Book Review: The Machine That Changed The World


Al Dyer

I guess the book on quality and manufacturing that most affected and stayed with me is "The Machine That Changed The World".

It got me thinking about problem solving and the world of thought process.

There was another one, and I can't remember the name, but the moral of the story was to get rid of bottle-necks which were called Herbies.

Can anyone refresh my memory as to the authors and titles!

The last name Fox still sticks in my mind as the author of one of the two.


Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!
"The Machine that Changed the World", James Womack and another supporting author. He followed up that book with another entitled "Lean Thinking". I don't recall a Herbie mentioned, but it has been some time since I have read the book (actually, it does sound familiar, but I can not make the connection).

"The Goal" was written by Eli Goldratt. I don't recall a "Herbie" in that either, just a Jonas.

In my opinion, the Goal was written to introduce folks to some limited systems thinking (just a relationship by my definition) and the simplification of how things should be viewed (throughput, inventory, operating expenses). Goldratt's view is that Profit is the Goal. In his limited view, he is right. However, the view is much larger. Components in a System are after Value. For and organization, one of them is Profit. But the Customer does not value profit. He values quality, availability, reliability, features, safety and price amongst a long list. Goldratt does not address this. Some of what he eludes to in this book is also somewhat less than moral.

The book had some nice points and I appreciated the ‘story’ format he presented his ideas in. In particular, his simplification into the three measures above is interesting and somewhat helpful. His views on efficiency as being over-rated are also valuable. I haven’t read the Theory of Constraints although he does explore this in the Goal. It is worth reading, but I wouldn’t place it high on my list of books read.



Are you thinking of the book "The Goal"?
It deals with the theory of contraints. Bottlenecks to the most efficient throughput.


Low tech is better than no tech.

Michael T

Sorry I'm So Late on This One

Hi Al,

You will find "Herbies" in Eli Goldratt's The Goal. Herbie was the rather portly boyscout who was the constraint (or bottleneck) on the Saturday march to the campsite. He is also the muse for Alex's discovery of what constraints can do to throughput.


E Wall

Just Me!
Trusted Information Resource
Jim Womack

If anyone is interested his Lean website is:Lean Enterprise Institute

I received this from him the other day:

From: Jim Womack
Sent: Thursday, October 04, 2001 7:08 AM
To: eilwal at
Subject: Nonsense about JIT

Dear Eileen,

In the days since the terrible events of September 11 we've seen many mentions in the American media of the impracticality of Just-in-Time supply of parts and calls for massive warehouses to buffer supply chains. The problem, of course, is that this advice is wrong, and it's hurtful to those of you implementing lean. Let's take just a minute to think this situation through.

In almost every value stream, there will be some inventory at points where the product cannot flow. This inventory will typically consist of finished goods at the shipping point in each facility, work-in-process between fabrication steps within each facility, and raw materials (incoming goods) at the receiving end of each facility.

In the current situation, with uncertainty about deliveries from upstream and gyrations in demand from downstream, you may feel it necessary to increase the size of your finished goods and raw materials stocks. However, these extra stocks should be kept aside -- out of the path of the value stream but not in some remote warehouse -- and their presence does not in any way effect the logic of Just-in-Time parts supply.

Each downstream process needing parts should still signal directly to the upstream supplying process when more parts are needed and these should be supplied frequently in small lots. The one adjustment necessary over time, if bottlenecks persist at border points, may be longer reorder times. (Logically this is the same as assuming that suppliers have suddenly moved further away.) Otherwise lean production can proceed as in the past.

All this said, the current crisis does beg us to ask a very simple question central to lean thinking: Why are the value creating steps along most value streams today so far apart, with many border crossings? Why not compress your value streams for each product family to put all of the value creating steps in one area (as at Toyota City) or even in one facility?

Depending on factor costs and customer expectations, the appropriate location may be in a high labor cost area -- close to end users -- or in a low cost area -- for price sensitive products where customers are willing to wait. In either case, you will be better off if as many steps as possible are co-located.

One other point seems appropriate given the times: We at LEI have been running workshops to teach lean techniques in hotels around the U.S. where you have to travel to us. While many of you have expressed a continuing need for training, travel has become more difficult as companies, understandably, issue restrictions. We now are prepared to run workshops on value stream mapping (in English or Spanish), mixed model production, creating continuous flow, and macro mapping in your firm using your examples. Please call LEI at (617) 713-2900 for details.

Best regards,


P.S. In the Pull Forum of the Community section of our web site (, Chet Marchwinski has begun moderating a discussion about the recent reactions to JIT supply. Please join in and tell us what you think and what your companies are doing. I hope many of you will find the discussion stimulating and useful.


I would to thank you about your point of view and I am pleased to ask you more about this book. I am not very experienced on quality so If you can provide me the link or how to view this book.
Best regards


Thanks for your point of view and your book analysis, I would to ask for the link to that book or an electronic copy of it.
Best regards.
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