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How to Get Started on Your Lean Journey

Toyota Plant Application
Posted: January 08, 2024
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By now, you have probably heard us talk about our lean management system, or Toyota’s lean journey, and how we strive to continually improve our processes and eliminate waste with 5s. If you aren’t familiar with the 5s process, take a look at our blog post “Toyota Lean Management and 5s”. But the question may remain – “How can I get started on my lean journey?”

Foundation for Success

For lean management, respect for people and empowering people are the key building blocks for success. The employees of an organization lie at the heart of your company’s lean management success. They are the ones that inspire change, come up with solutions, and work to reduce waste. If a company doesn’t believe in the value of its employees and support them, then the processes that connect everything together break.

Visual Management

Make sure you work on things that you can see when you first start your lean journey. If you see the change, you can start to understand the impact it is making. Start with something simple that could make a noticeable impact on you or your company. You could even start with your desk workspace. While this seems like a small start, getting in the habit of practicing the 5s process can be helpful as you move on to larger, more impactful projects. Once you’re comfortable implementing the 5s methodology, it’s time to move on to the next step, standardizing your work. This means that everything has a place, that everything goes in its place, and that you have clear operating procedures to follow. You will want everyone in your organization to understand what is required for tasks, which can help reduce mistakes and costly downtime.

Pillars of Lean Management

As you move along your lean journey, you will need to focus on the two key pillars of TLM – Jidoka and Just-in-Time (JIT).


Jidoka can be loosely translated to mean “automation with a human touch”. This means that when a problem occurs, associates should immediately stop so that no other product is damaged or defective. At Toyota, when one part of our assembly line has an issue, everything stops. This allows us to pinpoint the issue and track any inventory that may have been affected.


Just-in-Time means that each process produces only what is needed, to keep the flow of the process consistent and constantly moving. For Toyota’s assembly line, specific parts are delivered on time, in real time, and only the parts that are needed to complete a process are delivered.

Never Stop Improving

A cornerstone of your lean journey will be kaizen, which means “continuous improvement.” One thing to keep in mind is that your lean journey will never be “complete”. There will always be something you can improve, make better, or adjust to eliminate waste. This is especially true because your business is constantly changing. Make sure that after you have started your lean journey, you continually look for ways to make yourself and your company run more efficiently – this is how you execute kaizen.


Toyota Forklift dealers are ready and willing to help you implement Toyota Lean Management in your operation. Watch the video below to learn how Toyota Forklifts of Atlanta started their lean journey, and how Toyota dealers can help you begin your lean journey.


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