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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
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 »
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 methodology is 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 »
Workshops Taught by Art Smalley
Standardized Work: The Foundation for Kaizen Standardized work is one of the most powerful but least used lean tool. Learn how documenting the current best practice (standardized work) forms the baseline for kaizen or continuous improvement. More »
The Four Types of Problem (at the 2019 Lean Summit) When faced with a problem many leaders or teams tend to reach repeatedly for the same tool – A3, 5 Whys, value-stream mapping -- creating unnecessary struggle, frustration, and ineffectiveness in solving the problem – if it is solved at all.  The reason is that in problem solving one tool does not fit all. Problems fall into four broad categories, each requiring different improvement methods, thought processes, and management cadence, according to Toyota veteran Art Smalley, author of the new book The Four Types of Problem Solving.   The four principle types are:Troubleshooting: Fixing problems rapidly, often with temporary measuresGap-from-standard: Solving problems in relation to More »
Value-Stream Mapping for Manufacturing Learn how to use this fundamental initial step in a lean transformation to create the "blueprints" for applying other tools and targeting kaizen events most effectively. More »