I have to put in a plug for a new book called JIT Is Flow by Hiroyuki Hirano. In the interest of full disclosure, yeah, I had a small hand in editing it, and yeah, it was published by Norm Bodek – the same guy who published my book, so I might be a little biased. However, I have no financial stake in whether any of you buy it or not. I just honestly think it is a good book. If you don’t want to take my word for it, listen to Doc Hall and Richard Schonberger. They think it’s a good book too.
The book doesn’t add much new to the body of knowledge that Shingo didn’t already develop, but Hirano does a great job of logically laying out all of the shop floor elements of a lean transition, from 5S through kanbans, U shaped cells and all the way out to autonomation and equipment maintenance. If I have a complaint about Shingo, it would be that his writing isn’t the clearest in the lean industrial engineering world. Where Shingo was a great thinker and innovator, Hirano is a great teacher and communicator. Any confusion about why and how on the shop floor is cleared up by Hirano.
The book is probably a bit too too basic for people who have been at lean for a while, but it is perfect for production people just setting out on the lean journey. For that matter, it is perfect for a senior manager who has little shop floor background. Hirano spells it all out in very clear fashion. It is also a great primer for anyone coming into a lean plant for the first time. It ought to be required reading for all new production supervisors and production support people.
I like the fact that Hirano titled it ‘JIT’ rather than something Lean or having to do with Toyota. I suspect he wanted to avoid getting tangled up in the nitpicking debates with the detailed purists. By going back to the old name – before the term lean was coined – he is able to stick to the fundamentals, without having to address every nuance the lean community has proposed over the last decade.
Finally, while Hirano is an IE – probably the most widely known and successful industrial engineer in Japan today – and the book is first and foremost a lean industrial engineering primer, the first part of the book includes some interesting insights into manufacturing trends. Perhaps the strongest argument for lean is Hirano’s description of what he calls the emerging "Linear Economy". According to him, Walmart is at its zenith, and there will be no room for big retailers in the near future. People are ordering more and more on line, and buying more and more from convenience and small specialty stores that enable them to get precisely what they want quickly.
The ‘linear’ part refers to the idea that people live their lives on lines connecting their homes, work, and social and recreational interests, and shopping will take place along those lines. The days of devoting an entire day, or even an afternoon, to shopping will soon be gone. People will not be willing to devote the time it takes to travel out of their way to and wander around massive retail sites. Instead, they will expect Walmart prices delivered to their home when they need the goods.
All tolled, JIT By HIrano is a very good book. I highly recommend it, and I think many Superfactory readers will find it one of the few lean books you keep handy and keep coming back to over the years.