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on January 4, 2012
For anyone learning about Lean, this book needs to be a part of your repertoire. It is a bit technical at times but has lots of solid background about how Lean processes are meant to work as taught by the men who coined the term "Lean" in the first place.
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on December 27, 2001
This book is a classic on the advantages of being lean - Product Design, Manufacturing, Supply Chain Management - the entire gamut from concept to delivery in the Automobile industry.
What Ford's mass production did to craft production and its profound effects on the developed economies in the first half of the last century is an old but interesting story. With the advent of Ford's manufacturing techniques, there was a consolidation in the Auto industry. Within a couple of decades the number of automobile manufacturers fell from over a hundred to less than twenty and the big three cornering over ninety percent of the market share. Detroit became the center of pilgrimage for the rest of the world trying to emulate and replicate this success story in other continents.
Silently, the Japanese led by Toyota were working on a different concept of putting the automobile in the hands of the customer, at better quality, lesser costs, shorter development times and with the ability to offer a wider choice. The statistics collected from these "lean systems" is mind boggling. The competitive advantage that Japan enjoyed over the American system was neither due to lower wages in Japan nor due to higher levels of automation as widely believed. It was primarily the lean machine that was conquering the mass machine.
This book is based on the research done in the 1980's and published around 1990. The authors while acclaiming lean manufacturing as the panacea for the ills of manufacturing systems globally had at the time of the research and the publication of this work, probably ignored the next major change that would sweep across continents. Cars ride on highways, but today's businesses are quickly shifting gear and using a super fast highway for collaborating and for managing their global presence. Thanks to the Internet, the economics of information is transforming the economics of things. Dell is probably a good example of the new business model that could not have been imagined in the 80's. The tearing down of artificial walls across countries and continents also happened in the last decade.
We are badly in need of a repeat research study of the kind done in this book, in the face of the new realities. Global companies run by global citizens serving a global market and using a global currency will probably happen sooner than we expect.
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on April 24, 2003
The Machine That Changed the World; The Story of Lean Production
A great book that although becoming a little outdated portrays the ongoing trends in the automobile production industry in three major cultural areas.
The three areas are;the Asian lean production (Toyota) v.s. the American system,(mass production) v.s. the European craftsman system. On a larger scale it will and is affecting manufacturing everywhere.
Henry Ford was the founder of the American mass production system, and Ford was very successful adopting it to the aircraft and steel industries. American companies adopted this system and it is one of the main reasons for American pre-eminence in many industries worldwide. Toyota has become the founder of the Lean system of manufacturing. Most of the
early adherents to this system were other large Japanese companies, and responsible for the Japanese manufacturing miracle since the 1960's, as it was adapted from automotive to all manner of industries.
The book is well written and interesting even though it is based on an MIT study of global trends in the auto industry. I would like to see an update to this book. The one anomaly I see is the German Automobile industry. If Japan and Korea have some of the most efficient auto manufacturing plants in the world and
North America is becoming more competitive, what is happening in Europe comes as no surprise. Many European automakers have yet to fully embrace American mass production techniques and are now faced with the greater efficiencies of Lean
production. The book does not explain in my mind the success of the German Auto industry. It seems to be the one exception to the rule.
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on March 15, 2001
Lean production has its disciples, as well as its detractors. The future of automobile production, and general supply chain management is centred in lean production philosophies and management techniques.
This book provides for the initiated, as well as the practitioner, a complete account of the major issues and problems faced with the introduction and management of lean systems.
The Japanese, particularly Toyota, were the originators of this approach to manufacturing. The Japanese success has been closely followed throughout the world, with the Koreans modelling the technique, and US companies such as the GM Saturn closely resembling lean systems.
The manufacturing and retail supply chain management in automobiles, but also in every other sector of economic activity, is closely following lean systems. This book is a very useful and immediate account of what this important production development and technique exactly is.
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on December 12, 1998
In "The Machine That Changed the World", Womack, along with several other individuals, give an analysis of the Automobile Industry within global boundaries. This book was the summarization of a five year, five million dollar study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Analysis was provided for both foreign and domestic automobile manufacturers with an eye toward the future. This book spoke "globally" far earlier than it was hip to speak in such terms, analyzing such foreign automotive powers such as Toyota, with their Toyota Production System, perhaps the greatest example of Lean Manufacturing in the world. For anyone who would like to learn anything about the automobile industry in general, or even further, would like to learn about successful business practices, I highly recommend this text.
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on May 26, 2001
The book was written in 1990 and most of the research was done in the mid-80s. The author is full of ideas on how lean production will save and revolutionize the world auto industry, but I'm interested to find out what's happened since then. One thing I find most interesting is that the author is particularly charmed by Toyota's use of many platforms and their economic feasibility due to their lean production techniques. This was true in the late 80s and early 90s, but was completely done away with until their recent SUV explosion, for the very reason that it was cost ineffective and nobody was buying their unnecessarily diverse models. At any rate, a good book, especially for one who has never heard of lean production before (such as I). I would really enjoy another book that gets more technically specific.
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on July 17, 1998
While this book has been touted as an enlightening view of lean production and how it beat mass production in manufacturing it is also extremely instructive for anyone who is interested in the auto industry in general. It not only shows how the west's failure to listen to Demming allowed the Japanese to revolutionize the industry, it also pokes a few holes in the hallowed European "quality" myth particularly the German manufacturers. For westerners it also raises the curtain on the Japanese domestic auto business which I found very enlightening.
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on August 6, 1999
Remember, this was published in 1990, and today is out of date. If you have come looking for specific examples, or secrets of how the Japanese have been making such huge gains, THIS IS NOT FOR YOU. The book is great from a historical standpoint, but it misses totally on any detailed examples of what Toyota has done. Anyone in manufacturing who has not heard of work-circles or suggestion boxes, would probably find this a great read with lots of info, but for the rest of us, this is just a history book. Go for Lean Thinking instead.
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on February 21, 2004
Since the beginning of the 50's, Toyota has been a making a revolution in the way corporation works. A real unique approach named lean has been allowing the company to achieve superior performance concurrently in manufacturing, product development and suppliers management. The Machine brings to the reader a wide explanation of "Toyota Way". If you are looking for a book about Lean and you'd like to understand Toyota, it certainly should be your first choice!
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on June 30, 1998
This is the best unbiased insight into the operations of the auto industry with great insights into the best practices for design, manufacturing, and marketing. The lessons taught are applicable to any manufacturing industry, especially one that operates on a global basis. It shatters myth, mysteries, and legends and replaces it with scientific data that solidifies the concepts of lean business. A must read for all manufacturing professionals at any level.
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