Although the Lean strategies have been mostly adopted by automotive and other manufacturing type of industries the tools can be applied by many other types of organizations. Here are some examples:
Lean is about more than just cutting costs in the factory. One crucial insight is that most costs are assigned when a product is designed. Often an engineer will specify familiar, safe materials and processes rather than inexpensive, efficient ones. This reduces project risk, that is, the cost to the engineer, while increasing financial risks, and decreasing profits. Good organizations develop and review checklists to review product designs.
Companies must often look beyond the shop-floor to find opportunities for improving overall company cost and performance. At the system engineering level, requirements are reviewed with marketing and customer representatives to eliminate costly requirements. Shared modules may be developed, such as multipurpose power-supplies or shared mechanical components or fasteners. Requirements are assigned to the cheapest discipline. For example, adjustments may be moved into software, and measurements away from a mechanical solution to an electronic solution. Another approach is to choose connection or power-transport methods that are cheap or that used standardized components that become available in a competitive market.
Lean and Toyota Production System (TPS) concepts have also been applied successfully in software development. In software engineering the process begins with a requirement review, to eliminate unnecessary requirements, and substitute mechanical and electrical components with software. Software generally has a lower per-component cost than other disciplines, especially in the large production runs typical of a lean product. The design then attempts to eliminate costly software components, especially those that are purchased. Lean in the Software industry is quite similar to Agile software development - some of which explicitly state TPS as a source of inspiration, including Scrum and Extreme Programming (XP).
One of the recent trends in healthcare has been the application of lean principles to improving patient care and reducing medical errors. The Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative has been one of the leaders in applying lean and Toyota Production System methods in hospitals. Steve Spear, formerly of Harvard, and now with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, has written multiple Harvard Business Review articles on applying the "Toyota DNA" to healthcare settings.
Lean approach requires commitment of the organization as a whole. A small percentage of organizations are able to achieve and maintain Lean strategy, but those who do are able to reach levels of excellence that others can't. Just like an Olympic ahlete,for an organization to be fit and Lean requires dedication and discipline.