The Machine That Changed The World
James P.Womack, Daniel T.Jones, Daniel Roos Introduction
This classic book explains the evolution of lean manufacturing practices in the automobile industry. As the authors put it, the off repeated statement that the world faces a massive overcapacity crisis in automobile production is a misnomer. The reality is that theworld has an acute shortage of competitive lean-production capacity and a vast glut of uncompetitive mass-production capacity. The automobile industry has come a long way since the days of craft production. The craft producer used highly skilled workers and simple but flexible tools to make exactly what the consumer asked for one item at a time. Goods produced by the craft method cost too much forpeople to afford. So mass production was developed at the beginning of the twentieth century as an alternative. Mass-producers began to use narrowly skilled professionals to design products made by unskilled or semiskilled workers tending expensive, single-purpose machines. These churned out standardized products in very high volume. The machinery was expensive and intolerant of disruption. So themass-producer added many buffers - extra supplies, extra workers, and extra space to ensure smooth production. The consumer got a cheaper product but at the expense of variety. Moreover, most employees found work boring and dispiriting. Today, lean producers led by Toyota have emerged as global leaders. The lean producer, combines the advantages of craft and mass production, while avoiding thehigh cost of the former and the rigidity of the latter. Lean producers employ teams of multi skilled workers at all levels of the organization and use highly flexible, increasingly automated machines to produce volumes of products in enormous variety. The most striking difference between mass production and lean production lies in their ultimate objectives. Mass-producers set a limited goal forthemselves. This translates into an acceptable number of defects, a maximum acceptable level of inventories and a narrow range of standardized products. To do better, they argue, would cost too much or exceed inherent human capabilities. Lean producers, set their sights explicitly on perfection: continually declining costs, zero defects, zero inventories, and endless product variety. No lean producermay have achieved perfection and none ever will. But the endless quest for perfection, on the part of lean producers, continues to generate surprising results. Henry Ford and the rise of Mass Production Craft production had the following characteristics: A work force that was highly skilled in design, machine operations, and fitting. Organizations that were extremely decentralized, althoughconcentrated within a single city. The use of general-purpose machine tools to perform drilling, grinding, and other operations on metal wood. A very low production volume – 1,000 or fewer automobiles a year, only a few of which were built to the same design. It was Henry Ford who really understood the drawbacks of craft production. With his Model T, Ford achieved two objectives. He had a car that couldbe easily manufactured, and that was, also user-friendly. Almost anyone could drive and repair the car without a chauffeur or mechanic. The key to mass production was not the moving, or continuous, assembly line. Rather, it was the complete
and consistent interchangeability of parts and the simplicity of attaching them to each other. These were themanufacturing innovations that made the assembly line possible. Taken together, interchangeability, simplicity, and ease of attachment gave Ford tremendous advantages over his competition. Besides cutting costs, he could also eliminate the skilled fitters who had always formed the bulk of every assembler ’s labor force. The assemblers/fitters performed the same set of activities over and over at...