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Lean originated in the Japanese manufacturing industry with Toyota. It’s a tool-based methodology, aimed to do 'more with less' while providing customers with exactly what they want when they want it. Its primary goal is to eliminate non value-adding activities within business processes. These activities absorb resources but create no customer value. After removing non-value adding activities, the remaining value-adding steps are aligned to ensure a continuous process flow, resulting in a higher quality, quicker process execution.

Lean improvement projects follow the following five principles:

  1. Specify Value - define value from the customer's view 
  2. Identify the Value Stream - identify activities which add value
  3. Ensure Process Flow - ensure continuity among all value-creating steps
  4. Establish Product Pull - let customers pull products (made to order) vs. pushing products (made to inventory)
  5. Work to Perfection - use continuous improvement to seek perfection

By pursuing the above five Lean principles, companies reduce their inventory, shorten the time between customer order and delivery and only produce what is actually requested.