Liker: Auto Suppliers Still Not Lean
I hope you have listened to the LeanBlog Podcasts. I’m surprised that they haven’t generated more comments and questions from listeners. In my third Podcast, the first one with Jeff Liker, there was a provocative comment… maybe nobody disagrees with it.
Back in 2000, Dr. Liker was quoted as saying “50% of auto suppliers are talking lean, 2% are actually doing it.” I got a lot of mileage out of that quote in presentations from 2002 to 2004 and still referenced it this year. Before the podcast interview, I asked Dr. Liker to confirm he had said that, as I didn’t have the original citation/source in front of me.
“It sounds like something I would have said.” — Jeff Liker.
So, on the podcast, I asked Dr. Liker how those numbers would be different here in 2006 (it was about six minutes into the podcast). I’ve been away from the auto industry, I don’t really know anymore. His answer:
“Today I would say that well over 90 percent are talking about it and have talked about it. I would say that almost all of them that talked about it have done something. They’ve done some individual projects, they’ve hired consultants, they’ve done projects in individual plants. They’ve done kaizen workshops. They’ve kind of learned the words and they’ve seen some results. I would say the number that have deeply implemented the Toyota Production System, as a system, in their plants is probably below 2 percent.”
Wow. It’s disappointing that there hasn’t been an improvement over the span of six years, with all of the consultants, all of the talk, all of the books. Does anyone disagree with Liker’s assessment? Click “comments” to chime in.
“What they’ve done is used individual tools in individual places. Occasionally, there’s a plant manager who really has a good feel, that drives it through the whole plant, does a great job. They leave the company. The plant reverts back to what it was.
If you were to try to find a model supplier that really has TPS broadly across their plants, it’s hard to find.”
It sounds like he is pointing blame at the lack of leadership and real committment at the highest levels. If lean/TPS efforts can fall apart so easily after a Plant Manager leaves, you would have to presume that Lean wasn’t a priority for higher levels… or the leadership was just ineffective.
We could do a “5 Why’s” Challenge. Another type of comment you could post here is a 5 Why’s analysis for a failed lean effort that you’ve seen. Maybe we’ll come up with a prize for the best attempt or best comment.
I’m also taking a fresh stab at the “Lean Failures” blog that I set up last year — take a look and feel free to share your experiences and tips there.