Going Beyond (or away from) Lean Thinking?

Topic: Management Improvement

Continuous Improvement – Lean Alone No Longer Cutting It [the broken link was removed] by Tonya Vinas [the broken link was removed], IndustryWeek:

It’s a dicey time for manufacturers that have spent the past five to 10 years on the lean journey. They and their top-level executives are finding that lean alone is not enough.

Well I would agree “lean,” as it is commonly implemented, is not enough. I believe ideas from Deming that are missing from many lean efforts would be helpful (Toyota applies Deming’s ideas to a much greater extent than those modifying Toyota’s practices for their organization). Those concepts will mainly aid long term continual improvement of the organization (rather than provide short term quick fixes).

I think [what is] also happening is a demand for immediate cost cutting that lean doesn’t always provide. Sometimes kaizen events result in immediate savings, but in the face of the increases these companies are facing, kaizen-derived savings are, again, probably not deep enough, especially with the allure of incredibly cheap labor in China.

I think moves away from lean, that are the result of gut reactions to such worries, are likely. Also I feel that the rapidly movement of managers and their desire to “make their mark” in their new job, results in new managers making changes (away from lean) mainly to show the impact they have (or because they are not familiar or comfortable with lean concepts). Neither are good reasons for changes, in my opinion.

I think the article raises some interesting questions. I, also, believe the practice of lean is increasing. I would be interested if the readers of our blog think lean thinking is increasing or is on the decline.

One thought on “Going Beyond (or away from) Lean Thinking?

  1. I was going to link to that article, but you got it first. One thing that jumped out to me was the idea that companies are having to “reverse” lean methods because suppliers are in Asia, with quality and lead time being worst/less consistent.

    I would say “well it was their choice to have an Asian supplier” and that it wasn’t a “lean supply chain” decision, so nuts to them.

    But, in some industries, I guess you don’t have any choice but to use an Asian supplier, with the destruction of our American manufacturing base?

    “Lean”, if defined as removing inventory and organizing the shopfloor, was never enough. Running your business smartly is the key. Look at what Toyota did from the 50’s on. They weren’t “doing lean” or “doing TPS” (they didn’t even define the phrase TPS until the 80’s). They were running their business smartly. And look at the results!

    Being “lean” and producing rotary dial phones wouldn’t have gotten you very far in the 90’s. So, of course “lean isn’t enough”.

    Reply

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