Taiichi Ohno said, when asked what the Toyota Production System was all about, "All we are doing is looking at the time line, from the moment the customer gives us an order to the point when we collect the cash. And we are reducing the time line by reducing the non-value adding wastes."
Shigeo Shingo said the Toyota Production System was the "Simultaneous compression of time and space."
Six Sigma – before it became a fashion trend somehow having to do with the color of belts - was built on the premise that "The best quality producer is the shortest cycle time producer, and the shortest cycle time producer is always the best cost producer".
Henry Ford started his company with $50,000 in capital and built it into the empire it soon became without ever borrowing an additional dime.
Toyota raised itself from the ashes of World War II without bank loans for the simple reason that there were no bank loans to be had in Japan in the post War years.
So I am tired of the collective whining of American business – especially small business - that loans are somehow necessary for business recovery. Instead – how about learning what lean is all about, and how about doing business with truly lean suppliers? Then you won't need the bankers or the government.
If you are a retailer, quit buying everything from China and then blaming everyone else when you can't finance a supply chain that takes months to get your goods from some factory 9,000 miles away; and start looking for a closer, lean supplier with shorter cycle times, and therefore shorter lead times?
If you are manufacturer, how about paying a little attention to your cycle times, rather than spending endless hours agonizing over your irrelevant headcount. By shortening your cycle times you will improve your cash flow, and along the way pick up a little business selling to people who can't finance a big inventory? Just get lean, compress your cycle times, generate better cash flow, and offer a proposition to your customers that enable them to quit losing sleep over inventory financing
The essence of lean is cycle time compression – which translates directly to cash flow improvement. Lean companies generate cash – they don't stand hat in hand in Washington or groveling before bankers begging for cash.
If the Busboys and Poets bookstore in Washington wants to expand, the guy whining in this particular article ought to pay more attention to his inventory turnover – and inventory turns are driven by lead times and variability in flow which lean directly addresses - and pay for his business himself. According to Amazon, there are 3,508 books on lean manufacturing available. He ought to have at least one of them on the shelves at Busboys and Poets, and he ought to quit whining and read it.
It is not the bankers' problem – and it is certainly not the taxpayers' problem – when a business owner refuses to learn and embrace the fundamental business principles of lean. I don't want the government bailing out a non-lean company with my money because it is run by some guy who is unhappy that his 1970's business thinking doesn't work any more.