I’ve been critical of folks who lump Dell into the “lean” world, since Dell hasn’t really done much according to the Toyota model (previous posts on Dell). Dell developed its own model, the Dell Direct model, and it served them well during their boom in the 1990’s. There’s certainly something positive to be said for developing your own model for your own industry and your own company. That obviously worked well for a while.
However, Dell has hit (relatively) rocky times in this decade, in some part, I think, from moving away from the direct production model (with PC’s) to a direct selling model (with PDA’s, printers, TV’s who are built by others). Dell has struggled through cycles of layoffs , outsourcing, and internal struggles that have, I would suspect, hampered their progress as a company.
It’s interesting to now see that Dell *is* looking toward Toyota methods, as evidenced by the job posted over on the Message Board (link above). Maybe it’ s a positive sign. Note: it’s not an open job requisition, but they’re looking for future candidates. Contact info for a Dell contact is posted over there on the board.
It will be interesting to see if Dell can merge Toyota methods and philosophies into their own very strong culture and operating model. Is Dell looking for outside experts to “make them Lean” or are they really looking to impact the way line managers and company leadership operate? A job like that has the potential to be very impactful, but it could also be a road to perpetual frustration.
I won’t necessarily share all of the stories here, but when I worked for Dell (1999-2000), I was frustrated at the lack of Toyota Production System mindsets and approaches in the factories. Dell was growing so quickly, it was very much a “move the metal” mentality, similar to typical mass production mindsets. Sure, internal factory flow was very good, but there’s so much more to Lean than “flow.” But, that was a long time ago at this point, so I’m not the best commentator on Dell circa 2007.
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