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Chapter 1


A House or a Hassle-Free Experience?

Doyle Wilson of Austin, Texas, had been building homes for fifteen years before he got serious about quality. "In October of 1991 I just got disgusted. Such a large part of my business was waiting and rework, with expensive warranty claims and friction with customers, that I knew there must be a better way. Then I stumbled across the quality movement."

He read Carl Sewell's book on car dealing, Customers for Life, and decided to test his claims by buying a car at Sewell's Dallas dealership. ("I thought that if even a car dealer could make a customer feel good, it should be easy for a homebuilder!") His purchase was such a positive experience that he asked Sewell for advice on quality in home building and was told to read the works of W. Edwards Deming.

Doyle Wilson is the archetypical Texan and never does things halfway. By February of 1992 he had launched a wall-to-wall Total Quality Management campaign at Doyle Wilson Homebuilder. Over the next three years he personally taught his workforce the principles of TQM, began to collect and analyze enormous amounts of data on every aspect of his business, got rid of individual sales commissions ("which destroy quality consciousness"), eliminated the traditional "builder bonus" for his construction superintendents (who were qualifying for the "on-time completion" bonus by making side deals with customers on a "to-be-done-later" list), reduced his contractor corps by two thirds, and required the remaining contractors to attend (and pay for) his monthly quality seminars.

Customer surveys showed a steady rise in satisfaction with the homebuilding experience and sales grew steadily even in a fiat market as Wilson took sales from his competitors. In 1995, Doyle Wilson Homebuilder won the National Housing Quality Award (often called the Baldrige Award for quality of the construction industry), and Wilson set a goal of winning the Baldrige Award itself by 1998. Yet he was not satisfied.

"I knew I was making progress in competing with other builders for the new-home buyer, but a simple fact, once it lodged in my mind, wouldn't go away: 78 percent of the homes bought in central Texas each year are 'used' or older homes. I've been making progress in increasing my share of the 22 percent seeking a new home, but what about the 78 percent who bought older homes? Obviously, these buyers are the real market opportunity."

So instead of surveying people who were buying new homes, Wilson began to talk with people who were buying older homes. What he discovered was obvious in retrospect but has required a complete rethinking of his business. Specifically, he found that many buyers of older homes hated the "hassle factor" in negotiating for new construction, the long lead times to get the job done and move in, the inevitable "to-be-done" list after moving in, and the "phony choices" available from builders who promise custom homes but then load on as "standard equipment" many features of little interest to buyers.

Wilson soon realized that that was exactly what he had been asking his customers to go through. By contrast, older-home customers could clearly see what they were getting, buy only what they wanted, and, often, move in immediately. "No wonder I was losing 78 percent of my potential customers!"

To create a hassle-free experience to go with the house itself (these together constituting Wilson's "product"), it was necessary to rethink every step in the process. He has recently opened a one-stop sales center where the customer can see and decide on every option available in a house (for example, the forty different varieties of brick, the three thousand varieties of wallpaper, the four styles of built-in home office), customize a basic design with the help of an Auto-Cad computer system, select features beyond the standard level (for example, extra-thick carpet pads, additional outdoor lighting, and heavier-duty wiring), determine the exact price, work out the mortgage, arrange for insurance, and arrange for the title search. For customers truly in a hurry this can be done during one walk-through of the sales center.

To shrink the lead time from contract signing to moving in from six months to a target of thirty days, he has reorganized his contract-writing and job-release process and is developing a system of pull scheduling for contractors who are assigned new jobs as downstream jobs are completed.

He is also introducing standardized work statements, parts lists, and tool kits for every job. Eventually these steps will eliminate the "to-do" list because the new system does not allow the next task to start until the previous task is certified as complete with perfect quality.

Finally, Wilson has created a wide range of basic house designs with a minimum construction standard and asks the customer to specify all materials and systems upgrades (using the computer design system) to a selected base design so the customer only pays for exactly what she or he feels is really needed.

Doing all of this will not be easy, as we'll see when we return to this example in Chapter 3 on fiow, but Doyle Wilson has already made the key leap. Instead of concentrating on conventional markets and what he and his contractors were accustomed to making in a conventional way, he has looked hard at value as defined by his customers and set off down a new path.

Start by Challenging Traditional Definitions of "Value"

Why is it so hard to start at the right place, to correctly define value? Partly because most producers want to make what they are already making and partly because many customers only know how to ask for some variant of what they are already getting. They simply start in the wrong place and end up at the wrong destination. Then, when providers or customers do decide to rethink value, they often fall back on simple formulas -- lower cost, increased product variety through customization, instant delivery -- rather than jointly analyzing value and challenging old definitions to see what's really needed.

Steve Maynard, vice president for engineering and product development at the Wiremold Company in West Hartford, Connecticut, was trying to deal with these very problems when he reorganized Wiremold's product development system in 1992. For many years previously, Wiremold had developed new products -- consisting of wire guides for office and industrial users and surge protectors for PCs and other business electronics -- through a conventional departmentalized process. It started with marketing, which commissioned surveys comparing Wiremold's products with the offerings of competitors. When an "opportunity" was identified, usually a gap in the market or a reported weakness in a competitor's offering, a design was developed by product engineering, then tested by the prototype group. If it worked according to specification, the design proceeded to the engineers designing the machines to make the products and eventually went into production.

This system produced designs which lacked imagination and which customers often ignored. (The designs also took too much time and effort to develop and cost too much to make, but these are a different type of problem we'll discuss in Chapter 3.) Simply speeding up this process through simultaneous engineering and then broadening product variety would just have brought more bad designs to market faster. Pure muda.

Steve Maynard's solution was to form a team for each product to stick with that product during its entire production life. This team -- consisting of a marketer, a product engineer, and a tooling/process engineer -- proceeded to enter into a dialogue with leading customers (major contractors) in which all of the old products and solutions were ignored. Instead, the customer and the producer (Wiremold) focused on the value the customer really needed.

For example, traditional Wiremold wire guides (which channel wiring through hostile factory environments and provide complex arrays of outlets in high-use areas like laboratories and hospitals) had been designed almost entirely with regard to their ruggedness, safety, and cost per foot as delivered to the construction site. This approach nicely matched the mentality of Wiremold's product engineers, who dominated the development process and who found a narrow, "specification" focus very reassuring.

As the new dialogue began, it quickly developed that what customers also wanted was a product that "looked nice" and could be installed at the construction site very quickly. (Wiremold had never employed a stylist and knew relatively little about trends in the construction process.) Customers were willing to make substantial trades on cost per foot to get better appearance (which increased the bid price of construction jobs) and quicker installation (which reduced total cost).

Within two years, as all of Wiremold's product families were given the team treatment, sales for these very conventional products increased by more than 40 percent and gross margins soared. Starting over with a joint customer-producer dialogue on value paid a major dividend for Wiremold quite aside from savings in product development and production costs.

While Wiremold and Doyle Wilson Homebuilder and every other firm needs to be searching for fundamentally new capabilities that will permit them to create value in unimagined dimensions, most firms can substantially boost sales immediately if they find a mechanism for rethinking the value of their core products to their customers.

Define Value in Terms of the Whole Product

Another reason firms find it hard to get value right is that while value creation often fiows through many firms, each one tends to define value in a different way to suit its own needs. When these differing definitions are added up, they often don't add up. Let's take another nightmarish (but completely typical) travel example.

One of us (Jones) recently took his family on an Easter holiday in Crete from his home in Herefordshire in the United Kingdom. What was wanted was a total, hassle-free package of transport to the airport, a fiight to Crete, transport to the villa in Crete, and the villa itself. What was available instead was a product pieced together by the user and involving nineteen different operating organizations:

The travel company (to book the air tickets and the villa), the taxi firm (which doesn't deal with the travel company) handling the long trip from Hereford to London Gatwick -- no airline fiies nonstop between Birmingham (the nearest airport) and Crete at Easter time, the ground staffs at both airports (independent contractors to the airline), the security staffs at both airports (more independent contractors), the two customs staffs (to check your documents at both ends and to keep themselves occupied doing so), the two airport authorities (who love long layovers because spending per passenger goes up), the airline (which has been deintegrating and performs less of the support activities for its operations itself), the air-traffic authorities in five countries along the route of fiight (who follow the standard form for governments by being undercapitalized and optimized for delays), the bank exchanging currency at Gatwick airport, the bus company to convey the family to the villa in Crete, and the villa.

The trip was reasonably routine but look at what the Jones family did to "process" itself through the system:

1. Call the travel company to make the booking.

2. Receive the tickets by mail.

3. Call the taxi company to make the booking.

4. Wait for the taxi.

5. Load the luggage (8:00 A.M. GMT).

6. Drive to the airport (three and a quarter hours), arriving two hours before the scheduled fiight time as required by the airline.

7. Unload the luggage.

8. Wait in the currency exchange queue (to change English pounds into Greek drachma).

9. Wait in the check-in line.

10. Wait in the security line.

11. Wait in the customs line.

12. Wait in the departure lounge.

13. Wait in the boarding line.

14. Wait in the airplane (two-hour air-traffic delay).

15. Taxi to the runway.

16. Fly to Crete (three hours).

17. Wait in the airplane (taxi and deboarding).

18. Wait in the baggage-claim line.

19. Wait in the immigration line.

21. Wait in the customs line.

22. Load luggage onto the bus.

23. Wait in the bus.

24. Travel by bus to the villa (almost forty-five minutes).

25. Unload luggage and carry to villa.

26. Wait to check in at the villa (9:00 P.M. GMT).

The box score:

Total travel time: 13 hours

Time actually going somewhere: 7 hours (54 percent of the total) 3

Queuing and wait time: 6 hours

Number of lines: 10

Number of times luggage was picked up and put down: 7

Number of inspections (all asking the same questions): 8

Total processing steps: 23

The problem here is not that there were too many firms involved. Each was appropriately specialized for its current task. The problem instead is that each firm was providing a partial product, often only looking inward toward its own operational "efficiency" while no one was looking at the whole product through the eyes of the customer. The minute the focus is shifted to the whole as seen by the customer, obvious questions emerge:

Could one person at check-in handle the security, customs, and check-in tasks? (Letting you walk past them into the boarding area or even onto the plane.) Better yet, could the ticket sent by your travel agent include your baggage tags, boarding passes, taxi voucher, bus tickets, and villa registration, so you just drop these off as you walk through each point? (Or perhaps travelers could create their own ticket using their personal computer linked to reservations systems. They could simply swipe their credit card through a card reader at each point, eliminating paperwork altogether along with the travel agent.) Could the customs authorities in Crete have your passport scanned at check-in in London and use the hours you are en route to figure out whether you ought to be admitted? (Then, unless there is a problem, you could just walk off the plane without visiting immigration and customs at all.) And why (does anyone know?) do you need to arrive at the airport two hours before departure? In short, the appropriate definition of the product changes as soon as you begin to look at the whole through the eyes of the customer.

The Critical Need for Lean Firms to Rethink Value

If you take a few moments to refiect on almost any "product" -- a good, a service, or more likely both in combination -- you will begin to see the same issue of the appropriate way to define it. Doing this will generally require producers to talk to customers in new ways and for the many firms along a value stream to talk to each other in new ways. (We'll see many more examples of this need in the pages ahead -- for example, the need for car companies to stop selling a product and car dealers to stop selling services, both to be replaced by a new product [personal mobility] provided jointly to the user.)

It's vital that producers accept the challenge of redefinition, because this is often the key to finding more customers, and the ability to find more customers and sales very quickly is critical to the success of lean thinking.

This is because lean organizations, as we will demonstrate shortly, are always freeing up substantial amounts of resources. If they are to defend their employees and find the best economic use for their assets as they strike out on a new path, they need to find more sales right now. Beginning with a better specification of value can often provide the means.

Then, once the initial rethinking of value is done (in what might be called kaikaku for value), lean enterprises must continually revisit the value question with their product teams to ask if they have really got the best answer. This is the value specification analog of kaizen which seeks to continually improve product development, order-taking, and production activities. It produces steady results along the path to perfection.

The Final Element in Value Definition: The Target Cost

The most important task in specifying value, once the product is defined, is to determine a target cost based on the amount of resources and effort required to make a product of given specification and capabilities if all the currently visible muda were removed from the process. Doing this is the key to squeezing out the waste.

Conventional firms set target selling prices based on what they believe the market will bear. They then work backwards to determine acceptable costs to ensure an adequate profit margin, and they must do this any time they begin to develop a new product. So what's different here? Lean enterprises look at the current bundles of pricing and features being offered customers by conventional firms and then ask how much cost they can take out by full application of lean methods. They effectively ask, What is the muda-free cost of this product, once unnecessary steps are removed and value is made to fiow? This becomes the target cost for the development, order-taking, and production activities necessary for this product.

Because the target is certain to be far below the costs borne by competitors, the lean enterprise has choices: reduce prices (another way to increase sales volume and utilize freed-up resources); add features or capabilities to the product (which should also increase sales); add services to the physical product to create additional value (and jobs); expand the distribution and service network (again increasing sales, although with a time lag); or take profits to underwrite new products (which will increase sales in the longer term).

Once the target cost is set for a specific product, it becomes the lens for examining every step in the value stream for product development, order-taking, and production (this latter being called operations in the case of a service like insurance or transportation). As we will see in the next chapter, the relentless scrutiny of every activity along the value stream -- that is, asking whether a specific activity really creates any value for the customer -- becomes the key to meeting the aggressive cost target.

Copyright © 1996, 2003 by James Womack and Daniel Jones

Présentation de l'éditeur

Expanded, updated, and more relevant than ever, this bestselling business classic by two internationally renowned management analysts describes a business system for the twenty-first century.

Expanded, updated, and more relevant than ever, this bestselling business classic by two internationally renowned management analysts describes a business system for the twenty-first century that supersedes the mass production system of Ford, the financial control system of Sloan, and the strategic system of Welch and GE. It is based on the Toyota (lean) model, which combines operational excellence with value-based strategies to produce steady growth through a wide range of economic conditions.

In contrast with the crash-and-burn performance of companies trumpeted by business gurus in the 1990s, the firms profiled in Lean Thinking -- from tiny Lantech to midsized Wiremold to niche producer Porsche to gigantic Pratt & Whitney -- have kept on keeping on, largely unnoticed, along a steady upward path through the market turbulence and crushed dreams of the early twenty-first century. Meanwhile, the leader in lean thinking -- Toyota -- has set its sights on leadership of the global motor vehicle industry in this decade.

Instead of constantly reinventing business models, lean thinkers go back to basics by asking what the customer really perceives as value. (It's often not at all what existing organizations and assets would suggest.) The next step is to line up value-creating activities for a specific product along a value stream while eliminating activities (usually the majority) that don't add value. Then the lean thinker creates a flow condition in which the design and the product advance smoothly and rapidly at the pull of the customer (rather than the push of the producer). Finally, as flow and pull are implemented, the lean thinker speeds up the cycle of improvement in pursuit of perfection. The first part of this book describes each of these concepts and makes them come alive with striking examples.

Lean Thinking clearly demonstrates that these simple ideas can breathe new life into any company in any industry in any country. But most managers need guidance on how to make the lean leap in their firm. Part II provides a step-by-step action plan, based on in-depth studies of more than fifty lean companies in a wide range of industries across the world.

Even those readers who believe they have embraced lean thinking will discover in Part III that another dramatic leap is possible by creating an extended lean enterprise for each of their product families that tightly links value-creating activities from raw materials to customer.

In Part IV, an epilogue to the original edition, the story of lean thinking is brought up-to-date with an enhanced action plan based on the experiences of a range of lean firms since the original publication of Lean Thinking.

Lean Thinking does not provide a new management "program" for the one-minute manager. Instead, it offers a new method of thinking, of being, and, above all, of doing for the serious long-term manager -- a method that is changing the world.

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225 internautes sur 253 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Great, if you like stories about business. 19 mai 2004
Par Greg Stein - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: CD
I'm not sure who the audience is for Lean Thinking. Call me naïve, but I assumed it was written by Womack and Jones to help organizations analyze their business processes and eliminate muda (Japanese for "waste"), thereby improving overall performance. However, after reading almost 250 pages of anecdotal success stories, the chapter entitled "Action Plan," where one would assume resides the punch-line of the text, I was met by the profound advice to "Get the knowledge" by hiring one of the numerous experts in North America, Europe or Japan, and read some of the "vast literature" available on lean techniques. Reminds me of the Steve Martin joke where he tells you how to be a millionaire. "First, get a million dollars."
After reading Lean Thinking, I'm struck by the irony that while the authors recommend removing waste from the manner by which your products are delivered to the end customer, they don't take their own advice. The text could have been distilled from 384 pages down to five or six, since there's no real substantive instruction on how to implement lean principles. Then again, maybe I completely misinterpreted the intent of the authors as to their audience and it really was written for the business historian who enjoys reading about how Pratt & Whitney started in 1855. That must be it, because after I ponder the title, I realize that Lean Thinking is for just that, thinking. What I really wanted was a book entitled Lean Doing.
23 internautes sur 27 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A Business Paradox: Less Really Can Achieve More 3 novembre 2003
Par Robert Morris - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This is a new and expanded second edition of a book first published in 1996. Of special interest to me was what Womack and Jones had to say in the preface regarding what has since happened to the companies previously discussed. Apparently lean thinking has enabled Toyota, Wiremold, Porsche, Lantech, and Pratt & Whitney to sustain operational excellence and economic prosperity.
Briefly, how do Womack and Jones define lean thinking? It is the opposite of muda (a Japanese) word for anything which consumes resources without creating value. In a word, waste. Lean thinking is lean because "it provides a way to do more and more with less and less -- less human effort, less equipment, less time, and less space -- while coming closer and closer to providing customers with exactly what they want." Lean thinking is thus a process of thought, not an expedient response or a stop-gap solution. The challenge, according to Womack and Jones, is to convert muda into real, quantifiable value and the process to achieve that worthy objective requires everyone within an organization (regardless of size or nature) to be actively involved in that process. Once again, in this new edition they address questions such as these:
1. How can certain "simple, actionable principles" enable any business to create lasting value during any business conditions?
2. How can these principles be applied most effectively in real businesses, regardless of size or nature?
3. How can a relentless focus on the value stream for every product create "a true lean enterprise that optimizes the value created for the customer while minimizing time, cost, and errors"?
In Part IV, Womack and Jones update the continuing advance of of lean thinking. They rack the trend in inventory turns and the progress of their profiled companies. Also of special interest to me was the discussion of what Womack and Jones have learned since 1996 which probably explains why they introduce a new range of implementation tools support value stream mapping initiatives and thereby "to raise consciousness about value and its components, leading to action."
Obviously, even if everyone involved within a given organization is committed to lean thinking, to creating value while (and by) eliminating waste, the process requires specific strategies and tactics to succeed. Hence the importance of the last chapter in this book., "Institutionalizing the Revolution." I presume to suggest that the process of lean thinking never ends. Inevitably, success creates abundance; abundance often permits waste. I also presume to suggest that priorities must first be set so that the implementation of lean thinking process does not inadvertently create or neglect waste in areas which influence the creation of value for customers.
Although highly readable, this is not an "easy read" because it requires rigorous thinking about what is most important to a given organization, rigorous thinking about the root causes (rather than the symptoms) of that organization's problems, and rigorous thinking about the most prudent use of resources to eliminate those problems. Because of the importance of the material which Womack and Jones share, I strongly recommend that decision-makers read and then re-read this book before getting together to exchange reactions to it. Out of that discussion, I hope, will come both a collective commitment to lean thinking and the personal determination of each executive to apply what she or he has learned from this book in operational areas where waste has most diminished value.
32 internautes sur 40 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Not one of Womack's best works 8 mai 2006
Par Lean Entusiast - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I personally do a vast amount of reading with lean enterprise being of special interest. Womack has done some great work, but this is a "tough read" even for serious lean enthusiasts. I typically finish a book of this length within 2-3 days then re-read it and highlight. It literally took me 11 weeks because I was lulled to a point in which reading further would be of no benefit and would have to put it back on the shelf and revisit it days later. I realize that scholarly and business writing is not especially exciting as I am constantly reading and doing research but this one was tough even for me, an avid reader.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A collection of lean case studies 31 mars 2013
Par errol frick - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
While Womack and James do spread ink on essential lean principles such as the elimination of waste (muda), the value stream, and pull and flow, "Lean Thinking" is essentially a collection of case studies about companies that made the leap from traditional batch and and queue manufacturing practices to lean production methods (e.g. Doyle Wilson Homebuilder, Bumper Works, Lantech, Wiremold, Pratt and Whitney, Porsche, and Showa).

Sometimes "Lean Thinking" is saddled with criticism directed toward its high-level approach. However, understanding how other companies dealt with the lean challenge is a valuable part of the lean education.

Lean is unconventional. The lean journey is wrought with headwinds in the form of surprises, resistance, and sometimes even sabotage. People think they don't like change (the widespread use of electricity suggests otherwise) which makes the jump to a lean culture challenging. Progress along the lean journey is normally measured by two steps forward and one step back -- which can be discouraging at times. The case studies outlined in "Lean Thinking" remind the lean champion that others have been in their shoes and the result of their lean journey was a successful and more profitable business.
75 internautes sur 103 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Hot Air and Vague Puffery 29 décembre 2005
Par Fuzzbean - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I think this book is largely bogus. Sure there is logic in having an efficient system to your manufacturing process and in buying the machines you actually need instead of something too big or too inflexible. But while the Japanese may have ninjas and 'Asian sexual secrets,' they haven't discovered any new principles of manufacturing that we insecure Americans didn't already know a long time ago. Despite the stylish Japanese mumbo-jumbo, there isn't much in this 'lean thinking' that Henry Ford didn't already have figured out by 1914, although the limitations of the technology of that day prevented him from implementing his ideas fully.

Speaking of Henry Ford, among the historical inaccuracies in this book is the oft-repeated untruth that all the millions of Ford Model T cars produced over 19 years were all exactly alike. The truth is that several body styles, ranging from open touring cars to 'Torpedo Roadsters' to closed sedans were produced, and the entire line went through at least two major styling changes and thousands of mechanical improvements.

Some parts of this book just don't make any sense at all, revealing amazingly poor writing on the part of the authors and -- given that this is the revised edition -- an astonishing lack of critical thinking on the part of eager readers. For example, on page 178 it is told how Pratt & Whitney replaced a particularly inefficient turbine blade grinding machine with 'eight simple three-axis grinding machines.' But in the very next paragraph they mention 'each of the nine machines,' and then go on to say, 'The number of parts in the process would fall from about 1,640 to 15 (one in each machine plus one waiting to start and one blade just completed).' Then to top it off, the text is accompanied by a diagram showing a grinding process with eight grinders and two EDM machines. I can see I'm not the only one who flunked math here.

Additionally, the book is full of stories of Japanese lean thinking gurus walking into American factories without advance notice and ordering that all the production machinery be uprooted and repositioned -- immediately. Supposedly, this is done and things brought up to running condition again in six or eight hours, with greatly improved efficiency. Where I come from, we have bothersome things like OSHA rules and the National Electrical Code that prevent us from just sliding around 100 ton presses and precision-levelled CNC machine tools like so many couches and chairs.

Also telling is the example the authors themselves picked to illustrate their concept of 'flow.' One of them asked his daughters, aged six and nine, what would be the best way to fold, address, seal, stamp and mail the monthly issue of their mother's newsletter. The girls naturally replied that you ought to concentrate on one task at a time, and process all the newsletters up to that point before moving on to the next step. But the authors assert that this is wrong, and that this type of work can be done more efficiently by carrying one workpiece through to completion before starting on the next workpiece. Aside from the cruelty of forcing his daughters to walk out to the mailbox and back 547 times, I can tell you from long experience that this is 100% pure BS. Flow is great, as Henry Ford used flow. But to make a blanket statement that it is better to keep one workpiece in hand and pick up ten tools, than it is to keep one tool in hand and pick up ten workpieces, is just plain wrong. It is the tool that requires technique and concentration and uniformity of use, not the workpiece. By spotlighting this ill-chosen example, the authors have revealed in their own introduction a total lack of real-world experience and a disdain for common sense that runs throughout the entire book.
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