Who Knew Fiat was a Lean Company?

And the foreign automaker doing a good job of implementing lean manufacturing is… Fiat.


Yes, Fiat. The Italian car company has transformed itself from a maker of poor-quality cars 20 years ago into a nimble, highly efficient producer of high-quality small vehicles. Hordes of executives from Chrysler, which is now effectively controlled by Fiat, are traveling to Fiat’s plant in Tychy, Poland, to see how it’s done.

A recent article in The New York Times describes the plant.

At Tychy (pronounced TICK-ee), one secret is flexibility: The latest robotic technology is balanced by workers who can quickly shift models to match demand. That is one reason Tychy is operating around the clock, six days a week, while most other auto plants in Europe and the United States are running at a fraction of capacity, increasing costly nonproductive downtime.

And according to the director of the Tychy plant, Zdzislaw Arlet, it’s all about lean.

Mr. Arlet is also constantly on the lookout for time- and money-saving improvements, adding that he himself looks to Toyota’s famous Kaizen system for inspiration: Instead of filling up cars at different production points with brake fluid, gasoline, water and other liquids, one machine on each of Tychy’s three lines fills each vehicle.

“A car comes off the assembly line every 55 seconds,” Mr. Arlet said. “In 1996, it took twice as long.”

An infusion of lean thinking by itself won’t be enough to save Chrysler. But it helps give the Detroit company a chance.


factoreshumanos said...

Yes Ralph but the problem at Chrysler, GM and most of US industry it beyond lean remedy for two main reasons at least: industrial activity, specially large corporation has been unfairly but largely discredited Americans by the relentless criticism by hiper articulate people who have been able to exprapolate from isolated mistakes and unethical behaviour of large corporations to the "rule" now firmly implanted in the public mind; business is greed and specially large corporantions are pure greed, exploiters of people and the environment. Ralph Nader got things rolling it carries on with Naomi Klein.

They have destroyed the belief industry is an ethical moral activity, that companies by and large exist to satisfy people needs. Workers at industrial companies no longer feel proud, shame is more like it. Even their own unions seem to believe companies are "necessary evils" to eat, at most.

Such negativism has even succeded in presenting pharmaceutical companies, dedicated not just to satisfy everyday needs but to save people's lives, as just a bunch of greedy bastards intent not on the health of patients but just in pumping them full of drugs.

From the exceptional the rule has been built, it is irrational but it is not the first time overall irrational objectives seem rational on paper; Nazism, Communism are two obvious examples.

In the US the best and the brightest do not go into manufacturing or industrial research they go into law, book writing, medicine (not medical research, entrepreneurial activities in services, Hollywood and comedy. Even computer science has been ridiculed as practiced by nerds, not normal, worthwhile, well rounded personalities. Those activities are obviouesly worthwhile but they contribute little to the transformation of materials into useful products and they do not create the millions of stable good paying jobs Americans need.

Another thing the US could do is move away from MBA schools. People there are not taught to run companies for the long run but short term financial and marketing tricks. They deluded into believing management skills can be taught in two years in a classroom by people who for the most part have no real experience runnning a business.

Unfortunately the "MBA business class" is now firmly in charge of US industry. It will be very difficult to kick them out or make them evolve into "Toyota types" where managing skills are developed and proven over the years by rotating over different assigments before making important decisions.

Trips to the Fiat plant in Poland are not going to change the root problems. Many GM people also went to the Freemont plant run by Toyota.

In the US,the best do not wish to study engineering, industrial sciences or set up a small factory because we have created a society where other professions provide more money and an far higuer social prestige.

Excesive self criticism of business and industry is the main problem in the US. It has had the effect of stopping people from believing in American business and in America. No matter the lip service some of those critics pay to "America", it is just a fig leaf. They hate the American system. I need not go into the image those critics have created of politicians...

So Mr Bernstein, rather tha lean we need to articulate a defense of America that discredits those vitriolic critics, no matter how honestly trhey believe in what they say.

Like it will do to a family, a social club, a Church, a Synagogue, etc., excessive criticism and internal division will destry any human group. The US is just a large human group.

Of course, the critics already have the answer to explain the decai in the US; "it was a bad society to start with, we just pointed out the flaws..."

Those of us who believe in the US, in its business, must start the pushing back. This is my modest contribution.

Victor ben Abraham
Enviado desde mi dispositivo BlackBerry® de Orange.

Anonymous said...

Amazing work. I cannot wait to see the completed version. Any current timeline for this?
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Anonymous said...

Agreed. When it’s left to the media to arbitrarily decide which issues deserve attention, it can often encourage conflict between competing “issues” that ultimately serves the status quo. A better approach, of course, would be solidarity between all parties, but that’s easier said than done!
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