A blog reader, Tom, sent me a PDF of a column from the ASQ “Quality Progress” magazine, the April 2007 issue. The article is “Using Lean to Meet Quality Objectives,” by Dale K. Gordon. The ASQ website has a link to the article here or you can download the PDF using this direct link.
I think the ideas in the article represent “L.A.M.E.” (Lean as Misguidedly Executed) in the sense that the examples of “Lean” given don't seem very Lean to me at all. I always cringe when people talk about Lean being only about speed and efficiency or only being about cutting costs. Dale makes the case that Lean is about eliminating waste (it is) and that many companies choose “either defect reduction or lean manufacturing.”
“Quality objectives and lean methodologies must work in tandem, not as discrete activities.”
It's hard for me to imagine how a company would be truly working on Lean without focusing on quality and defects. It's possible if the company is more L.A.M.E. than Lean and they are looking only for quick payoffs such as headcount reduction.
It's hard to copy and paste from the PDF to here, so I'll reference the start of sentences…
“Lean improvements, or blitz kaizens performed in a vacuum…”
Of course it's bad to use Lean to only speed up the production of highly defective products. That's more L.A.M.E. than Lean. Creating a cellular production structure that relies on final inspection, instead of error proofing, doesn't sound very Lean either, but that's another kaizen event that Dale suffered through.
Anyway, this column is discouraging, if the American Society for Quality is sponsoring columns that say Lean and quality are different concepts, then I have to wonder about how much Quality is built into the ASQ thinking and publications. Is this an isolated case, an individual's author experiences with L.A.M.E., or is it indicative of the thinking at ASQ in general? What do you think?
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