A Different Take on Lean and Delphi


    Kaizen and Lean Manufacturing thoughts | Gemba Panta Rei

    Wow, on Womack and Delphi, this blogger didn't pull any punches. Jon Miller says, basically, “Who cares how nice the factories look, how “lean” they look, if the business is failing?” He criticizes Womack for having “kid gloves” with Delphi management and their role in the bankruptcy and failed business strategy.

    I agree, though, with Womack's point that lean may have helped Delphi delay bankruptcy. If Delphi had a fundamentally bad business model, I don't know what “lean manufacturing” OR “lean enterprise” could have fixed.

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. Unfortunately Delphi had great “fake lean.” All the tools and trappings, but none of the meat including development of people. I worked in several plants as a sensei for them. At first I thought they were like Toyota (I worked there), but on closer look they did not understand the philosophy. It was all show.
      The plants that won Shingo prizes SHIP quality at 3 ppm or so, but when I asked them if their operations produced at that level I was told “no, it is around 20,000.” I actually saw one at 120,000! They used containment and multiple inspections (not very lean) to get to six sigma level. They did it off line in the back of the building so maybe Womack’s tour group was not taken there!

      There are underlying issues here that lean would not help. One is that they do not manage for the long-term. That is a hard thing to change. They are lean tools focused, but have not learned the soul of the process.

    2. It’s incestuous. For years former CEO JT Battenburg and Womack pursued a strategy that never attacked the problem of selling over sixty percent of Delphi product to GM at less than breakeven prices. Nobody wanted to take on the GM contract and raise prices, and Delphi couldn’t pick up new customers fast enough to fix the Income Statement. Outrageous. But Womack took heavy consulting fees and JT retired rich. Go figure.


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