I’d meant to mention this previously but one of my favorite lean manufacturing bloggers -Jon Miller of Panta Rei– is continuing his serial synopsis of Taiichi Ohno’s book Gemba Keiei. Unfortunately, this book is out of print (Miller is reading from the original Japanese text) and these insights from the “father” of lean are not to be missed. Simply and conversationally explained, the synopsis posted thus far are chapters 1-12. Sure, I can see how many of you small producers think that lean has nothing to do with your operation but consider this entry and think again.
“Another example of a misconception that becomes common sense,” Taiichi Ohno begins “is the idea that mass production is cheaper so that by the same logic low volume production must cost more. I have seen many factories but very few examples where mass production reduced the cost. In most cases increasing production volumes resulted in higher costs.”
Unless you’ve read my book, I can understand that many of you fail to see the analogies of the automotive industry as compared to sewn products but would you feel the same way if you knew that Toyota actually started in the needle trades?
Three men were especially prominent in creating the Toyota Production System: Sakichi Toyoda; his son, Kiichiro Toyoda; and a production engineer by the name of Taiichi Ohno.
Sakichi Toyoda was the inventor of automatic looms who founded the Toyota Group. He invented a loom in 1902 that would stop automatically if any of the threads snapped. His invention opened the way for automated loomworks where a single operator could handle dozens of looms.
With the rare exception of Zara (and in spite of my best efforts), it appears that lean manufacturing is rarely practiced in the needle trades. I think it’s well past the time to reclaim our legacy.