It All Starts With Industrial Engineering

The “Up Front” column by Debbie Phillips-Donaldson (June 2005, p. 6) implies lean is a brand new concept the Japanese brought to us in 1984 and started using right after World War II. It further goes on to say the pairing of lean and Six Sigma is a relatively new idea.

After reading Industrial Engineer magazine’s June 2005 edition, I noticed the following interview with James Womack, one of the first to write about the benefits of lean. The following is a quote from Womack (“The Next Big Team,” Monica Elliott, p. 24):

“I get a lot of e-mails these days from people who are trying to do process improvement in a company— everybody from Amazon to Nike to Wal-Mart—and the funny thing is that they all introduce themselves in their e-mail as being on the process improvement team. Nobody ever calls themselves industrial engineers. What a shame. It’s interesting because what they’re doing is classic industrial engineering, and they don’t even know what to call it. They say, oh, it’s quality stuff. Oh, really? But you just told me that you’ve been doing an analysis in which you’ve laid out all the steps and you’ve concluded that there’s a different way to do this that leaves about three-quarters of the stuff out. That’s quality analysis? That’s fine, but that’s not really what it is. It is process analysis. …”

It appears to me all of what we are doing is really rediscovering basic industrial engineering. But whatever we call it, I’m delighted many organizations are having success with it.

Aft Systems
Alpharetta, GA

Lean Simply Can’t Be Lip Service

In reference to Christopher Chap-man’s article “Clean House With Lean 5S” (June 2005, p. 27), lean has two very distinct areas within itself. Both are critical for the complete success or failure of implementing the lean philosophy. If either one is short with its inputs, lean will also come up short.

The three little s’s are the first three steps of the process—sort, set in order and shine—and are the workers’ responsibility. It should be very obvious without proper buy-in and effectiveness here, you will not get out of the starting gate.

The big s’s of the process are the last two steps, standardize and sustain. These are management’s part in the process. Total commitment from managers is an absolute requirement. The lean implementation cannot be lip service from above. After the first steps are completed by the workforce, it’s now management’s turn to run with the ball.

Lean is not a one-time deal and must constantly be maintained. Instituting and dedication to the last two steps will sustain and invigorate the first three.

Syosset, NY

 Baldrige, Deming And Lean—Oh My!

I just read Matthew May’s article, “Lean Thinking for Knowledge Work” (June 2005, p. 33), and I want to say, nice job.

While reading it, I saw many direct correlations to the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award performance excellence framework: a systems perspective. The Baldrige framework is very fresh in my mind since I am completing my service as a Baldrige examiner for the second year, and I believe there is a strong alignment between lean and Baldrige. I also see alignment between W. Edward Deming’s teachings on systems theory and the Baldrige framework.

Maybe in a future article Quality Progress can contrast and compare all three: lean, Baldrige and Deming’s teachings.

Pfizer Global Research and Development
New London, CT

A Request for the Best Reference Resources

I am a new ASQ member and just received the June 2005 issue of Quality Progress. I found the article “Lean Thinking for Knowledge Work” very interesting and enlightening as my company does some of the same things as JumboJet, one of the fictional companies in the articles.

I was wondering if May or someone else could narrow down the referenced resources list to a couple of the better books to learn more about lean and the Toyota Production System?

American Century Investments
Kansas City, MO

Author’s response: I keep all the references noted on my shelf. The two that I’d recommend are Taiichi Ohno’s book, The Toyota Production System (Productivity Press, 1993) and James Womack’s book, Lean Thinking (Free Press, 2003). A third book that is great for a more comprehensive study of Toyota’s philosophy is The Toyota Way (McGraw-Hill, 2004) by Jeffrey Liker.

Aevitas Learning
Westlake, CA

Lean Sways to the Music of Takt Time

First, thanks for publishing a very well-rounded and well-produced magazine. I find Quality Progress personally informative and especially useful for explaining quality concepts to co-workers. This month I especially appreciate the “Lean Glossary” (Stephen A. Rooney and James J. Rooney, June 2005, p. 41). I’ve turned many times to the “Quality Glossary” (July 2002, p. 43) since it’s been published.

Second, a minor note to the definition of takt. It isn’t a Russian acronym, but a German word from the Schoeffler/Weis Deutsch-Englisch Woerterbuch (Ernst Klett, Stuttgart, 1974). The definition it gives is, takt music: time, measure; (arbeits~) strokes per working cycle, cycle; (rhythmus takt) cadence, rhythm.

In music, takt is the beat, the setting of a metronome. Arbeits translates as the possessive of work, so arbeitstakt is work’s time, or process cycle time. I think all three of the definitions above help give a feel for the notion of takt time in lean.

Salt Lake, UT

Clarifying Six Sigma Confusion for Readers

I have some feedback in regard to the article “Lean Glossary.” It is a wonderful article; however, I disagree with the definition for the term Six Sigma.

A process is usually thought to be well controlled if the quality parameter is within +/- 3∋ (standard deviation), rather than +/- 6∋, from centerline. Your definition might cause confusion to some readers.

ABC Tissue Products P/L
Wetherill Park, Sydney

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