“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.
With Christoph Roser
Christoph Roser, who blogs at AllAboutLean.com, is another on-line correspondent whom I had a chance to meet on this trip. We discussed our backgrounds and shared interests over a brasserie lunch in Paris, across from the Luxembourg gardens, where we walked afterward, among Parisians enjoying the early spring, playing tennis, and watching puppet shows. At one edge of the gardens is the seat of the French Senate; at the opposite, my alma mater, Mines-Paristech.
Brasserie Le Luxembourg
As authors, Christoph and I have been working with the same publisher, Taylor & Francis, and even with the same editor. His “Faster, Better, Cheaper” in the History of Manufacturing came out last year, covering the period “from the stone age to Lean Manufacturing and beyond,” which is very ambitious. I confessed to not having read it cover to cover, but the parts I did read seemed carefully researched. Unfortunately, the way things are made hasn’t been as thoroughly documented as wars and revolutions, and it’s a challenge to trace back the origins of ideas in this area that we apply every day.
Torbjørn Netland, professor of Operations Management at ETH Zürich, blogger at Better Operations, and an on-line correspondent of many years, had invited me to deliver a guest lecture in his course on Global Operations Strategy.
“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?
“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.
“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,….”
“Any ERP replacement project will need to have a team involved in selection and implementation of the ERP. That team will have a project manager, an executive sponsor, several subject manager experts, one or more representatives from the ERP vendor, and, your IT manager.” (italics added)
Sourced through ERP Focus
Michel Baudin‘s comments: The notion of including a vendor rep in a team tasked with selecting an ERP product is interesting. To be fair, the article is about implementation — where it makes sense to involve the vendor — and the inclusion of selection in the opening sentence is most likely just sloppy editing. I hope no reader finds anything like it in my own writings.
“Corporate investment is increasingly shifting from machinery and employees to robots and software. Why? Because CEOs think digital transformation will be a source of competitive advantage. And it is a transformation that they think they can execute more rapidly compared to Lean transformation. CEOs also think that automation and artificial intelligence will take on greater roles, while the work of employees will take on less significance over time. They think technology is becoming more valuable than employees.”
Sourced through Bob Emiliani’s blog
Michel Baudin‘s comments: “Digital transformation” is a quaint way of describing the growing pervasiveness of software in business, with its infrastructure of computers, computer-controlled devices, and networks. Digital is normally opposed to analog, as in music CDs versus vinyl LPs. The early work on industrial automation was based on analog mechanical, fluidic, or electronic control systems, and its “digital transformation” happened decades ago with the advent of numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and programmable logic controllers (PLCs). This is not what Bob is talking about, but I am not sure what he is talking about.
“Twenty-five years ago, I tried to coach adult college students to seek and solve problems using the classic Deming PDCA Circle. In classrooms, students were unused to identifying their own problems rather than having them pre-defined. The first time through this exercise, over half did not reflect on a problem to seek root cause. Instead, they went shopping for a gizmo, a program, or a recipe to fix the problem – a quick-fix mentality.”
Sourced through the Compression Institute
Michel Baudin‘s comments: 33 years ago, Robert W. Hall wrote Zero Inventories, the first original, technically meaty book in English about Lean Manufacturing, and I have had great respect for him ever since.
In Toyota’s Guiding Principles, last revised in 1997, Michael Ballé sees more than “goal-oriented efficiency.” While I would not use a phrase like “goal-oriented efficiency,” the principles do not strike me as anything beyond strategic guidelines to ensure the long-term, worldwide viability of the company. If they serve this purpose, great, but a car manufacturer is the wrong place to look for philosophical enlightenment.