Top positive review
38 people found this helpful
Good Conceptual Overview of Eliminating Waste in Producing
on 28 May 2004
Unlike most cost-reduction books, Lean Thinking has a strong conceptual underpinning for thinking about improving your operations. The authors move beyond the narrowest application of the lean manufacturing model (the original Toyota system) to explore key concepts like value (what do the customers want? as opposed to what do they choose from the limited options we give them?), flow (continuous production is faster and more efficient than batch processing), pull (letting immediate demand determine what is produced rather than sales projections), and perfection (thinking through the ideal way to do things, rather than just improving from where you are today somewhat). Providing this conceptual framework makes it easier to understand the benefits of operating a lean enterprise. People who did not understand the message in Direct from Dell would find Lean Thinking to be a useful framework.
One of the strengths of this book is that it is deliberately full of examples of companies which took traditional methods in existing plants and converted them into lean operations. I know of no other set of case histories half as useful on this subject.
The key limitation of this book is that most people new to lean manufacturing would not be able to implement solely using the book as a guide. The conceptual perspective, while being uniquely valuable, leaves the inexperienced person with few guideposts. Some of the key requirements are simply described as "get the knowledge" and so forth. As a follow-up, I suggest that the authors team with those who have done this work and write a hands-on guide. Much more benefit will follow.
If you are interested in understanding how a new business model of how to provide your products and/or services might work and what the benefits might be, Lean Thinking is a good place to start. Most executives and operations managers have never seriously considered going from batch to cell-based production. This will open your eyes to the potential.
Based on my many years of experience with improving business processes, you will actually need to go visit some of the companies cited to fully understand the issues and what must be done. I know that visits to Pratt & Whitney can be arranged and are very insightful. You might try to start with that one.
One area may turn you off. The cited examples moved forward pretty ruthlessly. That may not be your cup of tea. You may be reminded of some of the early reengineering. My own experience is that such changes can be done in a more positive and constructive way. Stay open to that possibility as you read the cases. They basically all use command and control to create more flexibility. You can also use other methods like those encouraged in The Soul at Work and The Living Company to create these kinds of results. Keep that in mind.
I recommend that everyone who uses batch and sequential operation methods read this book. It will open your eyes to great potential to grow faster and more profitably.