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Chet Marchwinski
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Lean Education Academic Network (LEAN) Advances Lean Thinking in
Universities and Colleges

Brookline, Mass., Jan. 17, 2006 –  — While lean is the prominent improvement focus throughout manufacturing and increasingly all business fields, ranging from healthcare to retail, on the campuses of many colleges and universities, lean hardly appears in undergraduate or graduate curricula and faculty fail or are hesitant to teach the principles that business is embracing. That may change as lean-minded professors have joined forces with the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) to form the Lean Education Academic Network (LEAN), educators dedicated to implementing and continuously improving lean education in academia.

At the inaugural LEAN meeting last year at The Ohio State University, professors and lean-thought leaders sought to better define the current state of lean in academia (quite diverse, even among universities with lean curricula) and envisioned an improved future state. “The current state of lean teaching is very similar to the current state of lean implementation out in industry — some islands of excellence, but a huge sea of opportunity,” says Helen Zak, COO of LEI. “A lot of people trying to do the right thing, but in isolation.”

Initial objectives from the first LEAN gathering were to develop a database for sharing teaching materials so that professors would be less reluctant to incorporate lean into curricula and to research what businesses were looking for in lean graduates. Subsequently, LEAN developed a new website  — www.teachinglean.org  — where professors can register with the network, and where a growing database resides that points professors to articles, books, simulations, etc. The LEAN Voice of the Customer project is currently soliciting feedback from manufacturing, service, banking, and healthcare companies that are lean or have deployed systems thinking.

The second LEAN gathering, at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), Los Angeles, on Jan. 20-21, promises to push forward more initiatives to grow lean’s academic presence, and it includes presentations by:

  • John Shook, member of the LEI faculty and coauthor of Learning to See: Value-Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate Waste (1999, LEI).
  • Phillip Farrington and Gregory Harris from University of Alabama in Huntsville, who successfully have been integrating lean principles into existing classes rather than altering curriculum.
  • Faculty from the Lean Aerospace Initiative Education Network.

To read more about the work underway by LEAN, go to

The Lean Education Academic Network (LEAN) is a group of university educators dedicated to the task of implementing lean education in U.S. higher academia, as well as continuous improvement of lean education in the classroom through sharing of knowledge and teaching materials, collaboration, and networking among colleagues. LEAN seeks to engage leaders from industry and academe in developing new approaches to teaching university students lean thinking. We believe that the test of success is the number of students exposed to lean thinking and the extent to which our students are prepared to contribute to lean implementations across all enterprise functions. LEAN Steering Committee consists of Peter Ward, The Ohio State University, Bohdan “Bo” W. Oppenheim, Loyola Marymount University; William Parr, University of Tennessee; Art Hill, University of Minnesota; Joachim Knuf, University of Kentucky; Ross Robson, Utah State University; and Helen Zak, COO of LEI.  LEAN, 600 Fisher Hall, 2100 Neil Ave.,Columbus, OH 43210, Phone: 614-688-5891, Fax: 614-292-1272, www.teachinglean.org .

The Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit training, publishing, and research center founded by James P. Womack PhD, in August 1997 to give people simple but powerful tools that enable them to apply a set of ideas known as lean production and lean thinking, based initially on the Toyota Production System. The institute’s global mission is to be the leading educator for maximizing value and minimizing waste. To accomplish this goal, LEI develops and advances lean principles, tools, and techniques designed to enable positive change. LEI disseminates this knowledge with the lean community through books and workbooks, public and on-site training, its web site, and global affiliates. For more information visit the LEI News page at http://www.lean.org/WhoWeAre/LEINews.cfm.