How Toyota Introduces Tech

Over the years, I’ve resisted linking to “outside” articles other than my own.  I always felt that I should provide original content.

I’m revisiting that decision because, of course, there’s a bunch of good literature out there that’s not my own.  Sharing such of that literature as I become aware of with you strikes me as a way this blog can add value.

This article is a good example.  I’ve been reading a bit about Industry 4.0 and digital transformation lately.  Most of it is interesting stuff but too much of it presents technology as intrinsically “good”.  This article, published by my friends at Industry Week, reviews Toyota’s more enlightened approach to tech.

The starting point is this: where are real needs that technology can address to help achieve your goals? This is a question of pulling technology based on the opportunity, instead of pushing the technology because it is the latest fad.


When the Toyota Way Meets Industry 4.0


Six Sigma Had a Demise?

I happened across an article, just a couple of weeks ago, about the alleged demise of Six Sigma.   (Read the article here.) Now, I’ve never been either a huge fan or a detractor of Six Sigma.  I myself am not a Six Sigma any-kind-of-belt but I took a fair amount of statistics in college and grad school, some of it pretty advanced.  All to say, I’m aware of both the utility and the limits of statistical tools of the sort Six Sigma practitioners use.  I’m also aware that Six Sigma isn’t just a bundle of statistical tools, rather it’s an overall approach to analyzing and addressing variation of both processes themselves and the outputs they deliver.  Finally, I’m aware that, the only thing the media like better than boosting a particular management “fad”  (and I use that term cautiously, mainly because I don’t like it.  It’s most often used by lazy journalists writing the sorts of articles I’m about to refer to)…is tearing management “fads” apart.  The article in question isn’t quite the latter but it is a good example of an article that gets a lot of stuff wrong as it makes the case that Six Sigma is, perhaps, passe`.  Mind you, it’s not a bad article…in fact, it’s well worth reading.  But…well, let’s take a look at the article in a bit of detail and I’ll go over some of my quibbles.

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Larry Fast, columnist at Industry Week, is One Smart Guy

I don’t know Larry and he doesn’t know me, so this is unsolicited and uncompensated applause for a smart guy who seems to know a lot about lean.  I say that because I always agree with what he writes.  And that’s saying something…I once wrote some guy an email lambasting him for his superficial lean article and he sent one back, calling me every thing but a child of God.  In Larry’s case, I feel almost as if I could just link to his posts rather than writing any of my own!

So…what has me singing Larry’s praises?  Well, all his articles are good and should be read but two in particular perked me up.

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Another Misinformed Article On Lean Manufacturing

I’ve said any number of times that one of the problems with lean is  alleged “experts” who say stuff that just ain’t so. I just ran across an article that crams a lot of “just ain’t so” stuff into a few paragraphs.    Here’s the article:  Next Generation Lean: Why Lean Too Often Requires a Leap of Faith.  (I’m going to quote some of the most egregious statements (and there are a lot of them) so you might want to just stay here.)  Right off the bat, you know the article is likely to be pretty off track…lean NEVER requires a leap of faith. It’s benefits are proven many times over.  But, let’s dig in, anyway, to see what other nonsense we can uncover.

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The Lean Farm Follow-Up

A few posts ago, I mentioned I was reading (or was about to read) a book I’d come across, The Lean Farm, authored by Ben Hartman.  Well, I’m about two-thirds the way through and I’d recommend it even for (maybe, especially for) folks who are applying lean concepts and methods in other industries.  (Sometimes, examples and illustrations hit home better when they are just a bit outside our intellectual comfort range.)

The book is very nicely organized.  The author does a good job of breaking lean down into its most important elements.  Further, Hartman provides lots of illustrations and examples of his own application of lean tools and methods on his small farm.  Readers familiar with lean won’t learn much that’s new but will be interested in how an astute practitioner has been able to apply lean tools in an agricultural setting.  “Newbies” will get as good an introduction to lean ideas and methods as there is.

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Leadership Commitment Isn’t Enough

Hey, I just got another article posted on Industry Week’s web site!  It rambles a bit, perhaps, but I’m particularly proud of this one.  It addresses my own experience that company leaders often start out honestly committed to a lean initiative but, later, lose energy for it because they never see it as closely integrated with the company’s overall strategy.  Check it out and let me know what you think!