Taking Toyota Out of Lean?

Like most lean advocates, I surely enjoy reading about presentations or case studies that detail the application of lean think and culture to new business and nontraditional industries. I was quite happy to read this article about a presentation given by Darren Bassett from FormaShape (a Canadian company that produces huge water slides) given at the recent "Composites 2010" convention in Las Vegas. He explains the benefits the organization received after adopting a lean initiative and, more specifically, how a specific TAKT time was established.

What I find curiously interesting about the article is the section that gives a brief background on the origin and history of lean. It states that the beginnings of lean manufacturing date back to Henry Ford's early 20th-century plants, but then continues with "the concept was taken up by the Japanese in automobile manufacturing in the '40s...." Not once is there a mention of Toyota! In addition, most lean practitioners know that lean culture was not something generally "taken up" by all Japanese automobile makers. The term lean was coined retroactively to describe the Toyota Production System -- the methodologies and culture we call "lean" were specifically honed at Toyota.

Do you think that because of the negative press Toyota has been receiving lately in regard to its recall of so many vehicles, writers are now shy to associate benefits derived from the most-powerful production system of the past 60 years with its originator? I might be reading too much into this one specific article, but do you think committees and organizations that sponsor lean and performance-improvement conferences will start to explicitly downplay the association of lean with Toyota?


Dean Bliss said...

I think it's sad that Toyota is not being given the credit in this instance for the development of Lean. Despite the current problems, we all know that TPS is the source for what we teach and what we practice. Unfortunate that the author feels compelled to omit Toyota from his material.

KaizenSensei said...

One of the concepts of "Lean" is to 'stop and fix' problems as they surface.