Lean in Russia, Part 1

Thanks to the global reach of the internet, I have a new correspondent for the Lean Blog in Russia. We have exchanged some emails and we now have a Q&A series that I will post here.

My correspondent is Slava Boltrukevich. He is the head of the Production Management Department at the Institute for Complex Strategic Studies, the leading publisher of Lean books in Russian (and the website is in Russian). Slava is also an assistant professor, teaching Lean in the Graduate School of Business Administration of Moscow State University, the only Business school in Russia that has an MBA program with a focus on production management (MBA-Production Systems). He is also working to create the first Russian-language blog about Lean.

Our first exchange:

Mark: Is there any company who is credited with being the first lean standout in Russia? Any idea when Lean concepts started spreading there? Is Lean a major factor in the Russian auto industry or factories? In which other industries?

Slava: Although it’s hard to say who “brought” lean/TPS to Russia, I can say a few words on this subject. First of all, during the soviet times many factories in our country had very well developed quality systems. This was especailly inthose factories that were connected with the military. But let’s turn to TPS.

As far as I know, the company that “brought” TPS to our country, was a car manufacturer, GAZ. But as Sakichi Toyoda was the reason for TPS to appear (not Toyota overall), in our case that was Oleg Deripaska, the owner of the plant. This happened back in 2002. He translated the book “Toyota Production System” by Taiichi Ohno for internal use and this was the start of the wider spreading of TPS ideas in Russia. By the way, some time after that we have made an official Russian edition of the book.

Right after that, Rusal (now the biggest aluminum producer in the world) started practicing TPS methods. And some other big manufacturers.

Of course, there were some lean companies before 2002. One of the examples is Instrum Rand (a part of the Ingersoll Corp). By the end of the 1990’s they have reached fantastic results and became the only Russian supplier of Mercedes-Benz. I am pretty sure there are more companies that pacticed lean before 2002. But, this point was the start of mass spreading of the TPS ideas in Russia.

I can say that for now mostly only big production corporations are practicing TPS in their companies. This can be explained by two reasons:
  1. They have no choice as they are confronted with foreign competitors since they are global players;
  2. They have resources (for consultants, getting knowledge abroad).

Auto makers (GAZ, Severstal, VAZ) and metal producers are leading on the list of the companies that practice TPS.

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Thanks to Slava for his input. Stay tuned for more Q&A in this series. Click on the “Russia” link below for the entire series of posts, as they are published.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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