Should Lean efforts focus on the supply chain or within the plant? Comments on an Industry Week article

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This article quotes Paul Myerson as saying that manufacturers preferred to “lean out within their four walls before working heavily with customers and suppliers.”

While I have heard this from many sources, I do not believe it is true. Having worked both within the four walls of plants and on their supply chains, I have repeatedly seen manufacturing managers conclude that their manufacturing needed no improvement, and that all the problems were with suppliers.

Before Paul Myerson, I also wrote a book on Lean Logistics. In 2005, it was the first on this subject. But I also wrote books on Lean Assembly (2002) and Working with Machines (2007), both of which deal with what happens “within the four walls.” Guess what? Lean Logistics sells more copies than the other two combined, and I don’t think it is a better book. To me, it just means that its subject is getting more attention.

Actually, it is getting a disproportionate amount of attention, and too early. Manufacturers should  focus on what happens within their walls first, and fix it. The vast majority, including many claiming to be Lean, have not. Until they do, they have no credibility with their suppliers and no business telling them how to improve.

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