For decades, manufacturers have been tripped up by the simplistic idea that Lean is about “zero inventories.” It probably didn’t help that one of the earliest and most prominent books about what many used to call “Japanese manufacturing practices” had that exact title: Zero Inventories. It was published in 1983, well before “Lean” was a term used for this.
Mark’s note: Today’s guest post is by Paul Critchley and he brings up important points about not reducing inventory too low before improving the capabilities of your system.
When I was first introduced to Lean in the late ’90’s, a popular saying used to describe the methodology was to “lower the water level and expose the rocks.”
The Wall St Journal loves writing about how “Just In Time” (JIT) is a risky inventory strategy. See my past posts about how the WSJ is so often wrong on this.
The WSJ seem to only understand Lean as JIT, as opposed to seeing Lean as a broader methodology and management system. JIT is just one component of the Toyota Production System (built-in quality being the other). See Toyota’s website for info straight from the source.
My friend Ryan, who works at a hospital in Canada, sent me a few pictures of an Industrial Engineering textbook that he used almost 20 years ago.
I was cleaning up my upstairs when I came across a textbook from 1996 from my Industrial Engineering undergrad studies. On a hunch, I wanted to check their views on lean.
It’s time for another “Throwback Thursday” post, which is, as always, accompanied by one of my thoughtful-looking baby pictures :-)
Back in 2002, back when I worked for a software startup, Factory Logic, I was able to sit in on some Lean training that was created and presented by a large electronics manufacturer that will remain unnamed (and it wasn’t Dell). The class was for the company’s suppliers, primarily.
I’ve seen this going around social media the past few days, an article with shocking pictures of all of the cars and trucks that have been built, only to sit in huge inventory yards around the world: “Where the World’s Unsold Cars Go To Die.”
I’m in my home town of Livonia, Michigan this week, having arrived to the snow and cold yesterday, staying through Thursday. Boy, my blood has really “thinned out” from 15 years of mostly living in Texas or Arizona.
I made sure my rental car (a very mediocre Ford Fusion) has heated seats. I also made sure to rent an American car, this being Detroit and all, but then I wondered if the Fusion was built in Mexico (based on the VIN number, it was indeed built in Hermosillo, Mexico and not Flat Rock, MI. I should have rented a Kentucky-built Toyota Camry, but, like I said… I really wanted those heated seats. At least the car “seems” American, which is still important here.
So, anyway on to the Kaizen stories.
Mark’s note: Here’s another great vacation guest post by Jeff Hajek:
By Jeff Hajek
Despite having been fairly main stream for going on three decades now, there are a surprising number of misconceptions about Lean. Here is a list of 11 of the top things people misunderstand about continuous improvement.
- Lean means getting rid of inventory. The reduction in inventory is actually the result of Lean, not its method. All of the associated improvements like pull, poka yoke, Standard Work and the like are the tools of Lean that lead to flow and the ability to reduce inventory. Arbitrarily cut inventory and you’ve got problems. There is a caveat to this. Many practitioners of Lean, myself included, advocate slowly reducing inventory until something breaks. Then you fix that something. Do this enough times, and suddenly, you’ll realize that you’ve got flow.
While the hurdles to systemic Lean healthcare transformation are high (see the payment system challenges discussed in John Toussaint’s new book), I am generally optimistic that we can significantly improve healthcare. I am, however, very cynical about attempts to apply much “Lean government” thinking (such as ASQ’s Paul Borawski’s earnest questions about government and quality). There’s no competitive pressure in government and I’m not sure we have real leadership in government anymore.
So, this story doesn’t surprise me and it almost doesn’t even make my angry anymore… but there are some Lean lessons to discuss (or lack thereof) in this story from TechDirt (and reported in the major news outlets): “Congress: The TSA Is Wasting Hundreds Of Millions In Taxpayer Dollars.”
Over the weekend, I went to a local Texas Target store to buy a Christmas-themed gift card. I checked a few registers and all I could find were for new babies, birthdays, or “LOVE.” Not a single Christmas, winter, or holiday gift card to be found in the entire front of the store, the grocery area, or the greeting cards area.
My point here is not just to complain, but to illustrate some important inventory management points for our own workplaces.
Short post today, but a simple message, I think. One of the best lessons I’ve learned about Lean management is about the need to ask “why?” Don’t assume, don’t blame – ask why.
It’s a very common situation in a hospital to find hoarders everywhere. Be very careful when you enunciate that word, “hoarders,” or you’ll get in trouble…
OK, so I’ll admit I had a case of “rabbit ears” when I took the WSJ to task for calling the doomed BP Deepwater Horizon rig a “lean” operation. They were using the colloquial everyday use of “lean,” a term that can get in the way of understanding the real “lean manufacturing” principles and approaches based on the Toyota Production System.
The WSJ, though, has a track record of being horribly wrong about lean manufacturing, you almost wonder if it’s intentional or if it’s bad reporting (it’s multiple reporters who are guilty of this). Thursday’s article about Apple is another case of this –> (“Gadget Appetite Strains Suppliers“).
Mark’s note: Yes, I’m still on vacation. I’m very thankful for my cadre of guest bloggers, including today’s guest, Jeff Hajek. Jeff is an active blogger at his site “Gotta Go Lean” and he is the author of the book Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean? Building the bridge from job satisfaction to corporate profit, a very practical guide for front-line staff and supervisors.
I hope you enjoy today’s guest post from Jeff about things you should say “no” to… here’s his post:
I found this interesting column from Quality Digest, by Stewart Anderson, a guy who says he has first hand experience with Toyota people and suppliers. The website bio page requires registration to view, which is a ridiculous request of QD, I believe. So out of principle, I’m not registering just for that. There is a short “about the author” at the bottom of the article that doesn’t really distinguish his background (such as, did he really work for Toyota or not?).
Here is an outstanding piece from the President & Chief Operating Officer of Seattle Children’s Hospital, Pat Hagan. Coincidentally, I just recorded a podcast today with Joan Wellman, a Lean healthcare consultant who helped get them going on their journey.
It’s nice to see a major publication covering Lean and, especially, Lean in healthcare. This time, it was USA Today who, again, did a better job than the WSJ normally does.