A Perfect Lean Article in USAToday

The title link will take you to the full article...

Leansters always say to NEVER lay off people as a result of improvements. The article predictably dances around this dogma - you may be wanting a nice, clean and tidy explanation of why Lean should never lead to layoffs, but you won't find it here:

"In the short term, as manufacturers slash inventories and reduce their workforces, the recovery could be slowed or delayed, experts say. Many, such as Sealy, are scaling back through attrition and cutting temporary staff rather than resorting to layoffs.

Yet industry wide, some jobs will be lost permanently as manufacturers use their new cost efficiencies to wring more output from fewer employees, says Cliff Waldman, an economist at the Manufacturers Alliance, which does research for the industry. But by allowing U.S. manufacturers to better compete against low-cost rivals abroad, the maneuvers are helping them maintain profits and ultimately hire employees, economists say."

"It's survival," Waldman goes on to say, "Our response to the cost pressures brought about by globalization is … to produce cheaper and more efficiently."

And the magic metric responds accordingly:

"'manufacturing productivity, or output per labor hour, rose 4.9% in the second quarter, the highest since early 2005', traced to lean-manufacturing techniques."

So what is good for Wall St. (productivity) is not so good for Main St. (loss of jobs). This was probably one of the more favorable Lean articles, but like many before it, the message is conflicted...but shouldn't it be? I predict that you may see some critical reviews of this article on the lean blogging posts today...defender's of the lean principles telling all of us how the rest of the world doesn't understand lean.

We are all learning, so be careful about seeking the Perfect Cinderella Lean Story...that may signal the end of the journey. Toyota's story is full of conflict, contradictions and put simply - problems. Their story is far from perfect and yet it continues. So why should we expect something different for our situation?

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