Getting Lean: An Introduction to Lean Business Practices in the Form of an Entertaining Novel

by Jerry Feingold

 get lean

Practices in the Form of an Entertaining Novel is the story of Larry Smith’s journey that began with a call from a management recruiter.   Larry decides to leave his job of eight years at Superior Aerospace Controls to work for Sonic Labs.  The job change also involves the relocation of his family.

Larry’s main reluctance in taking the new job was his new boss, Jim Brady.   Larry walked into a real mess.   The factory was more of a warehouse.  Lots of metrics existed but none mattered.  It was a environment that focused on blaming individuals rather than addressing problems.  And no one had a clue how to solve the problems.

Larry’s journey begins to change after a game of tennis with his neighbor Bob Simms, a plant manager.  Bob becomes a sensei for Larry.  This starts the transformation of implementing lean. 

In the midst of the engaging story are actual examples of calculating takt time, spaghetti diagrams, current state, future state, red tag campaigns, muda hunts, etc.  It is a how-to book cleverly disguised and easily read through this entertaining journey of Larry Smith.

At the end of each chapter, there is a Discussion which asks the reader “From a LEAN management standpoint: What’s going on in this chapter?”.  This is a very useful section that takes the entertaining story and turns it into a textbook to learn and understand the impact of what is happening in the chapter.

Getting Lean: An Introduction to Lean Business

Introduction to Getting Lean:

American Business is in the midst of a revolution. In 1947, according to the Federal Reserve of Chicago, 35% of America’s workforce was employed in manufacturing. By 2002, employment in U.S. manufacturing had fallen to 12%—two-thirds less than 55 years ago! If you look at the goods sold in your local store, it looks as if everything was manufactured and imported from a foreign country. American manufacturers are fleeing our shores in pursuit of cheap labor. Manufacturing’s future in America is in jeopardy!

Despite cheap labor elsewhere, there are many reasons to keep manufacturing at home. American factories employ fewer workers than their low-wage foreign counterparts—one reason that demonstrates that labor costs no longer make or break the decision about where to put a factory. Payroll costs in America account for only 11% of overall manufacturing costs; meanwhile, growing demand for prompt and speedy delivery is much more important today than are relative wages, and is another reason to keep producing at home.

Also, many companies often underestimate the cost of overseas manufacturing, particularly those associated with transportation, extra inventory, and political security risks. Lean manufacturing techniques in America, however, have allowed those companies that employ them to enjoy soaring manufacturing productivity. Since 1970, America’s manufacturing output has more than doubled. American manufacturing output is almost 50% higher today than in 1992 thanks in large measure to Lean approaches in manufacturing.

This is a Lean handbook. Although it reads like a novel, Getting Lean is intended to be a guide or manual with specific tools necessary in analyzing a factory in order to discover its sources of waste and opportunities for improvement.  Getting Lean describes in detail how to implement improvements very quickly. The improvements include one-piece flow, a simple Kanban system, rapid changeover, Total Productive Maintenance and 5S industrial housekeeping,

Woven throughout the book is the author’s philosophy of industrial management which, while heavily focused on creating a highly competitive organization, is based upon such concepts as:

The necessity of embracing change
The value of a success plan
Learning and profiting from mistakes
Elimination of fear in the workplace
The need to manage for total system efficiency rather than local efficiency
Engaging the hearts and minds of the entire workforce

This book is written in the form of a novel. The story is true. It is a compilation of real-life experiences about transforming troubled factories into LEAN enterprises. The names of people, places, and products have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty.

To make the book more of a useful textbook and less of a story, each chapter ends with a discussion called, “From a LEAN management standpoint: What’s going on in this chapter?”

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