Over the past several months you’ve probably enjoyed Bill Waddell’s hard-hitting posts on this blog as much as I have. His propensity to challenge the status quo with historical facts has been a breath of fresh air and has forced the lean community to think about the stability of its own foundation.
Bill, in collaboration with Shingo Prize winning author Norman Bodek, has just released a new book, Rebirth of American Industry – A Study of Lean Management. In it he uses his in-your-face style to take issue with several commonly-held lean beliefs, and the companies that mistakenly believe they are lean. The book has already received considerably acclaim from early reviewers.
Brian Maskell, President of BMA, Inc. and one of the leaders of the lean accounting movement, has this to say:
"This excellent book will make some enemies. It is outspoken, hard-hitting, and correct. The authors answer the question "whay have so few American companies successfully transformed themselves into lean organizations". They take us back to the origins of lean at Ford Motor Company and Toyota, and contrast them with the modern American manufacturer. The solutions advocated will be unpopular because they cut to the heart of "professional" management theory and show that the lean transformation must start not on the shop-floor but by active transformation in the executive offices."
Tom Johnson, author of Relevance Lost and the Shingo Prize winning Profit Beyond Measure, had this to say in the forward he wrote for the book:
"The central concern of this book is to outline the core principles in the Sloan management model that GM adopted after 1920 and to show how adhering to those principles makes it virtually impossible for managers to understand and adopt the principles inherent in Toyota’s so-called "lean" operating system. The book also does well at showing how the "magic" of MRP software after 1960 further disguised the dead-weight impact of overhead cost. The authors properly describe MRP as a sophisticated effort to rationalize the damage to sound operations caused by following the Sloan model. "
I have always been fascinated by the history of lean, and this book does not disappoint. However as Bill points out in his introduction, this is not a history book… it is a management book. In any case, the supporting stories are priceless and help drive home the fallacies of the Sloan/Dupont ROI model. Such as Chrysler having 400,000 cars in finished goods at one point which required them to rent the empty Ford plant at Highland Park – ironically the birthplace of lean manufacturing – and they still believed they achieved a profit. As he has on this blog, he takes the Shingo Prize to task for awarding prizes to operations like Delphi that ended up failing the bottom line gut test of lean: they didn’t make money.
One of my favorite chapters is "The Illusion of MRP", perhaps because that’s the battle I’ve fought at several operations. After a quick review of the history of MRP, Bill discusses the attempts to integrate lean with MRP… and correctly concludes that the only way to reconcile lean and MRP is to turn MRP off. Looking at it from Taichi Ohno’s perspective, would a manufacturing company that was operating on a philosophy of lead times of zero and lot sizes of one have any use whatsoever for an MRP system?
I highly recommend this book. It will be available this week from Amazon. You can read an excerpt here, and it is also featured this month on Superfactory and in the Superfactory Newsletter. My thanks to Bill and Norm for sending me a preview copy.