L.A.M.E. Strikes in Virginia


General Dynamics workers laid off – SWVAToday.com

It's been a while since a Lean As Mistakenly Executed (L.A.M.E.) sighting. Or, in other words, stuff that gives Lean a bad name:

About 45 General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products employees in Marion learned Thursday their jobs are being cut over the next few weeks.

According to a release from James D. Losse, General Dynamics' vice president and general manger of advanced materials, the layoffs are “part of a broad program to improve its competitiveness that also includes the introduction of Lean Manufacturing/Six Sigma techniques and other efforts to improve the company's ability to compete.”

How about we blame the layoffs on Six Sigma then, instead of Lean.

The definition of Lean in the article is pretty bad:

“Lean manufacturing is a popular, widely-used term for reducing labor, investment costs and manufacturing site size to lower production overhead.”

Lean is NOT a system that focuses primarily on reducing labor. Argh. How come their definition of Six Sigma involves increasing company profits, but Lean is just “cost cutting?” True Lean (the Toyota Production System) is about two things, two pillars:

  1. Eliminating waste (which can reduce costs or help increase revenue through better quality and service) and
  2. Respect for People

Part of the second pillar is that we have employees engaged and involved in Lean improvements. So when Lean is associated with layoffs, who is going to participate in Lean or in the waste reduction or kaizen?

Why is it that General Dynamics (and so many other companies) focus only on the first pillar, not the second? The factory there has 600 employees and is getting new business… it's too bad they can't use Lean to grow without increasing headcount instead of relying on layoffs to cut costs.

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

  1. Anonymous says

    I usually think of TPS in terms of their 4 philosophy points that I learned at the Toyota Supplier Support Center:

    1) Customer First
    2) People are the most valuable resource
    3) Kaizen
    4) Shop Floor Focus

    Seems like these General Dynamics people are lacking at least one of these (#2).

  2. Rick Foreman says

    Most of the bigger companies involved in aerospace activities follow this tendency, in my opinion, because their focus remains on cost based, non-lean accounting principles. Price driven contracts and sometimes subsequent union workforces degrade the value of the people too some of the senior management. It is a shame when often the 2nd pillar of respect for people holds the greatest opportunity to generate improvements from those who actually do the work. As noted, by you, Lean and six sigma are given a bad rap again.

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