Toyota Fails Due to Earthquake…Not Lean
I will warn you this post is going to be a rant. One that I can’t help and I feel is necessary to do.
A couple of days ago I found an article on Bnet. The title was “Lean Production: Another Casualty of the Japanese Quake?“. The title caught my eye so I decided to give it a read. I would have been better off not reading it.
The first part of the article had some good information and was informative, but then came this paragraph:
When complex systems break down, they really break down
The old model of having a plentiful supply of components on hand was costly and inefficient, but it had one big plus: It made it easier to recover quickly from an economic downturn or a natural disaster that disrupted business. In a nutshell, it was durable, if dumb.
My jaw hit the floor from shock when the author mentions that traditional supply chains are costly and inefficient but defends them again because it is quicker to recover from a natural disaster. What!? Can you imagine sitting in executive meeting that goes like this:
Person 1: “Are supply chain is really working well. The costs are down and we are delivering great value to the consumer.”
Person 2: “But what happens if a once in a lifetime 9.0 earthquake causes a tsunami that knocks the earth slightly off its axis? Will our supply chain work then?”
Person 1: “Great point. We should triple our inventory immediately.”
The lean model allows for an automaker like Toyota to produce better cars and adjust more nimbly to fluctuations in demand. But because it’s accordingly more complex and required more brain- and communications power to operate correctly, it’s vulnerable to the type of catastrophic breakdown we’re now witnessing in Japan.
Where is he even hearing about lean? In all my time studying and learning about lean, I have never heard that lean is complex and requires significant communication power to operate. If someone understands that lean at the basic level is about eliminating waste then how can you draw the conclusion that it is more complex? At the fundamental lean is the complete opposite of this statement. It is about making things simpler, including communication.
There is more but I just can’t stomach it. Plus, a lot of it has already been said very well by some of my counter parts in the comment section of the article. I really appreciate Steve Martin from theThinkShack kicking off the comments. Also, Mark Graban from the LeanBlog, David Kasprzak from MyFlexiblePencil, and Joe Dager from Busines901.
I encourage you to go and read their very thoughtful insights and your own if you would like. I didn’t have an account and as upset as I was I didn’t want to take the time to sign up for the free account to post something and then never use the account again. So, I decided to use my blog as my forum for this one and didn’t want to rehash some of the great insights from others.
I appreciate your patience on this rant and now I will return your to your regularly scheduled program.
Posted on March 18, 2011, in Customer Focus, Development, Manufacturing, Misc, Waste and tagged Bnet, Communication, Development, Inventory, Lean, Manufacturing, Toyota, Waste. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.