Oh Really? Another Siren Song


Burt's Bees Selects i2 Solutions to Streamline the Supply Chain for Lean Manufacturing

Another “Siren Song” in the world of manufacturing software. Once again, it's i2 Technologies claiming their software is “Built on the principles of lean manufacturing and constraint-based planning, the solutions enable companies to reach the best throughput and customer service at the lowest inventory level and cost.”

Argh, but they continue…

i2s factory panning solutions are used by companies around the globe looking to move into lean manufacturing, said Steve Estrada, senior vice president of Consumer Industries at i2.

The “siren song” is that some software companies really expect you think that all that's missing from your successful lean transformation is the proper software. If you're “looking to move into lean” — as opposed to actually working on it — I think you'd be better off focusing on your people and your processes.

I just noticed there is a typo in the second quote (it's really there in the press release) — “panning” instead of “planning.” I guess i2 would have kwality if they only had, oh I don't know, maybe some software for that? Oh right, it's called spell check. I guess technology can't do it all for you, can it?

There's no silver bullet software that will make brilliant decisions for you, decisions that will make you lean.

I'm not “anti-software.” Neither is Toyota. But, the software vendors lose credibility with messages like this, that the software makes you lean.

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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. The typo in the quote is quite humorous. You raise some thought provoking issues that are worthy of discussion rather than single sided rant.

    Yeah, you are correct that the software itself won’t make you lean… but there IS software which can COMPLIMENT lean… and i2 is best of the bunch IMHO.

    Have you ever USED i2 planning software?

    Lean theories and practices in and of themselves can’t deal with or help you avoid all of the complexities for full forecasting, supply chain planning and factory scheduling. Those are necessary evils in many non-MTO environments.

    BTW, many of the truest lean companies run i2. Toyota, Dell, Herman Miller just to name a very few.

    Yes, you are right that the software does not make you lean.

  2. Well, I’d consider the i2 press release to be a “single sided rant”, or at least single sided.

    YES, I have used i2 planning software, I helped put it in at Dell in 2000. I wouldn’t go bragging about what the “i2” software did, because there was a lot of expensive custom code that had to be written, to the point that the i2 software itself wasn’t really doing anything very special.

    I understand that Toyota uses software. I recognize that MRP can be helpful even, but for PLANNING, as the name indicates. MRP used for execution doesn’t work… and some of the same complications occur with an i2 type constraint-based system if you’re trying to run every little detail of your plant floor execution based off of it.

    I’d like to know how i2 is “built on lean principles.” That’s recent marketing spin, so I’d tend to NOT believe it. Please help us understand, if you can, Mr. Anonymous


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