By Kevin Meyer
Just a quick note to let our loyal readers know that both of your humble Evolving Excellence writers will be traveling over the next couple weeks – I'll be in India and Bill will be in Europe. So apologies in advance if you don't get your fix of lean red meat each morning.
A recent article by Ian Batey at Capgemini Consulting used the clever term "cloud cuckoos" to describe those fools that believe the latest software will lead to manufacturing nirvana. Far be it for me to criticize anyone from a top consulting firm, especially when they purport to know something about lean manufacturing, so this time I'll just say Ian got it, uh, mostly right.
He makes the great point that there's no software magic bullet.
Whenever I get into a discussion about lean and technology, the conversation inevitably turns to the latest, greatest technological magic bullet. In the good old days it was ‘3rd Generation Languages (3GL)' and ‘Open Systems’. These were closely followed by ‘ubiquitous connection’ and ‘the internet’, through to all sorts of wild and wonderful ideas during the dot com bubble. The frustrating thing about technology is that it is very hard to distinguish the core of ‘truth’ from the outrageous hype and hyperbole that usually accompanies any new capability.
But then he accepts supposed advantage of the current state.
Some longer standing applications of these concepts are well proven, such as a major electronics manufacturer sharing its production schedules with its global contract manufacturers as well as collaborative forecasting with tier one customers via an Advanced Planning and Scheduling system's web capability.
Now any of us in the real lean world could probably poke innumerable holes in any such APS system – probably first by witnessing the armies of expediters busily trying to feed the machine enough data, and updated data, to make the algorithms almost work.
He sideswipes how clever manual solutions, aided by limited technology, can obsolete that forecasting nonsense.
At a more prosaic lean level, I know of one consumer products company that runs a 2 bin kanban system using a web cam to observe a square in a remote client premises.
Beautiful. I wonder if that company came across a certain Evolving Excellence post from over five ago that proposed just such a system – instead of feeding the algorithmic monster.