About the Editors
Koichi Shimokawa is a leading authority on the automobile industry. He is a professor in the Faculty of Business Administration at Tokai Gakuen University and a professor emeritus at Hosei University. Shimokawa was a member of Hosei University’s Faculty of Business Administration from 1969 to 1999, and he previously taught at the University of Toyama. He holds a doctorate in economics from Kyushu University and studied at the Harvard Business School for two years in the late 1970s. Shimokawa’s research on the automobile industry centers on supply-chain management in a global context, on e-business models, on cross-border alliances and mergers, and on issues and opportunities in emerging markets. Shimokawa has authored and coauthored numerous books, including Ushinawareta Junen [Japan’s Lost Decade] (Tokyo: Chuko Shinsho, 2006); Joho Kakumei to Jidosha Ryutu Inobeshon [The Information Revolution and Innovation in Automobile Distribution] (Tokyo: Bunshindo, 2000), with Takao Iwasawa; The Japanese Automobile Industry: A Business History (London: Athlone Press, 1994); and Transforming Automobile Assembly (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1997), with Takahiro Fujimoto and Ulrich Juergens.
Takahiro Fujimoto has been a professor in the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Economics since 1998 and has headed the university’s Manufacturing Management Research Center since 2003. A 1979 graduate of the University of Tokyo, Fujimoto earned a doctorate in economics from the Harvard Business School in 1989 and subsequently worked at Harvard as a researcher, as a visiting professor (1996–97), and as a senior research associate (1997). He has served as a visiting professor at the University of Lyon and as a visiting researcher at INSEAD. Fujimoto’s research centers on technology and operations management and on business administration. Among the books by Fujimoto are Product Development Performance: Strategy, Organization, and Management in the World Auto Industry (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1991), with Kim Clark; The Evolution of a Manufacturing System at Toyota (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); and Competing to Be Really, Really Good (Tokyo: I-House Press, 2007).
About the Translators
Waku Miller works as a writer and translator in Japan, where he has lived for 30 years. He has handled the Japanese-to-English translation of several books, including Takahiro Fujimoto’s Competing to Be Really, Really Good. He is translating selections from the Buddhist monk Eihei Dogen’s Shobogenzo [Insight] and is writing a biography of the Bizen potter Anjin Abe.
John Shook worked for Toyota for 11 years, starting in 1983, and became the first non-Asian to work his way up through the company’s ranks to a management position in Japan. His work at Toyota included creating training materials for the company’s first vehicle-manufacturing operation in North America. John has authored the lean classic Learning to See (Cambridge: Lean Enterprise Institute, 1999), with Mike Rother; Managing to Learn (Cambridge: Lean Enterprise Institute, 2008); and Kaizen Express (Cambridge: Lean Enterprise Institute, 2009), with Toshiko Narusawa. In 2010 John succeeded Jim Womack as the CEO of Lean Enterprise Institute.
I've been working with Process Improvement since 2008. In this time, I have seen just how important it is to understand how these ideas (Toyota Manufacturing System and others) originated, and how the creators thought about them. This book provides many of those narratives, and these allow me to extend the ideas into my own areas, to the best of my ability.
As I read this book, I was humbled by my shallow understanding of Lean. Hearing the words of the founders was profoundly useful in refocusing my work as an internal Lean consultant in a Fortune 10 company. Lean is so much more than tools or a performance improvement method, it's an attitude towards people, life, work, and change.
I feel enormously grateful to LEI and the authors for this majestic book.I am in you debt.
- The Birth of Lean: How Practices, Principles, and Tools Came Together as a System - a review by Michael Ballé
Toyota was struggling to survive when Taiichi Ohno and a handful of innovators began experimenting with methods that ultimately became the Toyota Production System. The Birth of Lean captures the insights of those early leaders in their own words. In the following review, author and lean practitioner Michael Ballé captures the system’s revolutionary approach to knowledge generation.
- Thinking About Buffers and Production Systems (Birth of Lean Chapter IV – "The Evolution of Buffers at Toyota" – Kaneyoshi Kusunoki) - a column by John Shook
John Shook discusses one of his favorite chapters, and the lessons we can all learn about the importance of deep thinking in applying lean concepts.