lean books.

Do You Need Some Lean Books?

Lean thinking concept has been adopted by companies of all sizes in virtually all industries, from manufacturing industry to the retailing industry, service industry and even in the hospital. Because it focuses on improving quality, how information and materials flow and it provides principles to create value and a roadmap for organizational transformation.

Lean thinking concept is the result of a 5-year study about how Toyota Motor Japan (which is now considered the world's greatest manufacturer) transform their company using Toyota Production System. The study was conducted by James P Womack at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The word "lean" was used to describe the manufacturing process without the 7 wastes (also known as Muda such as waiting, overproduction, transportation, inappropriate processing, unnecessary inventory, unnecessary motion or unnecessary movement and quality issues or defects) which enabled Toyota to respond to the market and reduce the cost more effectively. Today lean thinking concept is behind the innovation to create radically successful businesses around the world. Even Steve Jobs was inspired by the lean concept when he visited many factories in Japan.

The Ranking of Lean Books

We are requested by a reader who is a new lean manager to suggest good books to learn lean and develop a lean culture. In order to recommend the good book to read,

- First, we search for books about lean manufacturing, books about Toyota Production System, lean thinking, six sigma and lean six sigma on Amazon.com, Goodreads.com, LinkedIn.com, News Sites and blogs related to lean manufacturing. The idea is to check how often the books are mentioned to determine overall popularity.

- After that, we remove out-of-print and obsolete books from the list.

- Then, we group the books based on each lean tool, namely, Basic Concept, Kaizen and Continuous Improvement, Value Stream Mapping, A3 Reporting, Statistics, Single Minute Exchange of Die, Workforce Management, 5S, Mistake Proofing and Lean Accounting (please note that we don't include books about minor concepts such as lean product development, process development, lean software development and lean analytics.)

- We check if each book gets positive reviews or industry awards.

- After that, we check if each book gets strong endorsements from business leaders such as top management of lean organizations, top management of Fortune 500 companies, leading lean experts and lean manager on Amazon.com and in the "forward" section of the book.

- Finally, choose the best books based on each lean tool.

The List of Lean Books are as below:

  1. The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer by Jeffrey K. Liker (Basic Toyota Production System Concept)

  2. Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy by Masaaki Imai (Kaizen and Continuous Improvement)

  3. Value Stream Mapping: How to Visualize Work and Align Leadership for Organizational Transformation by Karen Martin and Mike Osterling (Value Stream Mapping - VSM)

  4. Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System by Durward Sobek II and Art Smalley (A3 Reporting)

  5. Statistics for Six Sigma Made Easy! by Warren Brussee (Statistics)

  6. Quick Changeover for Operators: The SMED System by Shigeo Shingo (Single Minute Exchange of Die - SMED)

  7. Taiichi Ohnos Workplace Management by Taiichi Ohnos (Workforce Management)

  8. 5S for Operators: 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace by Hiroyuki Hirano (5S)

  9. Zero Quality Control: Source Inspection and the Poka-Yoke System by Shigeo Shingo (Mistake Proofing)

  10. Real Numbers: Management Accounting in a Lean Organization by Jean E. Cunningham and Orest Fiume (Lean Accounting)

Do you like lean books on this list?

- Womack, J. P., Womack, J. P., Jones, D. T., & Roos, D. (1990). Machine that changed the world. Simon and Schuster.

- Pavnaskar, S. J., Gershenson, J. K., & Jambekar, A. B. (2003). Classification scheme for lean manufacturing tools. International Journal of Production Research, 41(13), 3075-3090.

Last review and update: April 20, 2019

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About the Editor
Ben Benjabutr is the editor of SupplyChainOpz. He holds an M.Sc. in Logistics Management with 10+ years of experience in various functions in supply chain magement. In his free time, he enjoys reading business and management books. You can connect with him via Twitter, and Quora or drop him a line via e-mail.