Top-5 books for lean manufacturing enthusiasts

15 Mar 2023

A plant is a complex ecosystem with hundreds of processes and situations. Managing those, especially in a way that brings constant improvements, can be quite tedious and sometimes even scary. 

And the best way to combat that fear is by borrowing some ideas from the library of knowledge and other managers, who delivered outstanding results. 

That’s why we have prepared a list of recommended books by and for our colleagues to get an impression about industrial and manufacturing processes.

Today, we share our top-5 books, which were recommended by OLSOM VP of Operations and Business Development Manager, Alexander Gats. Note that, although some titles in the list are quite old, the information cited there is still relevant today and could be used when managing modern plants.

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and  Jeff Cox

The goal: A process of ongoing improvement book cover

Written by a former plant manager, The Goal shutters and defies the stereotype about a “boring business development book”. It’s written in a fast-paced and exciting manner, and uses layman’s terms to present an unorthodox approach to improving competitive advantage. 

In this book, Goldbratt outlines his most prominent philosophical principle, when it comes to manufacturing excellence: Theory of Constraints (ToC) and its fundamental principles, that allow you to see the entire manufacturing process and a host of smaller sub-processes, prioritize them, and define the limitations of the system to further eliminate them. 

The most prominent strengths of Goldratt’s philosophy, already discussed briefly, are that his  philosophy is simple and its approach to understanding the whole production system is intuitive, logical, and yet profound. The first edition of the book was issued in 1984, and even in almost 40 years, the ideas are still relevant and applicable to modern manufacturing.

The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer by Jeffrey K. Liker

The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer book cover

Toyota isn’t just a well-known giant of the automotive industry, it’s a symbol of high-quality and reliability that spans through time. This book, written by Jeffrey K. Liker, a professor of industrial and operations engineering at the University of Michigan, can give you insights into the manufacturing process.

The Toyota Way explains how you can adopt its main managing principles known as the “Toyota Production System” or “Lean Production” to improve the speed of your business processes, improve product and service quality, and cut costs, regardless in what industry you work.

The book has a visible structure that the reader can use to zoom in on topics of interest. Fourteen principles are stated upfront, and then a chapter is devoted to each of these principles. This book is a good read based on intimate knowledge, and will be a good pick for anyone involved with lean, and particularly to managers and engineers in the auto parts industry.

Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones

Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation book cover

If you want to get into the basics of Toyota Production System (TPS), also known as Lean manufacturing, there’s no better place to start than this book. Lean manufacturing principles have been applied in factories and corporations all around the world, and even Jeff Bezos mentioned this book as one of his influential readings!

Lean Thinking provides the guidebook into how many manufacturing companies across the world move into a lean production environment. As you get a deeper understanding of lean this book still provides continual surprises as you can begin to see what tools they are using and when to help them with the transition.

Inside the Mind of Toyota: Management Principles for Enduring Growth by Satoshi Hino

Inside the Mind of Toyota: Management Principles for Enduring Growth book cover

If you’re as interested in the philosophy behind Lean manufacturing as in its practical implications, this book is a great read. Inside the Mind of Toyota is a book that you’ll return again and re-read once in a while, or use it as a reference for specific facts and in-depth analysis. 

It is a great companion to The Toyota Way. The messages of both books are the same: To understand Toyota’s success you must delve deeply into the underlying management principles and culture. If you want facts, figures, charts, and graphs that give you a detailed analysis and factual accounting.

The Lean Manufacturing Pocket Handbook by Kenneth W. Dailey

The Lean Manufacturing Pocket Handbook book coverMy final recommendation is the Lean Manufacturing Pocket Handbook. The title is self-explanatory: it’s a perfect read for those who are only starting to get into the world of Lean Manufacturing.

It’s written by Kenneth W. Dailey, a degreed Industrial Engineer with more than twenty years of manufacturing experience in fields as diverse as Circuit Cards, Electromechanical Assemblies, Machine Shops and Sheet Metal Fabrication. His straightforward, common language and simple writing style easily lends itself to a wide spectrum of readers and explains complex concepts of Lean manufacturing in an easy and engaging way.





Stay tuned for more book recommendations on how to efficiently manage enterprises on a way towards Industry4.0!