Have you heard about John Watson & Company, the printing firm from across the pond that supposedly hasn’t laid off any employees in it’s 182 year history? Quite an accomplishment for a company that has seen multiple wars and uncountable business recessions. Probably one reason is due to the diversity of their client base and products, from whiskey labels to stationery.
A 182-year-old Glasgow print firm is shaking off the blues affecting the sector by making one of the biggest investments seen in Scotland in recent years as it looks to maintain dramatic growth in sales. The latest success continues a remarkable record of achievement for the firm, which is one of the few survivors of the nineteenth century heyday of production in Glasgow. Watson boasts that his firm has never laid off any workers.
Another is their implementation of lean manufacturing.
There has been a stream of failures among printers in Scotland, where consolidation in industries like whisky production and moves by manufacturers to cut costs by shifting work overseas have made life tough. However, [CEO John] Watson is proud that his business has managed to compete effectively while remaining in Glasgow. Watson attributes the success to the pursuit of "lean manufacturing" which entails constant efforts to improve efficiency.
That warms the hearts of many of us… until we read the next line.
For example, he found that producing one million labels in one run made better sense than producing 10 lots of 100,000, despite the increased stock-holding costs.
Uh, unless there’s really a customer willing to take (and use, if you apply lean to the extended value chain) those million labels, that isn’t lean. What would happen if an ongoing problem was only found late in the run? What would happen if the customer’s demand went down and a reduction flowed up to the printer? Perhaps the customer would decide to implement a graphics change, which couldn’t be accomodated. As real lean people know, efficiency and cost isn’t just a function of the number of of additional labels, especially if they aren’t sold yet, that can be created during the time it takes for an extra changeover or two. There is also value in being agile, responsive and to having less cash tied up in potentially questionable and perishable inventory.
As our friend Mark at the Lean Blog likes to say, that LAME, not LEAN.
Those eighty employees, and the twenty or so more expected to be added soon, should consider their jobs pretty secure. Or should they?