Telling Good Lean Consultants From Bad Ones | Michael Ballé


“There are no good lean consultants. I’m not saying there are no good consultants. Of course there are; same bell curve as in every profession…”

See it in Gemba Coach

Michel Baudin‘s comments: 3 years ago, in What to Expect from Lean Manufacturing Consultants, I wrote an article on this subject from a different perspective. This article’s opening boggles the mind, starting with the easily debunked assumption that performance is distributed along “a bell curve in every profession.”

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Flattening the Organization- Problably Not the Answer | Gregg Stocker

“One of the misconceptions about lean thinking is that it automatically leads to flattening the organization. Many people think that layers of management are always a bad thing and start removing layers as a way to empower employees, speed up decision-making, and improve innovation. While there is no shortage of organizations that suffer from too many layers, it should be noted that flattening does not necessarily lead to improved performance. Many organizations that flattened their structures have experienced little more than burned out managers, frustrated employees, and high turnover.”

Sourced through Lessons in Lean

Michel Baudin‘s comments: For the second time in a week, I am clipping a post from Gregg’s blog but I can’t help it if I find his writings worth sharing. In my experience, “flattening the organization” is particularly harmful on the shop floor. I have heard managers brag about their structure being “lean” because they had only 1 supervisor for 100 operators. This isn’t what Toyota does in car assembly, where operators work in teams of 4 to 6 and you have a first-line manager for 4 to 6 teams. This means that the number of operators for a first-line manager ranges from 16 to 36, with a mean that is actually around 17. This low number is designed to allow the first-line managers to help operators in their professional development and to lead improvement projects. A supervisor with 100 direct reports can do neither.

#LeanManagement, #First-LineManager, #ShopFloor, #ContinuousImprovement

Driving Improvement Through Systems Thinking | Gregg Stocker

“[…] When starting an improvement effort, I usually ask about the minimum target the team is attempting to achieve.  The answer is often something made up on the spot or a generalization, like as much as possible.  Improvement efforts should generally be driven by the actual requirements of the business.  For example,  if a company determines that the time between a customer placing an order and receiving the product is too long, it should determine an improvement target based on what the business needs.  If it currently takes 42 days and customers expect to receive the product in 22 days because of their needs or what competitors are offering, the minimum improvement needed is 20 days.[…]”

Sourced through Lessons in Lean

Michel Baudin‘s comments:

Gregg Stocker illustrates abstract principles with concrete examples, which makes his meaning clear and unambiguous. The above excerpt is meant to show the need for employees and managers to understand the consequences of local actions on the organization as a whole. As he points out in the rest of his post, it’s not always easy.

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Is Lean a set of tools – or a set of principles? | Pascal Dennis

Pascal Dennis

“Is Lean a set of tools – or a set of principles? If the latter, we’ll fall far short of our potential”


Sourced through LinkedIn

Michel Baudin‘s comments:

Because of the way the meaning of Lean has changed over the past 25 years, I think it’s too late to ask this question. On the other hand, it is relevant about TPS or about the art of designing and improving manufacturing operations, whatever shorter name you want to give it.

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Flow Line Pacing | All About Lean | Christoph Roser


Christoph Roser’s pulse line animation

“There are three different options on how to time the production lines.[…] The “easiest” one is an unstructured approach. The processes are still arranged in sequence; however, there is no fixed signal when to start processing a part. The pulse line is also a flow line, but now all parts move at the same time. […] When all processes are done, all parts move to the next process simultaneously. […] Another common way to structure the timing of flow lines is the continuously moving line.”

Sourced through All About Lean

Michel Baudin‘s comments: Christoph’s two posts are great for their rifle-shot focus on the single issue of flow line pacing and for their effective use of animation to illustrate principles. It makes the differences clear in a way you couldn’t on paper.

Wacky Lean House | Bob Emiliani


“This year is the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI). There will surely be a big celebration. But in my view, there is less to celebrate than meets the eye. Here’s why:

LEI has controlled the progressive management agenda for the last 20 years. That means they own the failures as well as the successes. By LEIs own reckoning (as well as its sister organization, the Lean Enterprise Academy in the U.K.), success has been much less than they had hoped for.”

Sourced through Bob Emiliani’s blog

Michel Baudin‘s comments: Overall, I agree with Bob’s assessment, but I think American manufacturers deserve more of the blame than the LEI, for faddishly latching on to one tool after another and mistaking it for a panacea. For example, in his introduction to “Learning to See,” Mike Rother explicitly warns the reader that, at Toyota, Materials and Information Flow Analysis (MIFA) is not a major tool. Yes, he repackaged it with the attractive but nonsensical name of “Value Stream Mapping” (VSM), but his audience didn’t have to elevate it to the status that it did.

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Coaching Lean Without Knowing | Bob Emiliani

“I have long felt that people have listened too intently to the analysts who have not actually “played the game” – the interpreters of Toyota’s management system, not the people who actually created it. I think that it is easy for all to agree that someone who actually created something is a much better guide than someone who studied it second-hand.[…] Original sources are the best sources to learn from and should form the fundamental basis of your understanding of TPS and Lean. ”

Sourced through Bob Emiliani

Michel Baudin‘s comments: The originators of Toyota’s production and management system are all dead. This includes Sakichi, Kiichiro and Eiji Toyoda, Taiichi Ohno, Shigeo Shingo, and others, which makes it difficult to learn from them through personal communication. We can read what little they published, or rely on the generations that came after them. The people Emiliani shows to the right of Taiichi Ohno as “originators,” Fujio Cho and Chihiro Nakao, actually are disciples of the originators, which isn’t quite the same. As Emiliani sees it, the alternative to learning from these people is learning from “interpreters” who, as he implies in the title, don’t know what they are talking about because they had no hand in creating it. Are these really the only choices?

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Meaningful work for everyone ? Sorry…Lean can’t do that yet ! | John Dennis | LinkedIn

“It is disrespectful to workers for Management to make promises that they cannot deliver on. However there are presently some academics and authors in the Lean community who say that Lean transformation should provide ‘Meaningful Work’ for all workers. This phrase is setting too high an expectation for our workers…that we will not be able to deliver on…”

Sourced through LinkedIn

Michel Baudin‘s comments: I agree. Just Another Car Factory? Lean Production and Its Discontents is a chronicle of the early years of CAMI, a GM-Suzuki joint venture in Canada, which describes labor problems as due to management overselling Lean to production operators. As a manager, it’s one thing to overpromise to your superiors and another to shop floor operators. They don’t react the same way. Superiors reward you for setting “stretch goals,” and punish you if you only commit to what you can deliver. It’s the project game, as it has been played by generations in American managers. With shop floor operators, on the other hand, you lose your credibility and your ability to lead.

There is nothing you can do to turn a job in which you repeat the same 60 seconds of activity 400 times a day into “meaningful work.” You can make it easier and safer, you can mitigate the monotony by rotating operators between stations every two hours, and you can involve operators in Kaizen,… All of this improves both the performance of the production line and the experience of working on it, but it still won’t make working on an assembly line the kind of jobs kids dream of doing when they grow up. Dennis is right to say that overpromising to workers is disrespectful. They can handle the truth.

The Lean Bucket Brigade – Part 1 | Christoph Roser | AllAboutLean

“Many topics in lean address how to deal with uncertainty and fluctuations (or mura for unevenness). There is a particularly neat trick for manual lines that self-organizes fluctuations in the workload: the Bucket Brigade! It does have some advantages, but it also has quite a few limitations and prerequisites for it to work. Most importantly it works best only for very short cycle times as for example picking materials. Unfortunately, these requirements are rarely mentioned in literature. Let me show you the basics work in this post before I go into some of the trickier details in the next post.”

Sourced through AllAboutLean

Michel Baudin‘s comments: The bucket-brigade system, also known as “bump-back,” is indeed a clever solution, often applied to mass-customization, as in the following examples of food service at Chipotle and Subway:

It is also used in the more complex process of custom bag assembly at Timbuk2 designs. See also John Bartholdi’s description and simulation of the system. The concept is discussed on pp. 141-142 of Working with Machines and, in this blog, as a sometimes preferred alternative to the baton-touch approach .

Incidentally, Christoph’s post-WW-II picture reminded me of a story I heard long ago about a hotel guest in Germany at that time complaining about hearing trains all night. “But there is no railroad near here,” said the innkeeper. Walking out, the guest saw a line of people passing bricks to each other, saying “Bitte schön, danke schön, bitte schön, danke schön,….”