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Hi MBBP Subscribers, 

Here's an extract from my tutorial, "The 8-Basics of Kaizen Based Lean Manufacturing:"

"Henry Ford first introduced manufacturing basics at his River Rouge operation in 1920. Using these basics as a basis for his production line concept, the Ford plant was able to go from receipt of iron ore to casting the engine block, and to shipment of the machined engine block in a final assembled car in an astonishing forty-eight hours. NOW THAT'S LEAN! The Japanese used Ford's manufacturing basics and Juran's & Deming's quality and management basics to create the foundation for achieving world class manufacturing."

Here in the MBBP Bulletin, rarely do you get a chance to read a lean manufacturing article written by anyone but yours truly. But occasionally I come across an article that is aligned with my thinking and written so much better than my best effort could produce that I'm pleased to pass it along. It's an extension of the Henry Ford extract.

This week's article was written by Jim Womack, Chairman and CEO of Lean Enterprise Institute. It's entitled, "The Lean Way Forward at Ford, (Part 1 of 2)." It was written in 2006 and its of interest because the answers to Jim's questions have now been answered. Enjoy.

Next week's MBBP Bulletin will present Part 2 of 2.

Have a nice day, and stay connected.

Bill Gaw

P.S. Don't miss November's Very Special MBBP Subscribers offer at the bottom of the article. It is relative to our new training product,

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  The Lean Way Forward at Ford (Part 1 of 2)
by Jim Womack (2006)

I’ve been reflecting on today’s remarkable headlines about the latest retreat by the Ford Motor Company as part of its “Way Forward” campaign. While reflecting, I have found it useful to think about the history of lean thinking at Ford, going back nearly 100 years. I believe it offers many useful lessons for our current-day lean journey and Ford’s immediate choices. 

The historical record is clear. Henry Ford was the world’s first systematic lean thinker. His mind naturally focused on the value creation process rather than assets or organizations. And he was the first to see in his mind’s eye the flow of value from start to finish, from concept to launch and from raw material to customer. In addition, Ford was history’s most ferocious enemy of waste. (Except, possibly, Taiichi Ohno at Toyota who claimed that he learned what to do from reading Henry Ford’s books.) 

Ford relentlessly emphasized the need to analyze every step in every process to see if it created value before finding a way to do it better. Otherwise the step should be eliminated. (This was Ford’s greatest criticism of Fredrick Taylor and Scientific Management. Why, asked Ford, was Taylor obsessed with getting people to work harder and more efficiently to do things that actually didn’t need to be done if the work was organized in the right sequence and location?) Then, when the wasteful steps had been eliminated, it was time to put the rest in continuous flow. 

By 1914 at his Highland Park plant Ford had located most of the manufacturing steps for his product – the Model T – in one building and had created very nearly continuous flow in many parts of the operation, using single-piece-flow fabrication cells for components in addition to the moving final assembly line. He had even devised a very primitive pull system by using “shortage chasers” on timed routes along the assembly line to check inventories at every assembly point and convey the information back to the fabrication areas. This speeded up upstream processes that had fallen behind and slowed down those that were getting ahead. 

Equally remarkable, Ford had designed his Model T in only three months in one large room with a small group of engineers under his direct oversight. This surely was a high point in lean practice for decades to come. 

Then it gradually fell apart. Ford’s span of management control at Highland Park had been remarkably broad because he could easily take a walk to see the condition of every process, in design, assembly, and fabrication. And he could train a cohort of managers to see what he was seeing and remove more waste. No abstract measures of performance were needed. 

However, as the company grew Ford’s personal management method became impractical. But what to replace it with? Ford himself seems not to have had an answer except to link every step by conveyors – as he attempted to do at the massive Rouge complex completed in the late 1920s. By the 1930s the whole Ford Motor Company was in a sense one linked process. (Ohno, of course, realized that lengthy conveyors governed by a central schedule are a push not a pull system, but this was much later.) Did this mean that in the founder’s mind that the company needed only one manager -- Ford himself -- even as it became the world’s largest industrial enterprise? 

In any case, the system came crashing down in the 1930s as Ford tried to produce multiple products with multiple options in wildly gyrating markets. Only the staggering cash reserves from retained profits during the Model T era kept the company going until Henry Ford II was able to take over in 1945. 

But what management system should he impose on the chaos? Henry Ford II read Peter Drucker’s 1946 classic, The Concept of the Corporation, praising the General Motors management system and quickly remade Ford in the image of GM. 

To Be Continued

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