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The Struggling Dev
The Struggling Dev

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AToASLDO - Lean Manufacturing & No DevOps

This post was supposed to be about lean manufacturing & DevOps and what their relation is. Because I suck at writing :), this post is just about lean manufacturing - kinda.

Lean Manufacturing / Toyota Production System

Lean is a term that is often used without much distinction. But there are different flavors of lean that, while they have some common ground, are not exactly the same and have different goals. This post will not concern itself with lean management, strategy, ..., but with lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing is the oldest/original flavor of lean. Some people say lean manufacturing itself was born from the Toyota Production System, others say it's just another name for the TPS. No matter the case, it seems save to say that the Toyota Production System is where lean manufacturing started.

The Toyota Production System was born out of the need Toyota had to produce many models of cars in small numbers. The common way of mass-producing cars and leveraging economics of scale was not possible for Toyota. In the 1940s Taiichi Ono started developing a different approach to car production that would later on become known as the Toyota Production System.

The Core Tenants of the TPS

... are just-in-time production and autonomation.

Just-in-time production means that we just produce as much as is needed. A work center in a moving assembly line gets the parts it needs from the previous work center. This is called the pull principle, work is pulled, not pushed. The previous work center then produces exactly the amount that was taken.

Autonomation (automation with a human touch). Applying the human touch means, to infuse human intelligence into automation. This can be done by a machine that detects when it creates defective parts and automatically stops itself. The same way, a human worker should stop a machine when he notices a problem.

Just-in-time production has a few consequences that need dealing with. If work centers produce only what is taken, there is no large inventory. If no large inventory exists, it is essential that work flows without large changes in pace or volume.

"Establishing the Flow is the Basic Condition"

The main goal of the TPS is to establish a continuous flow of value to the customer. Working in small batches is one of the ways to achieve this, the smaller batches are the more predictable they are. The continuous attention to and reduction of waste is an important part of the TPS as well. Ono divides the work that is done into multiple categories.

  • Value-added work: this is work that the customer is willing to pay for. E.g. adding an engine to a car
  • Non-value-added work: work that must be done, but does not add value. E.g. unpacking the engine from a crate, or work in HR
  • waste: work that is not needed at all.

Ono defines seven types of waste (inspired by the seven deadly sins? Doubt he was Christian).

  • Waste of overproduction
  • Waste of time on hand (waiting)
  • Waste in transportation
  • Waste of processing itself
  • Waste of stock on hand (inventory)
  • Waste of movement
  • Waste of making defective products

The waste of overproduction is the most severe of the bunch, because it helps hide other types of waste. Additionally, it leads ot other types of waste. Excess product has to be stored (inventory), moved from and to a warehouse (one might even have to built) and must be tended to o that it does not deprecate in value. Therefore, continuous attention to reducing waste is central.


Many developers who practice Scrum know the kanban board. In its original form a kanban is 'just' a tag that provides information about a process, or an action at the place where it's needed. This can be a little card that is attached to cart that is used to transport parts from one work center to another. On the cart would be noted what kind of part and how many parts are necessary for the next work center.

There's More

... to the TPS. But I want to come to an end for now. The next part will be about DevOps and the relation its relationship with lean manufacturing.

The Struggle

When I started this blog my intention was to not only write (hopefully) useful posts, but to also show with what I struggled during my projects, ... - kind of a look behind the scenes. By far the biggest struggle so far has been writing the posts themselves. I don't know how many drafts I wrote for this one. I changed direction so many times. A few started with the history of cars, the different approaches of manufacturing them so that the reason for why the Toyota Production System was developed would be more clear. Other drafts eschewed these parts totally and just focused on a small introduction, and a comparison between lean manufacturing and DevOps. In the end this is what I'll publish in a few minutes. Because it was the best version? Nah, probably not - they all suck. But in the spirit of small batch sizes, fast iteration/feedback loops and failing fast, I wanted to get something out of the door.

I hope I didn't waste too many people's time and thank all of you who might've read so far. Any criticism, tips, ... is/are much appreciated.

Take care and keep on struggling.

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