Lean Thinking Misconception

Office Furniture Companies Now Leaner [the broken link was removed]

Steelcase, the largest of the nation’s office furniture companies, cut thousands of jobs, consolidated manufacturing operations and started relying more on third-party suppliers and outsourcing as it shifted toward a leaner and more flexible manufacturing model popularized by Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp.

This does not convey true lean thinking. It is a shame so many think lean is equal to “reducing staff.” Lean is about removing waste. Removing waste might mean that fewer people are needed but no real lean thinking organization aims to reduce staff. It may be that, due to past practices and current realities, they have no reasonable alternative but to reduce staff.

But, it would be much better to redeploy staff not needed for streamlined processes to other jobs to service the companies growing business. The popular press continues to write as those the main goal of lean is to reduce staff.

Lean is named for the Toyota Production System. You don’t see Toyota laying people off they are growing and hiring people. Wise companies follow Toyota’s example.

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