A Washington DC Lean Tour: Part 2 – Useful Manufactures


Here's stop #2 on the tour, just having come from the Julia Child “Lean” Kitchen

Still at the National Museum of American History, there is a sign on the wall that talks about a little manufacturing history.

The Society for Encouraging Useful Manufactures

We might think of this being a modern phenomenon, state governments throwing money at factories (ranging from Toyota to Dell) to encourage them to locate plants (and jobs) in their state.

There was actually a federal program started in 1791, started by Alexander Hamilton, to encourage industry in the early United States economy. They gave tax exemptions, as states often do today.

The program failed, however, due to “bad management, problems in finding skilled labor, and dishonest officials.” The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Machines without Factories

At the other extreme, here is a sign talking about a movement in the 1800's that said Americans should make products in their own homes, rather than in factories. “Independent and happy” citizens is what you would get, if people were self sufficient.

Obviously, as the sign says, “family industry could not compete with the division of labor and economies of scale of the factory.”

I'm glad I don't have to grow all of my own food. I'm certainly glad I don't have to build stuff at home either. We certainly couldn't have our modern world without specialized manufacturing. But, the 1800's were simpler times, so maybe this at home “manufacturing” could have been handled with a wood lathe?

There are some futurists who think this old concept will eventually come home, the idea of “3D printing” will allow us to make products in our own homes?

More still to come… Click here for Stop #3 on the Tour.

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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.



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