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Lean Series—Basics of Lean

John M. Gross, P.E, CQE, CSSBB

Course Outline

This one hour online course provides an overview of the concepts of the Lean Enterprise.  The term ‘lean’ was first used by Jim Womack and Daniel T. Jones in their book ‘Lean Thinking’ to describe the improvement activities pioneered by the Toyota Motor Company.  The authors created this term because this new way does more and more with less and less.  Over time the definition of lean has evolved into being considered a business philosophy for pursuing business excellence based on continuous improvement and respect for people.  Lean differentiates itself from other business philosophies by focusing on the elimination of waste vs. process improvement.  .

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

At the conclusion of this course, the student will:

Intended Audience

This course is intended for all engineers, architects, and land surveyors.

Benefit to Attendees

The Basics of Lean training package is the first element of the Lean Overview Series.   This series provides an overview of lean tools and techniques for Engineers, Architects and Land Surveyors to help them participate more effectively in lean enterprise activities. 

Each element of the Lean Overview Series provides a basic understanding of a lean tool or technique to help students develop a working knowledge of the concept and its purpose in a lean enterprise journey.  The series starts with foundational elements and progresses to intermediate and advanced lean concepts.  Each topic also provides references for additional study if the student is interested.  Figure 1 illustrates the Lean Overview Series.

Organization Chart

Course Introduction

The one hour Basic of Lean Course discusses the history of lean from its birth at Toyota Motor Company to its world wide emergence in the 1970’s.  The course presents an overview of the 5 principles of lean:  Precisely specify value by specific product, Identify the Value Stream for each product, Make value flow without interruption, Let the customer pull value from the producer, and Pursue perfection.  The course wraps up with a discussion on the mindset and elements of a successful lean transformation.

Course Content

This course is in the following PDF document:

Lean Series—Basics of Lean

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Course Summary

The term ‘lean’ describes the improvement activities pioneer by the Toyota Motor Company.  Lean refers to the ability to do more and more with less and less.  Lean should be considered as a business philosophy for pursuing business excellence based on continuous improvement and respect for people.   The lean philosophy applies throughout an organization’s entire value stream and beyond--spanning from their supplier’s supplier to their customer’s customer.

Lean differentiates itself from other business philosophies by focusing on the elimination of waste vs. process improvement.  This approach leverages the fact that most processes contain 95 % wasted activities and that the people working in those processes are best suited to identifying and eliminating these wasteful activities.  Implied in this philosophy is that the manager’s role is to provide these workers support in the form of tools, training, assistance in removing obstacles, mentoring and coaching.  (Hence the two pronged focus on continuous improvement tools and People.)

Many people who are new to lean and have not participated in a lean transformation confuse the tools (flow events, 5S, SMED, Kanbans, etc.) with the philosophies of lean.  The elements of lean can be summarized by five principles that were identified by Jim Womack and Daniel T. Jones in their book ‘Lean Thinking’.
Although many books exist to help people gain knowledge about lean strategies and tools, no ‘cookbook’ exists for an organization to implement lean.  Each organization must determine their own path in the lean journey if they are to be successful.  To that end, successful organizations in the lean journey will look at these specifics as specifications (or boundaries) that need to be met or challenged.  

Additionally, the organization contemplating lean programs must start to think in longer timeframes and recognize that lean is a journey.   Improvement paradigms need to change from:  ‘Doing it perfectly the first time and getting the full result’ to ‘It will take multiple passes through the value stream to really recognize and eliminate waste’.  Adopting this new paradigm also requires a change in thought process to sustaining the gains achieved and to recognizing problems as opportunities for improvement.  A successful lean transformation will require recognition that it is a never ending journey of improvement which pays off in breakthrough levels of safety, quality, delivery, cost and growth performance.


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.