By Jon Miller | Post Date: January 15, 2007 11:16 PM | Comments: 6
There is a very interesting discussion over at the Lean blog today in the post To Merge or Not To Merge...Lean & TPS. There were nine reader comments as of tonight, with many good viewpoints on the question of whether the articles on "lean manufacturing" and "Toyota Production System" should be merged as Wikipedia entries.
They should not.
The first is a descriptive label for the second, and a poor one at that. The second is still evolving, and will outlive the moniker of "lean".
A bit of historical perspective:
About three decades ago QC Circles which Deming helped launch in Japan, and which survive as a vital part of the Toyota Production System to this day, became TQC and then was imported back into the United States at TQM. It was a great system. It was not implemented well at all in most cases. It was the tusk of the elephant.
Two decades ago the West saw what Toyota was doing and understood it as "jut in time". Again, most implementations of just in time left a bitter taste in people's mouths. That was the trunk of the elephant.
Then the buzz about kaizen started between 15 and 20 years ago, depending on which guru you credit with bringing it to the Western consciousness. Great stuff, again but just the ear of the elephant.
Others latched on to kanban as an early, if incomplete descriptor of the Toyota Production System. I heard this story, tragicomic as it is, from a very senior west coast Lean practitioner named Mike who attended a seminar with Taiichi Ohno, one of the very few that he gave on American soil. It was organized by a company called Productivity, who have done many great things for learning about TPS. The topic was "kanban", because this is what the organizer at Productivity understood the Toyota Production System to be at that time. According to Mike, Taiichi Ohno's presentation went something this:
What a phenomenal waste. All because we asked a brilliant man to tell us about the wonders of the elephant, but since we only knew the elephant by it's tail, we insisted that he teach about the thin leathery swishy bit.
So what will Lean manufacturing look like to us 10 years from now?
We are debating the wrong things. To extend the metaphor, we are not interested in elephants, but in herds of elephants, entire ecosystems on the savanna, the entire cycle of life and death.
We should never stop exploring things that are bigger than us, and by giving complex things simple names in an effort to understand them, we risk being intellectually lazy.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.