Lean in Russia – Part 3


Here is Part 3 of my exchange with Slava Boltrukevich, from Moscow. Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of our discussion about Lean in Russia.

Mark: Is there a “James Womack of Russia” or do people there tend to look to the international figures like Womack?

Slava: Very good question! Short answer is NO. No one can substitute Jim :-). In fact thanks Jim for the spread of lean in our country. The first book on the subject was Jim's “Lean thinking”. It was published only in 2003 – some 5 years ago. Right after that we have published Ohno's classic “Toyota Production System”. So actually we can admit, that Jim has introduced Lean to Russia. It's funny though, that he has never been to our country yet (I met him in Boston last summer and we had a nice conversation).

Although we do have very respected professionals in the area of production management. Yuri Adler, Vadim Lapidus, Yuri Rubanik – all of them are well known professors, who has been playing major role in transformation of management systems of many Russian companies.

Mark: What are the most popular Lean books that have been translated into Russian?

Slava: Answering the previous question I have given part of the answer. Here first of all I would like to thank Maura May and her colleages at Productivity Press for thier work of producing many great titles on the subject. We have been closely working with them for several years, and have published over 15 books so far. I hope we will continue realise our common mission to provide information on lean mass audience.

Speaking about concrete titles, I can say that Ohno's “Toyota Production System” is well known book. Very stable sales for a few years in a row so far. We have published most of the books from the Shopfloor Series (of Productivity Press). “5S for the Operators” is a bestseller. Shigeo Shingo's “A Study of TPS” is a respected title by professionals. We are proud, that Pascal Dennis's business novel “Andy and Me” we have published last May was recognized as the best business title published in Russia in 2007.

As I also said, Jim's book “Lean thinking” is a popular title, as well as Jeff Liker's “Toyota Way”. Some other titles have been published during the last 4 years.

Mark: Do you know if any Russian hospitals or healthcare facilities have used Lean principles?

Slava: No, unfortunately lean is been developed in the manufacturing industries only so far. I don't even know a service company that would be dedicated to lean. The reasons are different though.

Hospitals are mostly non-private so far in Russia. Thus, since there is no clear “owner” or shareholder, who would be interested in implementing lean, the process is not going anywhere. No one at the top who should be dedicated.

In our service industries (banks, insurance, retail…) there are very concrete shareholders who seek for profit. But another problem is the absence of a real competition. Every company's growth is tens of percent every year. They grow fast, thus there is no “need” for lean. This situation will continue until they are confronted with hard competition for the customer.

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