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Lean


and cigarettes for a few weeks, attend the event looking great, and then go back to her usual weight as soon as the event was over. And that’s how a lot of people try to do lean. "A problem I see in a lot of large companies, like the Detroit Three in the past, is that they believe in lean as long as they’re in trouble. Dr. Deming—he was a devout Episco- palian—used to quote St. Paul in saying [managers should] ‘preach it in-season and out.’ But when it’s out of season, when times are good, a lot of companies don’t preach it. They believe in lean only as long as they’re in trouble—when they can’t fit into that cocktail dress. It’s a very small percentage of people or organizations that, like Toyota, pursue lean in season and out.”


Lean is Not a Cost-Reduction Scheme


Manley acknowledged that being a proponent of lean in a state such as Michigan, with its storied automotive and labor history, has its own special challenges—and that the word


‘lean’ itself has been used as a euphemism for cost-cutting and job-cutting by people who should know better. “First impressions are important. Lean was first introduced to the US auto industry in the 1980s—a tough time. Post-oil embargo, the small, gas-saving imports were starting to get a real foothold, and for anyone with half a brain, the writing was on the wall. So the industry reached for a life-preserver called lean. And we talked about life-preservers.


“At the same time, much of the management at the Big Three had a kind of arrogance—that these pressures were just a blip on the radar and after a while everything would pretty much go back to normal—with them still on top. ‘Even the Yankees don’t go to the World Series every year’—that kind of thinking. On the labor side, the unions had been getting increases in pay and benefits—the cost of which, when the Big Three were ascendant, were simply passed on to the customer, and that weren’t tied to productivity. Once the pressure of the overseas competitors came to bear, that situation changed. “To be clear, the Big Three didn’t have a wage problem, they had a productivity problem. I tell my MBA students: I can pay you $100 an hour— but only if I’m getting $110 an hour of productivity from you. With market share being lost to the imports, the domestic car companies’ management of that time focused not on productivity but on cost cutting. And that’s not the lean way.


“In TPS there’s an order of priori-


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ties: safety, quality, delivery and cost. The mistake back then and the mistake companies in similar straits still make today is to prioritize cost. They jump to the bottom of the list. And what the unions see, behind rhetoric of quality and lean, is a job-reduction scheme.”


Lean isn’t Copy and Paste What’s frustrating to Manley is that this use of lean is anathema in TPS, which has ‘respect for people’ as one of its pillars. “Lean was never used as a job reduction scheme at Toyota,” Man-


88 ManufacturingEngineeringMedia.com | November 2014


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