Agile Vs. Lean Manufacturing – a side by side comparison

Lean manufacturing

As a business owner, understanding the difference between lean vs agile manufacturing can help you to become more efficient in your daily operations. The biggest issue is that many people use lean and agile in a way that makes you think these practices are identical. 

While there are certainly similarities between lean manufacturing and agile manufacturing, you’ll want to learn the key principles of each to find the right solution for your business. Keep reading to discover more about lean vs agile manufacturing and how both schools of thought came to be.

Toyota and Lean

When working in the manufacturing industry, you’ll know that lean and agile are both popular tools to help make your processes more efficient.

Lean manufacturing was first developed by Toyota from 1948 to 1975. Toyota lean manufacturing focuses on reducing waste efficiently and using resources wisely while also respecting your employees. The Toyota Production System soon became known as lean manufacturing and is now used in a wide variety of industries around the world.

On the other hand, agile manufacturing is a much newer methodology. In 2001, a team of software engineers was hoping to find a better way to develop software. Upon gathering in a ski lodge in Utah, they created the Agile Manifesto, which aimed to uncover the best ways to develop software.

While it was originally designed for this use, agile manufacturing refers to the application of these ideas to the manufacturing sector.

Do Agile and Lean Have the Same Goals?

The reason that so many people get agile and lean manufacturing mixed up is that they both have a similar focus. Their aim is to create more value, but the approach to doing this is what sets the two methodologies apart.

Lean manufacturing strives to create more value for customers by reducing the company’s waste. You’ll find that waste is broken down into eight different categories, including: transport, motion, inventory, over-processing, overproduction, waiting, unused talent, and defects.

By finding a way to reduce wastage in all of these areas, businesses can offer better results for their customers.

Agile manufacturing also focuses on increasing value for the customer, but it does this by responding quickly to any changes in the environment. We all know that the world is changing at a rapid pace, with customers constantly demanding more and more. Agile encourages manufacturers to be flexible, open to new technology, and adaptable when it comes to overcoming challenges. By finding a way to reduce wastage in all of these areas, businesses can offer better results for their customers.

lean manufacturing

The Principles of Lean vs Agile

Lean and agile manufacturing use a different set of principles in order to reach their end goal. Toyota lean manufacturing uses just-in-time production, Heijunka, Jidoka, Kaizen, and standardized work. 

  • Just-in-time production encourages companies to only produce what is needed and with the right quantities.
  • Jidoka focuses on automation which still requires a human touch, whereas
  • Heijunka encourages equal production levels over a fixed time period.
  • Standardized work manufacturers can establish procedures for every operator.
  • Kaizen encourages change for the better and continuous improvement.

As agile manufacturing is more focused on the value they are offering the customers, you’ll find that this methodology focuses on responding quickly to changes. This is done through:

  • Flexibility
  • Rapid iterations
  • Bottom-up innovation
  • Cross-functional collaboration

By developing smaller pieces that offer value at more frequent intervals, you can easily make changes and adjustments to improve processes. Agile manufacturing encourages companies to give power to employees at all levels, allowing everyone to be involved with problem-solving. Lean manufacturing takes a similar approach but encourages employees to focus on one problem at a time

There are many similarities between the two manufacturing methodologies, but these key differences can help you to decide which would be the best solution for your business. Both of these methodologies have their pros and cons, so it’s all about finding the solution that fits your business best. You may find that you take ideas from both manufacturing options to find a way of working that suits your company.

There are many similarities between the two manufacturing methodologies — but these key differences can help you to decide which would be the best solution for your business. Both of these methodologies have their pros and cons, so it’s all about finding the solution that fits your business best. 

You may find that you take ideas from both manufacturing options to find a way of working that suits your company.


To help you improve your business operations, Azumuta offers a SaaS software tool that supports industrial companies and frontline workers in digitizing. We know that this is an important part of either methodology, and we’ll be here to support you with audits, quality control, and real-time feedback in the future. Contact our team today for more information and to discuss how we can help you to meet your business goals this year.

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