Every once in a while I run across a very misguided article/column on lean, this one falls into that category. If you’re experienced with lean/TPS, you’ll recognize the traps this author has fallen into. I think the only value here is to recognize how some people might misunderstand lean so you can be prepared to work against the misunderstandings.
To summarize my quick responses to this:
1) Can we get over Pearl Harbor already? Articles that mention that or other WWII issues lose all credibility with me.
2) Lean is not just about getting employee suggestions and ideas. There are lean principles that must be taught to help drive improvements in the right direction. Having respect for and listening to your employees in a critical piece, but that’s not enough to be “lean”.
3) Lean is not merely a method for reducing direct labor cost. Of course direct labor cost is typically a small percentage of total cost, that’s why we also address other costs and the “7 Wastes” (or “8 Wastes”)
4) If you shrink inventories to the point where you really hurt production, you’re doing it wrong. You need to fix quality and uptime issues, among other things, using lean tools and management principles. Reducing inventory should provide some positive pressure on the system to drive kaizen, but don’t hurt your customers in the process.
5) Lean is certainly not “management abdication,” far from it. It requires leadership and top-level involvement to help drive shop-floor level improvements.
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