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FOLLOW A LEADER
By Matt Brown
Robert W. “Doc” Hall, Ph.D.
Professor emeritus of operations management,
Kelley School of Business, Indiana University
AME co-founder and former editor-in-chief,
AME Target magazine
What advice do you have for
today’s young managers?
It’s important to keep your mind open
to different ideas of how you operate
your business. Be alert to harbingers of
Also, beware of low-cost, high-volume
commodity traps. If all you’re doing is
chasing a lower cost, the best out-
come you can hope for is taking care
of your stockholders at the expense of
your suppliers and employees. Even
using the lean philosophy, what’s the
end point of “competing with China
The wheels are coming off the old
model of cost-driven manufacturing.
We need to redefine an expectable
quality of life and start competing
through a change in our philosophy,
values, etc. We call this “continuous
regeneration,” not just continuous
Of which successes in your
career are you most proud?
Helping to found AME, as well as having
the privilege of writing and editing so many
articles while I was guiding Target for 22
years. Whatever happens with AME going
forward, (the organization) was an important
factor in the development of lean — AME
did the right things at the right time.
founding AME member who
served more than 20 years
as the editor of Target mag-
azine, Doc Hall is a prolific
writer of books and articles
on lean, including “Zero
Inventories,” a book described as “the
definitive work on JIT.”
Owing to his interest in R&D and inno-
vation, he’s gravitated to “next-genera-
tion” technology, operations and busi-
ness practices. Hall contends a major
philosophical shift in business and eco-
nomic practices — a pathway he calls
“Compression Thinking”—is needed to
meet the challenges facing us. To that
end, he now is chairman of the newly
formed Compression Institute.
What is your best memory of
AME’s start up?
AME really sprang out of some heated
discussions several of us had during
the 1977 APICS Annual Conference
in Cleveland. At the time, APICS was
really pushing job shop MRP and the
high-flow production it is supposed to
allow, but their assumptions didn’t at all
fit with what several of us were thinking
at the time.
I remember one gentleman, Ed
Reznicek from Daisy Air Rifle, saying,
“We’re not going to put up with this
crap anymore!” Which led six or eight
of us to huddle with “Rez” in the corner
and discuss what we thought were
better, more viable options. That huddle
really was the beginning of the whole
thing. We kept the discussion going at
the next APICS annual meeting and it
took on a life of its own.
Was that a defining moment? I don’t
know, but within a year, those of us that
had seen lean were asking why we were
talking about production planning and
control instead of changing the processes
to be controlled. Things began to take off.
Can lean improve (or even save)
Well, there are two sides to lean really:
respect for people and production process
The people part always comes slower. You
could pick up a lot of the process improve-
ment techniques from the Japanese, but
from the beginning, digesting “respect for
people” was much harder.
The thing is, Toyota develops the people
along with the techniques. They do that by
developing people to develop the process.
It is a fairly decentralized conversion with
lots of people thinking about how different
detailed variables can impact the process
every day. Well done, this becomes an
organic, dynamic operation, very flexible
to change as necessary — the opposite
of what many people initially think will
For American managers, this is a difficult
proposition, because to their way of think-
ing, control is necessary to make money.
And it is, to some degree, still common
to have senior staff develop processes
without participation from lower-level
You cannot fully encompass lean when
you subscribe to that (American) model,
but it is hard to buck some extremely deep
assumptions of business and economics.
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