Jim Womack on BBC World Business News


BBC World Service – Business – 5/05/2009 – Car Crash

The BBC aired a revisiting of a story from 2007, I found this thanks to an alert on Twitter, a message from a guy named @KanuDawg said:

Ah the limits of 140 characters :-)

The host Peter Day visited with Womack in Cambridge, MA. He asks Jim about the beginnings of mass production and Henry Ford (how Ford invented the term with the Rouge plant in 1926). Mass production helped the U.S. win World War II, so Peter Drucker anointed GM and Alfred Sloan the victor over Ford. Things were going just fine until the Japanese started importing cars in the 1960's, as Womack explains.

Anyway, it's a good lesson if you want to hear Womack's history of the auto industry.

You can also, about 11 minutes in, listen to Chairman Fujio Cho from Toyota as well, somebody we don't hear from as often. He, through a translator, talks about their market and product strategies.

Womack is then asked what makes Toyota and their Production System so special (about 14:25 in).

“The best way to fail is to succeed and take it seriously… that's very powerful. They spend a lot of time reflecting… Detroit did not do much reflecting… they didn't turn concern into purposefully effective action,” says Womack. “It's not just production techniques or technical tricks, it's a fundamentally different way of thinking about management,” he adds.

What does Cho think the company is doing that's special? He says the philosophy must be grasped by top leaders of the company and the whole company will have to move together, including suppliers. He also emphasizes “lean production” methods — production line flexibility and the ability to produce small batches of every product every day.

“The Toyota method itself is not doomed” even with their current financial problems and loss for 2008, says another consultant who was interviewed at the end of the piece.


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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.

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