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What is Lean Logistics?

Knut Fredrik Ramstad | 12. Nov 2019
4 minutes read

Lean Thinking is a business methodology that originated in the Japanese automotive industry during the late 1980s. The core idea is to maximize customer value while eliminating waste from all processes. Simply put, Lean means creating more value for your customers with fewer resources.


Lean logistics defined

In the logistics sector, being lean is simply a way to recognize and eliminate wasteful activities from the supply chain. The goal is to increase product flow and speed. This concept is known as Lean Logistics and has become a popular term in supply chain management. 

Lean Logistics is all about improving operations at all levels and optimizing the supply chain by reducing waste, which is important for supply chain control. This is achieved through better inventory and material management, and by eliminating unnecessary steps in delivery, such as: 

  • Minimizing stocks / eliminating excess inventory

A lean logistics approach is not a program or short term cost reduction program. It is rather a way of operating to eliminate waste along entire value streams, where the ultimate goal is to  provide a perfect value to the customer.


The four principles of lean logistics

  • Specifying value: Customer value is identified and added along the entire supply chain network.
  • Mapping out value stream: Identifying all processes along the supply chain network in order to eliminate the processes that do not create value to the overall product. Mapping out value stream enables you to identify gaps in your processes.  You get a clear picture of where the delays are, the restrains and excessive inventory. This helps you understand how the value is created into the product, from the customer’s perspective.
  • Creating a product flow: Applying the above factors and making the value-creating steps occur in tight sequence. This will make the product flow smoothly towards the customer, all while minimizing interruptions, inventories and downtime.
  • Establishing customer pull: A pull system is a production or service process that is designed to minimize on-hand inventory by working directly on the basis of customer demand. Goods are delivered as they are required by the customer. This is also known as a “Just in time” system, as it operates just in time in delivering goods when they are needed, instead of accumulating inventory. The pull system requires demand information to be available throughout the supply chain.


Womack, James P., Daniel, T. Jones (1996) Lean Thinking


In order to achieve Lean Logistics, start the above process again and continue until a state of perfection is reached, in which perfect value is created with no waste.



In today’s market, logistics companies are embracing Lean initiatives to uncover and deal with waste and inefficiencies. Implementing Lean Logistics into your business brings significant improvements not only to one specific area of the supply chain, but to the entire value chain as a whole. It enables you to respond to  fast-changing consumer demands with higher quality, lower cost, less need of working capital, and faster throughput times. 

Wondering where to start? Take a look at our paper on cloud solutions to start your journey towards lean logistics! 


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