"Lean and mean manufacturing"


Lean and mean manufacturing – 9/26/2006 – Modern Materials Handling

When I see “mean” in a headline, it's strange… I would expect that to be negative article, but this article is positive and pretty accurate.

“Most people think of lean as a system designed to keep inventory and waste to a minimum. While that's true, the whole point of lean is to be extraordinarily customer-focused and responsive. Reduced inventory, lead times, paperwork and errors are a by-product of a system focused on the end-customer.”

Not a bad definition. The lean methods they mention in the article are all solid. They don't talk about the culture or management practices, other than allowing workers to stop the line when a quality problem occurs.

Why would you say “mean” in a positive article? That blows me away. There's nothing positive about “mean” right?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Perhaps it’s cultural, i’ve definitely no problem with something bein lean and mean.
    Isn’t the george foreman the “lean, mean, grilling machine”? Its a common phrase.

  2. Hi All,

    It’s a simple answer…


    They needed a headline that would grab attention. Rhyming works and of course there is the “Lean Mean Fighting Machine” and George Foreman’s “Lean Mean Grilling Machine” and etc.

    I’m surprised we don’t find more references to “Lean Mean” when it is such an easy phrase to copy. Don’t worry about the content of the article; just make sure they read the headline ; – )

    Some rotten bosses have certainly used Lean in a mean way, but generally I think the rhyme appeal gets us all of these “mean” titles.


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