Record of Annual WSJ JIT/Lean Blunders

The WSJ has a long track record of not understanding Lean, as I’ve written about many times on my blog. There’s a major flare up at least once a year:





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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 book 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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  1. Mark Graban

    The most recent 2011 WSJ bad piece on Lean/JIT:

    This article is full is mis-perceptions about Lean that the business world (and the WSJ) are still trying to recover from. Back in the 1980’s, most thought that Lean was just about just-in-time materials, supply chain, inventory, and production scheduling practices – people missed the broader management system of Lean and Toyota. This broader management system is really a total business system (see or the book The Toyota Way for more modern definitions of “lean.”)

    Another comment is correct that JIT was designed for local deliveries and supply chains within Japan, a small country where warehouse space was at a premium in factories. Toyota has more inventory in its supply chain when bringing parts from Japan to North America then they would for a supplier in their San Antonio plant and local business park. If companies are bringing parts across the ocean on a boat from China, you can’t do JIT. But you can still be a “lean thinking” company. It’s not all about zero inventory.

    Lean and JIT has never meant to be a substitute for thinking.

    If you have long supply chains, highly variable demand, or lots of risk in your supply chain, why would you assume JIT or Lean are possible? We are still recovering from an unfortunately titled book “Zero Inventories” from the 1980s. Executives apparently didn’t read that the title.

    Lean is about continuous improvement and total business effectiveness. It never was all about low inventory.

    These companies and this article miss the point. We can’t say “shame on Lean” but rather “shame on the companies that misapplied it” unless they companies learn and change their practices going forward. That’s a learning organization and that’s what Lean is really all about.

    One other thought – people say JIT is liable to disruptions. What if Japanese companies had huge factories pull of parts sitting there? The parts might have been damaged in the earthquake and tsunami. No production system can protect you from huge catastrophes. Truly lean supply chains are more flexible and allow companies to respond faster after disasters (such as Toyota’s quick recover from previous supplier plant fires and earthquake damage in past years).

    Here’a a consolidated record on how the WSJ usually gets it wrong on Lean/JIT;

  2. Lean in Hospitals: Which Tool or Which Need? — Lean Blog

    […] right part, in the right quantity, at the right time, to the right operation, customer, or process. JIT often gets confused with “low inventory,” especially in the WSJ. Actually, these two pillars are linked together, especially so in healthcare, as providing […]

  3. Kaizen on the Boeing 737 Line — Lean Blog

    […] WSJ recognizing that Lean isn’t just about “just in time” and low inventory (see their record of mistakes). Boeing started emphasizing employee-generated ideas in Renton in the late 1990s, when the 737 […]

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