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Dentist Drills Down to the Root Causes of Office Waste
By: Chet Marchwinski | May 7, 2007
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams; Images
Applying lean concepts to dentistry isn't as difficult as, well, pulling teeth. Dr. Sami Bahri, driven by a gut feeling that the traditional method of managing a dental office could be improved dramatically, educated himself and his staff in the concepts, validated the approach in pilot projects, then transformed his office. His journey just might transform the way you look at a dentist's office. (The Seven Wastes entry in the short Glossary at the end of the story has examples from Bahri's staff.  ) More »
WLEI: On the Job with Tom Root, Managing Partner of Zingerman's Mail Order
By: Lean Enterprise Institute | March 2, 2020
Spoiler alert! The food you just ate is not fresh. It was "sourced" longer ago than you'd imagine. And since that time, it's been handled in batch after batch. The same can be said for many lean transformations - one batch of improvement activity after another. Zingerman's Mail Order has been reducing batch sizes for 15 years, acting as a sort of "model line" for the entire food industry. Tom Root and Josh Howell discuss ZMO's lean transformation and their many lessons learned, searching for useful takeaways for you the listener.    More »
On The Job with Tom Root, Managing Partner of Zingerman's Mail Order (Transcript)
March 2, 2020
Zingerman’s Mail Order (ZMO), one of the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, began its lean transformation 15 years ago after deciding that its 3rd relocation in 6 years due to 25-35% year-over-year growth was its last! There had to be a better way to solve its biennial capacity problem. And of course there was with lean thinking.   Tom Root, ZMO’s Managing Director, sat down with Josh Howell for a wide-ranging conversation about several phases of ZMO’s lean transformation, including the challenge of establishing a culture of continuous improvement with full participation, and how lean thinking could impact the food industry that’s More »
Change Your “Pet” Problem Solving Method
By: Art Smalley | May 20, 2019
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 »
What Problems Do You See?
By: Joshua Rapoza | November 20, 2018
Take a minute or two think about the problems you see everyday at your work. It can be quite daunting when you think about everything that needs attention. But knowing what type of problem you are dealing with makes countermeasures much easier to figure out. What problems do you see most? More »
Five Whys Animation
July 19, 2018
Videos and Webinars
The practice of asking why repeatedly whenever a problem is encountered in order to get beyond the obvious symptoms to discover the root cause. Watch this animation to learn more.    More »
Andon Cues Service Center to Respond to Customer Queue
By: Chet Marchwinski | March 13, 2018
An Ohio Mutual service center has no andon cord to stop a production line but the principal is the same as in a factory -- an abnormality has occurred, take corrective action. More »
A3 Coaching: What Feedback Would You Give?
By: Lean Leaper | May 30, 2017
You be our coach: what feedback/coaching would you offer on our example A3? We'd like to hear from you! More »
How We A3 at Goodyear
By: Tedd Cowling, Norbert Majerus, Rob Schott and Damien Schreurs | October 18, 2016
Just as lean is situational, A3s are situational too - companies like Goodyear have a variety of types of A3s that they use based on the specific challenge that is being faced. Four Goodyear insiders share more. More »
To A3 or Not to A3
By: Norbert Majerus | February 9, 2016
"Not every tool is a hammer, and not every problem is a nail," writes Norbert Majerus of The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. "Not every situation warrants the use of an A3.  " Read more to learn Norbert's preferred approach to gauging whether or not an A3 will help in a given situation. More »
Small Chart, Big Impact: How a Simple Spaghetti Chart Led to Huge Wins at Thrustmaster of Texas
By: Lean Leaper | February 4, 2016
Sometimes the simplest lean concepts can make all the difference in ensuring a successful transformation. Marine-propulsion manufacturer Thrustmaster of Texas found this out after creating a spaghetti diagram to reveal possible waste in an assembly plant. Their findings were staggering - read more. More »
The Value of Key Performance Indicators in a Lean Transformation
By: Ernie Richardson and Tracey Richardson | February 3, 2016
We all know to watch out for key performance indicators (KPIs) in the workplace - but are you tracking the RIGHT KPIs? Ernie and Tracey Richardson share their thoughts on the two categories of KPIs, how they can help you, and how to identify them. More »
People Don't Fail, Processes Do
By: Terry Smith | September 29, 2015
Terry Smith, a lean web developer, shares two examples of real-life companies who used the "5 Whys" to drill down to the root of a thorny problem. More »
How a Problem-Solving Culture Takes Root
By: Jim Luckman and David Verble | March 4, 2014
Changing one's own leadership behaviors is no easy task, but it can be done. Leaders can shift away from giving top-down commands and solutions to a more engaging and collaborative way of addressing problems that both gets results and develops people. More »
Learn from the Error, Every Time
By: Joshua Rapoza | February 4, 2014
It's an awful feeling when you think everything is going just fine and then discover you've made an error. But errors are inevitable. It's what you do next that counts. More »
Leadership Q&A: Dr. Jack Billi, associate dean and associate vice president for medical affairs
By: Marchwinski, Chet; | January 12, 2009
From the LEI senior executive series on lean leadership:Jack Billi, M.  D.  , associate dean for clinical affairs, University of Michigan Medical School, professor of Internal Medicine and Medical Education, and associate vice president for medical affairs,University of Michigan, is leading a lean transformation of the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), which encompasses 18,000 employees, an 817-bed hospital, 100 clinics, and a medical school with 700 students, 1,000 residents, and 1,600 faculty physicians. (Read the Success Story about the lean transformation of UMHS, "Fighting Cancer with Linear Accelerators and Accelerated Processes.  ") More »
2008 in Summary: A Large Enough Wave Swamps All Boats
By: Womack, Jim | December 31, 2008
Columns; eLetters
We all know the phrase, "a rising tide lifts all boats", and this was true during the world economic bubble of the last few years. Almost any firm could survive, even with mediocre performance and no improvement.  Unfortunately, there is a corollary. A really big tide - a financial tsunami - can at least briefly tip even the sturdiest boat. The painful evidence for the Lean Community is the recent announcement that the world's most consistently successful and financially stable organization – Toyota – is now losing money for the first time in 70 years.  How can this be? And More »
It Takes 2 (or more) to A3
By: Womack, Jim | October 7, 2008
Columns; eLetters
We've just launched John Shook's new book, Managing to Learn, and I'm tremendously excited. I think it is the most important work we have published at LEI. This is because John clearly explains why A3 thinking is the core of the Toyota management system and shows how the repeated act of creating A3s also creates lean managers.  But I'm worried as well as excited. When we launched John and Mike Rother's Learning to See 11 years ago, I expected readers would use the wonderful tool of value-stream mapping (VSM) to engage in a dialogue with everyone touching value streams. I More »
Using Lean Thinking to Reinvent City Government
By: David Drickhamer | April 1, 2008
Case Studies; Images
In many cities, stagnant tax revenues from a slowing economy coupled with rising healthcare and energy costs are causing budget shortfalls. To cope with the budget squeeze, Grand Rapids, MI, has turned to lean principles. City employees have learned firsthand how consolidating operations, eliminating wasted time and effort, and streamlining processes can help them improve productivity while providing the quality of service that city residents want, in less time and with less effort and More »
Respect for People
By: Womack, Jim | December 20, 2007
Columns; eLetters
For years I've visited companies where "respect for people" is a core element of the corporate philosophy. So I've asked managers in many companies a simple question. "How do you show respect?" I have usually heard that employees should be treated fairly, given clear goals, trusted to achieve them in the best way, and held to account for results. For example, "We hire smart people, we give them great latitude in how they do their work because we trust them, and we hold them to objective measures of performance. That’s respect for people.  "When in recent years Toyota made respect More »
The Problem of Sustainability
By: Womack, Jim | May 30, 2007
Columns; eLetters
I recently got a call from an old friend who led one of the first lean implementation efforts in healthcare in the mid-1990s. He has moved on to other challenges and we hadn't had a chance to catch up in recent years. So I asked him what happened to the lean initiative in the healthcare organization where he had been a senior manager.  The answer was what I feared. "We created a lean improvement team and conducted a comprehensive campaign to kaizen the organization's key value streams. And we had dramatic results. Faster patient flows. Better outcomes. Lower costs. But More »
Why Toyota Won and How Toyota Can Lose
By: Womack, Jim | April 4, 2007
Columns; eLetters
Simon & Schuster has just re-issued The Machine That Changed the World, which Dan Jones, Dan Roos, and I co-authored 17 years ago. Doubtless, our publisher has noticed the current Toyota boom when any book with "Toyota" on the cover sells.  Fortunately, Machine is still the best description of the complete Toyota business system – product development, supplier management, dealing with the customer, fulfilling orders from raw materials through production, and management of the global enterprise. It still has a story to tell. As new CEO Alan Mulally remarked to Ford employees when he arrived in Detroit last fall, it More »
Mura, Muri, Muda?
By: Womack, Jim | July 6, 2006
Columns; eLetters
Twenty years ago this month, when my first daughter was born, the young men I supervised in MIT’s International Motor Vehicle Program went dashing out of the office to buy her a gift. They returned shortly with a pink T-shirt, size 1, with the stenciled message on the front “Muda, Mura, Muri.  ”My wife was bewildered – “Is this how guys welcome a baby girl?!” But I could understand. We had made an intense effort that summer to understand these new Japanese terms for waste (muda), unevenness in operations (mura), and overburdening of people and equipment (muri) that entered our More »
Doing More With Less: Lean Thinking and Patient Safety in Health Care
By: Joint Commission Resources | June 12, 2006
Beginning with an overview of how lean thinking developed and spread in manufacturing, this book quickly and—most importantly for healthcare readers who are not familiar with lean principles—clearly explains the key concepts of  lean thinking and how they apply to healthcare.  Even better, Doing More with Less: Lean Thinking and Patient Safety in Healthcare offers specific examples throughout of how to translate the principles of lean thinking into the healthcare environment, and how leading hospitals are using the concepts to improve safety by eliminating the root causes of problems. More »
Build Your “House” of Production on a Stable Foundation
By: Chet Marchwinski | February 14, 2006
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams; Images
Faced with downtime on key pieces of sophisticated equipment in a machine-intensive environment, Delphi's Plant 1 launched a successful improvement effort by focusing on rigorous problem solving to create basic stability. This Lean Enterprise Institute case study shows you what plant management, staff and employees did. More »
A Tale of Two Business Systems
By: Womack, Jim | February 7, 2006
Columns; eLetters
In the fall of 1990, Dan Jones, Dan Roos, and I co-authored The Machine That Changed the World, our description of lean enterprise. On page 253 we forecast that 1991 or 1992 would be the moment of crisis as the full power of lean (represented byToyota) threatened to topple mass production (defended by General Motors). And in 1992 GM nearly did go bankrupt.  However, as usually happens with forecasts, we were off in our timing. The moment of truth was actually delayed 15 years. What now seems certain is thatToyotawill pass GM in 2006 to become the world’s largest industrial More »
The Roots of Lean: Training Within Industry and the Origin of Japanese Management and Kaizen
By: Huntzinger, Jim | June 14, 2005
Articles; Images
LEI CEO John Shook, the first American employee to work at Toyota’s headquarters in Japan, tells a story about struggling to adapt Toyota training materials for use by Americans who would soon be working at the start-up New United Motors Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) joint venture with GM. A Japanese colleague, seeing him wrestling with some of the concepts, disappeared into a file room at Toyota’s corporate library. He returned with a dog-eared, coffee-stained copy of the English-language manual for Training Within Industry (TWI), a program developed by U.  S. industrial leaders to support the World War II production effort. After the More »
Lean Consumption
By: Womack, Jim | March 7, 2005
Columns; eLetters
           As I suspect you know, I see every value-creating organization as a big collection of processes:   A product development process involving many steps that must be performed properly in the proper sequence at the proper time to bring products to market.    A smoothly flowing production process -- which should be one of the results of the product development process, but often isn’t.    A purchasing process to determine which items to obtain from which suppliers under what terms.    A fulfillment process for getting the right item to the right customer at the right time.             Everything we do More »
Creating Basic Stability
By: Womack, Jim | May 25, 2004
Columns; eLetters
On my recent walks through companies, I've had an important realization. I had been assuming that in most companies the process steps in a typical value stream are sufficiently stable that it's practical to introduce flow, pull, and leveled production right away. By "stable" I mean that each process step is both "capable" (able to produce a good part every time it operates) and "available" (able to operate every time it is needed.  )  Operational availability (OA) is a good term for the combination of the two.  I've long known that at Toyota an assembly process would launch with operational More »
Lean Thinking for Air Travel
By: Womack, Jim | May 5, 2003
Columns; eLetters
Recently I got a call from an aide to Don Carty at American Airlines (their Chairman who resigned this past week.  ) This person wanted to apply lean thinking to air travel and asked what I thought about their “lean” idea.  It turned out that American was making plans – now announced -- to smooth the flow of passengers and aircraft through their major hubs in Dallas and Chicago. The idea was to spread out arrivals and departures so that planes would come and go at a fairly steady rate through the day, rather than in the massive waves required More »
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