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Frank George Woollard: forgotten pioneer of flow production

M.L. Emiliani (Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut, USA)
P.J. Seymour (Vicarys of Battle Ltd, Battle, UK)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 11 January 2011




The purpose of this paper is to introduce management historians to the long‐forgotten work of Frank George Woollard (1883‐1957), who in the mid‐1920s established flow production in the British motor industry, and its remarkable similarity to current‐day production principles and practices used by Toyota Motor Corporation, also known as lean production.


Overview of Frank Woollard's life and work obtained from newly discovered journal papers, his 1954 book, Principles of Mass and Flow Production, newly discovered archives, and new first‐hand testimony from a close friend and from a long‐time family friend.


Frank Woollard was a pioneer in the establishment of flow production in the British motor industry in the mid‐1920s and the principal developer of automatic transfer machinery. His accomplishments are comparable to Taiichi Ohno, regarded as the architect of Toyota's production system.

Research limitations/implications

Woollard's accomplishments in flow production are a fruitful area for future research given the speed and completeness with which flow production was established at Morris Motors Ltd, Engines Branch. Newly discovered papers describing his flow production system have yet to be studied in detail by academics.

Practical implications

Woollard's application of flow production beginning in 1923 means that timelines for discoveries and attributions of key accomplishments in lean management must be reexamined and revised.


Woollard's work fills important gaps in the literature on the history of flow production generally and in the British motor industry in particular. His work constitutes an early application of current‐day lean principles and practices, and is therefore noteworthy and relevant to management historians and the operations and production management community. It is hoped that this paper will inspire management historians to study Woollard's work and place him in the context of other early twentieth‐century pioneers in industrial management and flow production.



Emiliani, M.L. and Seymour, P.J. (2011), "Frank George Woollard: forgotten pioneer of flow production", Journal of Management History, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 66-87.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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