Lean Homework

Before I get much further into lean manufacturing, it’d be great if you could do some reading on your own ahead of time. The resources I’m using for the upcoming ZARA posting are online and free. The first two articles are written for a broad audience. All of them are well-written. If you can only read two things, grab the first two.

The first thing to read is an article from The Economist (print edition) from Jun 16th 2005, entitled The Future of Fast Fashion. I will be drawing on this material for many of my points. It is only with this material that I can illustrate that while ZARA is fast, there is still some slop in their system and they’re not running full bore. Meaning, ZARA’s not going to crash and burn anytime soon and you’re going to be hearing a lot more about them.


The second bit of material is Chapter 7 of Natural Capitalism. The chapter is entitled Muda, Service and Flow. It’s highly readable. The entire chapter is quoted and paraphrased (with permission) from the book Lean Thinking . It’s an introduction to waste in all its forms. The most basic concepts of lean manufacturing are reduced cogently and succinctly. If you never read anything else about lean manufacturing, read this.

Another level above the latter would be to read a synopsis of The Machine that Changed the World. Published by the DSMC or Defense Systems Management College, you can find that here. I am pleased with how well it summarizes the material in the book.

This last piece is not required reading but you may find it enlightening. It’s a “state of the industry” report from the National Academy of Sciences entitled U.S. Industry in 2000: Studies in Competitive Performance. Specifically I refer to the chapter regarding the state of the apparel industry prepared by the Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy. It’s a broader sweep but you’ll learn the historic weaknesses of the systemic infrastructure of the industry, contributing to the apparel industry’s reputation as the dumb-bunnies of the manufacturing sector. I’ll bet you didn’t know that. Yeah, apparel people are considered to be kind of dumb by our peers in the broader manufacturing sector. ~sigh~

That is all. For now.

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4 comments

  1. Jan d'Heurle says:

    This reminds me of Frank Gilbreath and his wife, Lillian. Frank was one of the first “efficiency experts” and his wife was a home economist. I first read about them when I was designing a new kitchen and read a book called _The Motion Minded Kitchen_. It completely changed the way I looked at organizing work spaces in every room of my house, but especially my sewing room and my kitchen. Lillian originated the concept of the work triangle for the kitchen: the relationship between the refrigerator, stove and sink. I would include the counter in that list, but “built-in” kitchens weren’t really thought of back in the 20s. This is the microcosm view of lean thinking and muda, but no doubt waste exists from top to bottom. Frank’s focus was particularly on wasted motion even for such a mundane task as folding clothes.

  2. Grace says:

    Actually, Lillian Moller Gilbreth was the more technical of the two. Frank, the extrovert of the pair, never went to college–some references say that he didn’t even finish high school before entering the military.

    He was a good pitchman for their consulting business though. He fit the public’s sexist idea of what an efficiency expert should look like.

    Lillian was the one with the long list of degrees, including the first PhD awarded in the emerging field of Industrial Psychology.

    http://www.sdsc.edu/ScienceWomen/gilbreth.html
    http://www.slate.com/id/2094243/

  3. LizPf says:

    Grace has it right.

    I don’t stim, but I do obsessively research. One season, the Gilbreths were my research topic …

    Both were profoundly gifted people. Frank was accepted to MIT, but couldn’t attend because his father’s death forced him to abandon school and work to support his mother. Lillian was one of the first women to get a PhD in psychology. Frank decided he needed a partner, so he taught her his business.

    They had 12 children … the book, _Cheaper by the Dozen_ is about their family.

    After Frank died, Lillian tried to keep the business going. Factor owners would not engage a female consultant in the 1920s, so she turned to home economics to support her family.

    Jan, _The Motion-Minded Kitchen_ is the bible I have designed my kitchen addition around. One library “lost” their copy because I couldn’t bear to return it.

    –Liz

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