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Art Smalley

Art Smalley

Author and Consultant, Art of Lean

Art Smalley is a renowned expert specializing in leadership, problem solving, and operational improvement.

In the latter part of the 1980s Art was one of the first Americans to work for Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan, first studying at different universities in Japan and then learning the principles of TPS in the historic Kamigo engine plant where Taiichi Ohno was the founding plant manager. Art also played an instrumental role in the development and transfer of TPS methods and precision equipment to Toyota’s overseas plants.

After a decade in Japan, Art returned to the United States and served as Director of Lean Manufacturing for Donnelly Corporation for five years. Art helped lead one of the most impressive lean transformations in North America. Donnelly won multiple awards while substantially improving net income, as well as operational metrics in safety, quality, productivity, delivery, and morale. Art’s work and this turnaround was featured in Forbes and many other publications.

In 1998, Art joined the international management consulting firm of McKinsey & Company and was one of the firm’s leading experts in lean manufacturing. He counseled numerous Fortune 500 clients on operational matters involving lean implementation and oversaw numerous successful quality, cost, and delivery improvement projects.

In 2003, Art launched his own company Art of Lean, Inc. and now divides his time serving a diverse base of clients such as Parker Hannifin, Delphi, Timken, Schlumberger, Gillette, Nexteer, Sandia National Laboratories, private equity groups, and many other organizations. A vast array of articles, guides, and documents pertaining to leadership and lean are available on his website: www.artoflean.com

Art serves as author and periodic advisor to the Lean Enterprise Institute and its global affiliates, delivering lectures to leading manufacturing executives around the world. In 2005, Art authored the Shingo Publication Award-winning workbook Creating Level Pull on implementing basic pull production. In 2008, he co-authored with his friend and colleague Professor Durward K. Sobek, the Shingo winning book Understanding A3 Thinking. In 2010, Art published Toyota's Kaizen Methods: Six Steps to Improvement with Isao Kato. In 2018, Art wrote his latest book Four Types of Problems, published by the Lean Enterprise Institute.

Articles by Art Smalley
Art of Lean on Work & Waste, Part 6: Waiting
Learn how to spot what Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean, Incorporated, thinks is the most annoying form of waste. More »
Art of Lean on Work & Waste, Part 5: Motion
Watch this quick tutorial about how to see the waste of motion in your work, from Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean, Incorporated. More »
Art of Lean on Work & Waste, Part 4: Excess Conveyance
Learn the finer points of how to eliminate the waste of excess conveyance from your work process from Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean, Incorporated. More »
Art of Lean on Work & Waste, Part 3: Excess Inventory
Take a closer look at the various types of inventory, with an eye toward identifying waste, with your guide, Art Smalley, president, Art of Lean, Incorporated. More »
Art of Lean on Work & Waste, Part 1: A Focus on Muda
Take a deeper dive into muda, or waste, and learn the difference between pure and incidental waste. Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean, Incorporated, shares an easy way to tell the difference. More »
The Art of Lean: An Introduction to Muda, Mura, and Muri
Take a closer look at the concepts of muda, mura, and muri and learn why you have to consider all three when you pursue any type of improvement or Kaizen actions. More »
The Art of Lean: Use These Tools to Help You Improve a Process, Part 2
Take a closer look into this four-step approach that will help you "pinpoint the tricky parts" of a process as you work to improve it, says Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean, Inc. More »
The Art of Lean: Use These Tools to Help You Improve a Process, Part 1
Learn about this four-step approach that will help you “pinpoint the tricky parts” of a process as you work to improve it. Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean, Inc.  , reminds us of this practice that’s foundational to lean but not talked about much anymore. Part one of a five-part series. More »
The Art of Lean: Must-Knows for Coaching the Corrective-Action Phase of Problem-Solving, Part 2
Part 2 of 2. Building from part 1, Art further explains the A.  D.  P. methodology by exploring how it applies to the countermeasures you can take to protect yourself and staff from Covid-19. More »
The Art of Lean: Must-Knows for Coaching the Corrective-Action Phase of Problem-Solving, Part 1
Art Smalley, president of Art of Lean, Inc.  , shares a problem-solving coaching tip that he developed and likes to use with his clients. Learn how you can adapt the "A.  D.  P. Method" to improve success in the corrective-action phase of your problem-solving approach. More »
From Troubleshooting a Leaky Toilet Flapper to Innovating the Internet, a Comprehensive Problem-Solving Framework
Arriving at his hotel after midnight, author and business consultant Art Smalley just wanted to get some sleep before his keynote presentation later that day. But Smalley, whose latest book on #lean management is "Four Types of Problems," first had to solve a problem. More »
Change Your “Pet” Problem Solving Method
Got problems with your problem-solving method? This interview by LEI's Chet Marchwinski with Four Types of Problems author Art Smalley shares advice on how you can "change your 'pet' problem-solving method.  " More »
Standardize Your Problem-Solving Approach? Why One Size Does Not Fit All
Lean management practitioners know what a powerful tool standardization is for continuously improving processes. Without standards, there can be no improvement as the old saying goes. Yet as LEI faculty member and author Art Smalley points out this does not only mean one rigid way of doing things such as standardizing your problem-solving approach on only a single methodology like six sigma or 8D or a specific technique like 5 Why? More »
Not Every Problem Is a “Nail” But Companies Typically Reach for the Same Old “Hammer”
Learn how you can avoid the frustrating, ineffective, but widespread “hammer-and-nail” problem-solving pitfall by recognizing four main problem types so you apply the right problem-solving approach to the right problem. More »
Problem-Solving: One Size Does Not Fit All, Part 2
Just as different types of tires are needed for different road conditions, different types of problem-solving are needed to tackle different problems. Watch this video to hear Art Smalley continue yesterday's video's discussion on problem solving and talk about his forthcoming book, "The Four Types of Problem-Solving.  " More »
Problem-Solving: One Size Does Not Fit All, Part 1
Problem solving is at the core of any lean transformation. But both beginners and experts will tell you that it isn't easy to do it efficiently and effectively. In fact you might even end up making it harder than it has to be! In this exclusive interview, Art Smalley dishes on an all-too-common hurdle he sees people struggle with in their problem solving and shares his best tips for getting past it. More »
Jidoka, Part 1
LEI author Art Smalley found 1.  8 billion hits for “just in time” and just 38,300 for “jidoka,” the Toyota concept of giving machines and people the ability to detect when an abnormality occurs. The search results should be reversed, according to Toyota veteran Smalley, who recalled his former boss saying, “Just-in-Time is just an extension of the U.  S. supermarket concept and the German aerospace concept of takt time. Jidoka however is one of our company strengths and something to be proud of. It is what makes us unique and successful.  ” More »
5 Levels of Mastery
Art Smalley, author of Creating Level Pull, recalls asking his mentor at Toyota in Japan how long it would take to complete his basic education of TPS on the machining lines at the Kamigo plant. His mentor estimated about seven years. "I asked him how long it took him to really understand TPS and he replied about seven years," Smalley recalled. "I asked how long it took to get really good at it and he thought that he was proficient at all the tasks required of him as an engineer and a manager in about 20 years. To explain his sensei's answer, Smalley outlines the "five levels More »
Interview with Minoru Haga on Tooling Engineering at Toyota
LEI author Art Smalley interviewed Toyota machining tool expert Minoru Haga. More »
Interview with Tomo Harada
LEI author and faculty member Art Smalley interviewed Tomo Harada on Toyota's approach to equipment maintenance. More »
Toyota's New Material-Handling System Shows TPS’s Flexibility
Art Smalley, LEI author and faculty member, reports on Toyota's new material-handling system for assembly areas that he saw in action at an engine plant in Japan. The system reduces assembly errors while increasing the value-added time of assembly operators. More »
Books by Art Smalley
Four Types of Problems Four Types of Problems
When faced with a problem, many business leaders and teams mechanically reach for a familiar problem-solving methodology. The problem is that the methods are often mismatched with the problem, creating unnecessary struggle, frustration, delay, and ineffectiveness in solving the problem -- if it is ever solved at all. In Four Types of Problems: from reactive troubleshooting to creative innovation veteran lean management practitioner Art Smalley, explains why settling on a favorite problem-solving technique or two is a mistake. He shows that most business problems fall into four main categories, each requiring different thought processes, management cadences, and improvement methods. More »
Creating Level Pull Creating Level Pull
Creating Level Pull shows you how to advance a lean manufacturing transformation from a focus on isolated improvements to improving the entire plantwide production system by implementing a lean production control system. "The workbook is unique because it is a step-by-step case study on how to implement a level, pull-based production control system,” says author Art Smalley. "This is a new step towards ‘system kaizen that is not yet well understood outside of Toyota.  " More »
Four Types of Problems / Managing to Learn Set Four Types of Problems / Managing to Learn Set
The perfect problem solving gift set for all lean thinkers. More »