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Lean in the Time of Coronavirus

by Tom Ehrenfeld & James P. Womack
March 9, 2020

Lean in the Time of Coronavirus

by Tom Ehrenfeld & James P. Womack
March 9, 2020 | Comments (1)

Another global crisis, and another rush to fault just-in-time supply chains and practice as a weakness in this time of high alert. This recent Marketplace story is essentially the same article that has appeared in the Wall Street Journal fourteen years ago, as Jim Womack notes in this conversation about the value of lean in a time of cholera—wait, coronavirus—wait, let’s just say…crisis. “The media always pretty much reacts the same way, that the world is being disrupted because we have just in time supply chains,” he says.

Womack reminds us that just-in-time supply chains are not a liability in a time of crisis; and in fact that having a surplus of spare parts in process is never a good thing:

“It's a bad thing because it cost a lot of money and it doesn't create the good thing, which is the ability to immediately respond to a spike in demand, because there's no capacity to translate or convert those parts into usable products. They're constrained. And hey, by the way, here's another thing you could do. Just imagine that you said, ‘Gosh, what we need is for every car plant that's running at reasonably full output, we should have another car plant that's mothballed.’”

Listen to this conversation on the LEI podcast here.

You can download a transcript here.

And, while you are doing so, check out this 2006 essay Just In Time, Just In Case and Just Plain Wrong.

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1 Comment | Post a Comment
Bob Emiliani March 09, 2020
2 People AGREE with this comment

It would be nice to hear several CEOs from large companies defend JIT (and Lean) as helping to improve supply chain response to COVID-19. If they do not do that then it strengthens the criticism of JIT (and Lean) and embeds a negative view of them more deeply into the consciousness of other CEOs and society at-large. Times change, but the negative view of JIT in times of crisis remains the same.

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