Refuting Lean

On the backside of this site, I get information about things like the search terms that brought people here. One caught my eye today.. “lean refutation.”

Since this site comes up as the 121st item in the Google search, I think I am safe to conclude that the person intended “lean manufacturing” to be the topic. The hit, by the way, was on the “Management Resistance or Poor Process” post, which I suppose has some relevance to the search as well.

I can speculate about a lot of reasons that would cause someone to search for that kind of information, but ultimately I suppose it is someone either caught in the midst of a company (or a consultant) with a distorted view of what it is all about; or someone whose comfort zone is being violated pretty badly (or a combination of both).

Here is a question for my readers:
Inverting the problem, how would you “refute lean?”
Then, based on your answer(s), what countermeasures would you develop?

I think it is important for us to understand that there are both distorted views of what this is about (and those distorted views are being enthusiastically implemented in a lot of places); and there is a good chance that people’s comfort zones can be violated.. and many of those people are ones we want to bring along.

2 Replies to “Refuting Lean”

  1. Excellent topic, Mark. We really don’t talk enough about what reasons people give to disprove/counter lean.
    1. One of the most used reasons I hear is: “Lean is just another fad. Wait and see. It will go away”.
    Answer: Lean is not going anywhere. It is not something we do on top of everything else (I.e. QS9000). Lean is a paradigm shift and it’s about doing things in a different way (in a simplistic way same like an electronic watch is measuring time differently than a mechanical watch)
    2. Another “favourite” is: “We can’t do it here. We are not Japanese and we don’t want to change our culture”.
    Answer: The origins of lean are in North America (Ford, supermarkets, Training within Industry) and as such becomes a wordly concept. It’s not about changing your identity but about changing your mentality, about trying to improve yourself and the environment you work in.
    3. The third is “Don’t you see that Toyota has problems too? Look at their recalls. They also have big inventories so all this just-in-time is just theory.”
    Answer: If they have problems is because they don’t follow the lean principles in the sense that their growth rate exceeds the rate with which they develop the lean leadership and mentality in their new plants. Inventories are not bad if controlled to assure smoothness and timely delivery. It’s about total cost ultimately so use your judgement when applying tools. They are just tools not goals.

  2. The most typical resistance is that it’s all pie-in-the-sky and thus just a fad. Lean principles are just too unrealistic, and “The last place I worked at tried that JIT stuff and everything got worse!”

    Same answer that we all know already: Where lean fails, it does so from incomplete implementation.

    I’ve had to fight tooth and nail just to establish a basic master-scheduling system. Guys that have been there for years say things like “Why don’t we just hire another expediter?” or “Production control just aren’t following their priority lists. If they would just stay on top of their lists. . . ”

    In some instances, some people just have to be gotten rid of, but I’m not telling where the bodies are buried.

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