Lean Manufacturing: A Five-Year Fix?

On the way to the gemba this morning I heard the NPR report on American suit manufacturer Joseph Abboud on the rental car radio. Here is the transcript on the NPR website, titled Suit Maker Goes ‘Lean’ to Keep Jobs in U.S.

 

The report gave me three thoughts.

 

First, it was good to hear jobs being kept in the United States through Lean manufacturing. Second, it was good to hear the words “Lean manufacturing” on the morning news on national radio. But somehow, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

 

Sure enough, the story ended with the follwing:

 

So far, the Joseph Abboud formula seems to be successful. Last year, the factory increased production, and sales are up 15 percent. In a world where pressure from low-wage labor is intense, Sapienza expects the strategy to work for five years.

 

So Lean manufacturing is a strategy that will work for five years. After that, move to a low cost country?

 

After that, he says the company will have to change further to stay competitive.

 

That sounds ominous. Why wait five years to “change further” unless you by change you mean “change to a lowest labor cost strategy”?

 

The whole idea of Lean manufacturing a.k.a. Toyota Production System a.k.a. kaizen + respect for people is that you are continuously changing and improving in the struggle to remain competitive. Don’t wait five years for the next buzzword fix.

3 Comments

  1. Hi Jon, I also heard this company (at least I think it is this company) is paying employees more depending on their output. This does not sound Lean to me. At least they are headed in the right direction but hopefully this doesn’t end up on Dilbert.

  2. Hallo everyone
    I just want to know is it a necessity to implement Lean in a team or can you do it individually? I am the only industrial engineer in the medium size enterprise and have limited knowledge on Lean. I know the benefits but don’t have a team member to back me up?

  3. Hallo Johan,
    Even with a medium-sized enterprise it is very difficult for one person to implement Lean alone. In a Lean enterprise everybody needs to be involved in making improvements, eventually.
    If you can make small improvements and show people that Lean is a good thing, and build a team of supporters, it will be easier.
    You have a “virtual team” of people here to back you up.

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