The Blogsmith

Lean Manufacturing Blogs

August 31, 2007

Lean Manufacturing is not about cars anymore. Lean is becoming popular in all kinds of industries, including label converting. Label & Narrow Web just started a column last issue devoted to this very topic. So I thought we should explore what is being discussed about Lean in the blogosphere. To my pleasant surprise there is a wealth of information online about Lean practices, with my research uncovering more than 25 blogs devoted to the topic. Here is what I consider the top five blogs about Lean Manufacturing.

Lean Printing (

I will start with my fellow columnist, Tom Southworth, who writes about the subject in this magazine. The Lean Printing blog's tagline is "committed to continual improvement of printing and the graphic arts", and it is the only blog that is dedicated to the application of Lean principles to the printing industry. Tom began the blog in June but already he has written more than 80 posts.

This is a very practical blog; it does not provide just a theoretical discussion of Lean. Tom provides advice that you can really bring in to your organization. A recent post titled "Measuring Prepress Productivity" dealt with expanding your "Lean thinking" from not just the shop floor but to all areas of your business. Another recent post titled "Profits are the Wrong Metric" put forward the interesting hypothesis that by focusing only on profits, manufacturing companies are not reaching their potential.

Panta Rei (

Panta Rei is the corporate blog of Gemba Research, a leading consulting and training company on Lean Manufacturing. "Panta Rei" is an ancient Greek phrase meaning "everything changes" or "everything flows". I like the tag line of this blog, "a blog about better ways to make things better"; it is a neat encapsulation of the goals of Lean thinking. Jon Miller, the author of the blog and CEO of Gemba Research, has been writing the blog for almost four years now.

The Toyota Production System (TPS), where Lean Manufacturing got its start, is prominently featured on the Panta Rei blog. There are regular posts about TPS as well as kaizen - the Japanese term meaning continuous improvement that has become synonymous with Lean Manufacturing and the TPS. This blog seems geared towards larger companies but there is plenty of great content here for everyone.

Evolving Excellence (

The Evolving Excellence blog provides "thoughts on Lean enterprise leadership from the editors of Superfactory", and is another well established blog dating back to 2004. Superfactory is really a Lean Manufacturing portal with a huge number of articles (categorized under 44 different topics), a newsletter, calendar of events, bookstore, and glossary. The Evolving Excellence blog is just part of the Lean Manufacturing content they provide.

Nearly every post on this blog deals with a specific company and the Lean Manufacturing challenges they are facing. They are ready to criticize the big corporations who claim to be "going Lean", but they also explain how they should be doing it. It is not all criticism, though. I enjoyed a recent post about how a steel wire manufacturer was able to not just survive but thrive amid stiff global competition through Lean Manufacturing.

The Lean Blog (

The simply named Lean Blog is one of the most prolific blogs out there on Lean Manufacturing. The Lean Blog was started by Mark Graban in January 2005, but now there are a team of about 10 different writers. There are detailed posts almost every day dealing with the various challenges of Lean Manufacturing.

Recent posts dealt with the problems of implementing Lean practices - the top reason was the lack of commitment from upper management. There is plenty of discussion about China and the recent manufacturing problems that have been well documented. This blog blames the American companies here for laziness and encouraging a wasteful system with huge recalls - an example of anti-Lean practices.

Curious Cat (

The focus of the Curious Cat blog is on management improvement. Specifically it focuses on the ideas of W. Edwards Deming, the statistician and management consultant widely credited for helping to jumpstart the Japanese manufacturing industry after World War II. It is another well established blog with over three years of posts.

This blog is a bit more general than the others here, because it is not just focused on Lean Manufacturing but on Lean management. Most of the posts here describe what a company needs to do to adopt management improvement practices. But there are also plenty of posts heralding companies who have great Lean management - recent examples discuss management practices at Google, Toyota and Amazon.

Peter Renton is the founder of Lightning Labels Inc., an all-digital label printer in Denver, CO, USA. He is the author of the company's blog, at
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