May 2009 Archives

Birth of Lean -> Book review

I wrote an Amazon review of a new book called "Birth of Lean". You can find the amazon entry here

I copied the review on this blog. Think its worth reading for people interested in Lean:


The Birth of Lean is a collection of six interviews with people who influences the creation of the Toyota Production System; what became later known as lean manufacturing and lean thinking. The book is a translation of the Japanese book which was published in 2001. This book is full of stories, insights and nuggets of knowledge, but it is not for people who are new to lean. The book assumes you already have an understanding of lean and the TPS.

The first interview is with Taiichi Ohno, the father of the TPS. Its a three hour interview, but was done without tape recorder, so it is a summary of the notes written by the interviewer. It makes the interview somewhat short, but still contains interesting and little known facts about how the TPS was created (for example, having to wait three years before he could introduce kanban because of the "tax people")

The second interview is called "What I Learned from Taiichi Ohno" by Michikazu Tanaka who worked close together with Ohno when he was at Daihatsu. This interview is my personal favorite one as it contains a huge amount of Ohno-isms (short stories about Taiichi Ohno). It is full of insights about TPS and how Ohno taught it to other people.

The third interview is with Kikuo Suzumura who worked under Ohno and was one of the people who did the real early implementation of these ideas and perhaps one of the secret inventors of many of the TPS techniques. He describes all the problems he encountered over time and what kind of innovative solutions they came up with. This interview is by far the most technical one.

The fourth interview is with Kaneyoshi Kusunoki who worked under Ohno and is one of the co-authors of the first English-language paper about the TPS (which is reprinted in this book). The interview itself is short, but insightful. The paper is surprisingly well-written and I wonder why it hasn't been reprinted in the earlier lean materials.

The fifth interview is with Masao Nemoto who was the major force behind the TQC implementation inside Toyota. Much talk about Toyota is about the TPS, but the Toyota TQC is rarely mentioned (even though they won the Deming prize twice). Nemoto talks about things such as the evolution of policy deployment and about management of QC circles. He looks at Toyota from a slightly different perspective as the others, which makes his interview very interesting.

The last interview is Eji Toyoda, who in senior management positions during the development of the TPS and the deployment of TQC. There are actually two interviews where Eji talks about the strategic decisions made by Toyota during his period. His humbleness is especially striking.

All in all, this is a book full of little insights in Toyota and Lean which makes it well worth reading it. However this is not a beginner book! The whole book assumes that you already know Lean and TPS well. So, if you want to know more about Lean... you probably first want to look into "Lean Thinking" or "The Toyota Way." If you already got a deeper understanding of the topic then this is a book you certainly do not want to miss.

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