Interesting Discussion Lean Manufacturing Concepts - Is 'Lean' hype?

Is 'Lean' hype?


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  • Poll closed .

Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
When you make a statement like this:
I will reiterate my statment of "fact" because this is the experience I have seen while consulting.
please consider the FACT the companies you see in a consulting business like yours ARE dysfunctional and realize it or they would never have called in a consultant in the first place.
Although I see the earlier 99.9% figure as hyperbole, I think WesCharley is closer to being right than he's being given credit for. While it may be true that our personal empirical knowledge may color or bias our perception of the Big Picture, we can still use it as a working hypothesis and feel reasonably safe in assuming that the majority of companies are not familiar with, and do not practice the core concepts of Lean comprehensively. When I lived in Chicago I had some friends who were police officers, and they all told me that when dealing with the public--during a traffic stop or questioning a suspect in a criminal situation--they always assumed they were being lied to. This doesn't mean that they believed that 99.9% of the people were actually lying, but enough of the people were lying that it would be foolhardy--and dangerous--to assume otherwise.

I, on the other hand, have seen both functional and dysfunctional businesses because I am not only considering enumerating ONLY the troubled ones which seek consultant help, but the functional ones which are customers and suppliers and prospective customers and suppliers of those dysfunctional companies. My position remains: You are in error about the number or percentage of dysfunctional companies.
He was referring to companies that don't understand certain Lean concepts, and not dysfunctional companies in general, I think. He said,
WesCharley said:
As an internal consultant for Eastman Kodak and now an independant consultant for Total Lean Soultions, I can tell you for a fact that the concepts of leveling production and single peice flow are not understood or "common" for 99.9% of US businesses.
Again, if we accept 99.9% as hyperbole meaning "the vast majority," I have to agree.

Nonetheless, as to WesCharley's actual point--that Lean isn't just common sense or intuitive--most of it certainly should be. There's really nothing magic in it, and aside from giving old concepts new names and making an attempt to logically structure them, there's really nothing new about it. Unlike Six Sigma, however, the structuring and discipline involved in implementing Lean can be very useful and enlightening, and getting managers to understand and accept the package is the real challenge. The widespread dysfunction in American manufacturing--and business in general--isn't necessarily failure to understand the concepts, it's failure to invoke leadership in implementing them.

On a side note: do you tell the 10% functional ones they don't need your consulting service even if they ask for it?
It's .1%, not 10%, and there's nothing in evidence to suggest that any of those companies asked for help. As you yourself suggested, companies that aren't dysfunctional "...would never have called in a consultant in the first place."
 
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Wes Bucey

Quite Involved in Discussions
It's .1%, not 10%, and there's nothing in evidence to suggest that any of those companies asked for help. As you yourself suggested, companies that aren't dysfunctional "...would never have called in a consultant in the first place."
Those typos (like missed decimal points) will do us in every time. Thanks for pointing it out, but I'll leave it without editing so your comment won't be an orphan!

I still wonder, though, how his firm handles that small percentage they perceive as being "Lean knowledgeable," since he has limited the discussion to those he sees in his practice.
 
W

WesCharley

We can agree to disagree. This is not however about functional or disfunctional. There are many companies that function fine without the benefit of lean, they are just not seeing their full potential.

I just have to say that your assumption that I only work with companies that are disfunctional is comical. Bsaed on my opening statement and you being a lean expert you are obviously aware of the 4 Ps.

Philosophy for the long term
Processes that porduce the right result every time
People that are empowered and engaged
and Partners that strive to do the same

I actually spend a good portion of my time working with my clients suppliers and I would say that the percentage remains the same. As a matter of fact I have worked with direct suppliers to Toyota that run the Toyota portion of their business very well, because it is a requirment from Toyota that they do so, yet their division that supplied my client was very much a mass production batch processing monster with sub par quality. Did they have the uderstanding of lean, absolutely. Then why did they not apply it across all functions of their business? It's because of the shades of gray mentatlity of application or the belief that if you apply some of the lean tools then you are doing lean which is absolutely false.
To your side note, I actaully turn down much more that 30% of prospective clients. Not because they don't need help, very few fall into this catagory, but because they are looking at lean for the wrong reasons like head count reductions or because they do not have consensus amongst their leadership team that lean is the right process for them to use. We all know there are consultatns who only do the job for the money as well as we all know there are consultants that do not have hands on experience in what they teach. To assume that someone who has a different view point than your own falls into that category is presumptuous and egotistical. Many people try to sell themselves as experts either by title or by expereince and maybe they are, I however have learned that there are many great lean experts who know more than I or the self proclaimed experts do, yet they do not have title and they don't talk about their experience but rather their knowledge and how they have attained it. These are also the same people that would say they are not experts because they are always learning and the more they learn they realize that there is much more to understand. Please be carefull of your asumptions about what type of consultatn I may be. I came to this forum as well as several others because I enjoy the discussion on philosophy and application of lean and to hopefully learn from others, not to try and pronounce my self the resident expert of lean or the saviour of all companies in need of help. I would hope that others are here to do the same and their replies to my ramblings would be, "I understand what you are saying, but I do not see it that way." rather than "you are wrong.". When you see the latter you really have to question they motive.
 

Bev D

Heretical Statistician
Staff member
Super Moderator
I'll wade in on this one as well.

While as Jim says Lean should be common sense, in my experience, it's not.
(DOE and SPC should be common sense by now too, but they aren't. I see far too many people who insist that one factor at a time experiments with all of the other factors held constant is the only way to go; I also see far more managers than not who 'think' that any data point that is higher - or lower - than the immediately proceeding one represents a "change"...:()

While the lean 'tools' are simple they are not easy and Lean's many paradoxes can make it confusing to those who have been brought up with the traditional methods of large batch sizes, lots of inventory and use of rework to get around quality problems.

Lean takes time and practice to learn; let alone implement.

Deming made a very applicable point when he discussed the theory of profound knowledge and how experience is no substitute for theory.
experience drives us to do the same thing over and over again even when it doesn't work. Theory enables us to question why something doesn't work; we learn and modify our theory. It is the same with Lean. Individuals steeped in traditional manufacturing need someone to help them learn.
 

Stijloor

Staff member
Super Moderator
Deming made a very applicable point when he discussed the theory of profound knowledge and how experience is no substitute for theory. experience drives us to do the same thing over and over again even when it doesn't work. Theory enables us to question why something doesn't work; we learn and modify our theory. It is the same with Lean. Individuals steeped in traditional manufacturing need someone to help them learn.
Bev,

Excellent points!

Here is a nice excerpt: "The Deming System of Profound Knowledge."

For further study, see: "Out of the Crisis" and "The New Economics...."

Stijloor.
 

Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
experience drives us to do the same thing over and over again even when it doesn't work. Theory enables us to question why something doesn't work; we learn and modify our theory.
No, not experience; complaisance and mindless acquiesence are the problems. "Willing workers," as Deming put described them, will almost always follow the path of least resistance. It's the job of management to provide a path that works, and experience is the cure, not the ailment.

It is the same with Lean. Individuals steeped in traditional manufacturing need someone to help them learn.
There's no denying that training in "the new philosophy" is good and necessary. :agree:
 

Stijloor

Staff member
Super Moderator
No, not experience; complaisance and mindless acquiesence are the problems. "Willing workers," as Deming put described them, will almost always follow the path of least resistance. It's the job of management to provide a path that works, and experience is the cure, not the ailment.


There's no denying that training in "the new philosophy" is good and necessary. :agree:
Local management, in the (global) corporate hierarchy, often falls in the "willing workers" category. They too are following the path of least resistance, motivated by multiple factors, one of which is fear.

Stijloor.
 

Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
Local management, in the (global) corporate hierarchy, often falls in the "willing workers" category. They too are following the path of least resistance, motivated by multiple factors, one of which is fear.

Stijloor.
A "willing worker" is anyone who isn't allowed to change something that needs to be changed.
 
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