Each day I use a news aggregation service to scour thousands of publications around the globe to bring you the latest in lean manufacturing news. Ninety-percent of the "news" are actually press releases from companies touting lean manufacturing efforts. Generally I ignore all of those, as most of those companies have no idea what "real lean" is all about.
As our friend Mark Graban creatively pointed out in a post this morning, they aren’t "lean"… they are "LAME" – Lean As Mistakenly Executed. Other potential words fitting the acronym come to mind as well. It’s interesting that the "real lean" companies like Toyota and Danaher never issue press releases touting lean and never try to win lean awards. They simply let results speak for themselves, and believe expending resources on awards paperwork really adds no value from the perception of their customers.
Today one of the news stories that popped up in my search was on Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake LLC, a joint venture of Bendix and Dana. The venture is going to build a new manufacturing facility in Kentucky… not Mexico or China. The story looked promising as the brief summary my search returned provided the following quote:
Lean manufacturing experts have review the entire production process using a Systematic Layout Planning Model. It’s the first foundation brake facility for the wheel-end joint venture.
This type of statement usually prompts me to go and read the entire article for more clues as to whether they are truly lean or just lame. When I did I found something curious. The article had been edited and changed, and the above statement now read:
Production and manufacturing experts have reviewed the entire production process. It’s the first foundation brake facility for the wheel-end joint venture.
Hmmm… what happened to "Lean?" The phrase "systematic manufacturing facility layout process model," whatever the heck that is, is now used later in the story. So here I was ready to write about the potential problems with using "lean manufacturing experts" instead of teaching their people about lean and leveraging the power and creativity of many years of knowledge and experience to create excellence. Not that "lean experts" can’t help… they can and do. But an entire facility shouldn’t be designed based solely on their input.
However now the facility was just designed by "manufacturing experts." That’s an even scarier proposition. I envision a team of APICS certified "experts" designing a massive incoming warehouse to ensure they have at least a year’s supply of raw materials and a massive finished goods warehouse to hold all the product made to an algorithmic planning guesstimate. Long batch-flow push manufacturing lines instead of u-shaped cells pulling based on actual customer demand. Lead and cycle times measured in months.
Of course that’s pure uninformed speculation. After all, they do have enough confidence in their abilities to make a large investment into a new domestic plant creating low margin products. That demonstrates some understanding of true total cost, which is better than all of the outsourcing lemmings out there.
Obviously I wish them luck and success; we need more domestic manufacturers. We’ll check back in a year.