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trailer -load down a ramp into the
basement. And at Kenworth’s excellent
(in most respects) heavy truck plant in
Renton, WA, automated systems move
made-too-soon parts down a ramp,
then later up a ramp to final assembly.
When there is insufficient fabrication
equipment, as in these cases, takt times
in assembly, and kanban deliveries from
stamping, are disrupted. Why is auto-
motive — held up as a paragon of lean
— so averse to investing in sufficient
metal-forming equipment to gain lean’s
economies of multiples? It’s not lack of
space. What space is taken up by all the
batch-made parts is at least as great
as that required for more presses. The
main obstacle may be policies that aim
more for high rates of machine utiliza-
tion than quick response within facto-
ries and onward to the marketplace. The
utilization-rate metric is frowned upon
in the lean and lean accounting com-
munities; still, it hangs on.
The detrimental industrial practices
discussed in Parts 1 and 2 — cling-
ing to the unlean scale-economies
notion as applied to equipping
factories, plus overzealous takt-time
scheduling — are all too common.
My eyes light up when I hear about,
better yet visit, a factory that takes
a more customer -focused, flexibly-
responsive lean pathway.
Offering corrective action, with
examples from various sectors, this
article asserts that an aspiring lean
enterprise thrives on multiple produc-
tive units, chokes on consolidation of
them. It greatly prefers compact and
simple over long, spread out and com-
plex. It values takt-time scheduling for
its operational efficiencies, but prefers
production in the variable, up-and-
down continuous-replenishment mode
where sufficient, right-sized productive
resources make it rational and correct.
Earlier in my own lean journey, I
could not have articulated these ba-
sics of lean manufacturing. I suspect
that is true of many others in the
lean community. Industry has been
practicing defective versions of lean far
too long. It’s time to vigorously act on
those basics for the sake of customers
at the business end of the flow and for
overall industrial competitiveness. •
1. Richard J. Schonberger, Building a Chain of
Customer s: Linking Business Functions to Create
the World Class Company (Free Press/Simon &
Schuster, 1990), pp . 44-45.
2. Charles Bates, “ Prosperity in Pennsylvania,”
American Machinist, July 2009, pp . 24, 29.
3. Richard J. Schonberger, “Lean Production: Hard
to Find in China,” Manufacturing Engineering,
April 2011, p . 112.
4. David Drickhamer, “ Braced for the Future,”
Industry Week, October 2004, pp . 51-52.
5. Source, date NA.
6. Tim Stevens, “T RW Inc. at a Glance,” Industry
Week, Oct. 21, 1996, pp. 64-67.
7. Source, date NA.
8. Cesar Salaiz, “Lean Operations at Delphi,” Manu-
facturing Engineering, Sept. 2003, pp . 97-104.
9. Michael Hughes, “T he Brains behind the Beauty,”
Industrial Engineer, Nov. 2009, pp . 50-51.
10. Richard J. Schonberger, “ Can Lean F ind Its Way in
Packaged Goods?” Target, 2nd Issue 2001, pp . 19-24.
11. Susan Albin, “Research: Executive Summaries,”
“Heineken’s Fluent Flows in Flow Lines,”
Inter view with three professors at the Laborator y
for Industrial Mathematics Eindoven, Industrial
Engineer, November 2012, p . 50.
12. Source NA, date probably late 1980s.
13. John Teresko, “Spreading Its Winning Ways: Baldor’s
Weaver ville, N .C ., Plant Is Pushing Lean/Six Sigma
to Its Suppliers,” Industry Week, Jan.2009, p . 43.
Richard J. Schonberger is a Bellevue, WA -based indepen-
dent research, author and speaker. He has been a
practicing industrial engineer, professor at the University
of Nebraska and affiliate professor at the University of
Washington. He is author of some 175 articles and eight
books, mostly on lean, total quality and related topics.
They include Japanese Manufacturing Techniques (Free
Press, 1982), World Class Manufacturing (Free Press,
1986), and Best Practices in Lean Six Sigma Process
Improvement: A Deeper Look (Wiley, 2008). Schonberger
is a member of the Target editorial board.
batches to full-blown lean with cells
and close to one-piece-flow. When
manufacturing migrated to China,
nearly all that was lost, and in Asia to-
day consumer electronics production
has reverted to long assembly lines.
To a lesser extent, the same thing
happened in sewn products. When
apparel was still produced in the
West, cellular sewing (a.k .a ., modu-
lar sewing) had been making modest
inroads. Now in tens of thousands
of cut-and-sew factories throughout
China, India, Bangladesh, the Carib-
bean and other low-wage countries,
it’s back to the bundle system with
sit-down stitchers doing a small,
repetitive task all day, surrounded by
fabric pieces sometimes piled so high
one stitcher may scarcely see another.
Among my 350 honor -roll examples
that mention cells, around 35 percent
to 40 percent are in metal working.
Given the high costs of machine tools
for metal forming, the number of cells
per plant is often as small as three or
five. Exceptions more consistent with
lean principles include: Jacobs Vehicle
Equipment Co., Bloomfield, CT, Div.
of Danaher (heavy-duty truck engine
brakes) — 20 manufacturing cells;12
and Baldor Electric, Weaverville, NC,
plant, (mechanical power transmission
components), 35 cells.
and sheet-metal job shops, competing
on quick response, need to pay the
price of having plenty of machines in
plentiful dedicated or versatile cells.
In plants where machine tools feed
parts to assembly cells or lines, the
common case is one of too few ma-
chines, telling evidence being stacks of
pallet boxes of parts between machin-
ing and assembly. In the automo-
tive industry, lack of sufficient metal
stamping presses creates racks full of
stampings awaiting welding and as-
sembly. At Volkswagen, Puebla, Mexico,
stamped parts are taken by tractor -
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