John was born in South Africa. He graduated with Engineering degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and spent 12 years in industry and local government in South Africa in the areas of project and design engineering, management services, operations research, and operations management. One of his jobs was Chief Solid Waste Engineer, where he was line manager for 1200 people and 400 vehicles. At current prices, the annual budget controlled by this post was over £30m.
John began learning about Lean in 1982 with Toyota in South Africa.
In 1987 he came with his British wife and three boys to live in England and took up a position as Senior Lecturer in Operations Management at the University of Buckingham. He became a Reader in 1990 and was Dean in 1992. His interests are in lean operations, both in service and manufacturing. Becoming ‘lean’, he believes, should be a priority for all operations-led organisations. John is the author of several best-selling books including The Lean Toolbox (sales exceeding 100k).
He has developed several participative games in Lean and in Service, including The Buckingham Lean Game which is used in many organisations, universities, and consultancies in several countries.
He is the founding Director of MSc in Lean Operations, Lean Enterprise Research Centre (LERC), 1999-2012. During his period at LERC he supervised over 80 Masters dissertations.
He has been a Shingo examiner. In 2013 he joined the APICS CPIM ECO certification committee. On the Buckingham University MSc Lean Enterprise website, a continually updated list of ‘Bicheno’s 100 Top Books on Lean’ is maintained. This site attracts several hundred hits every month. He has been a mentor to numerous organisations
He is a regular participant on programmes at University of Witwatersrand, Vlerick School of Management, Swansea University, The Manufacturing Institute, Antwerp School of Management, PLAN (Sweden), and Effektivitet (Denmark).