Review of Total Flow Management by Euclides Coimbra


Total Flow Management: Achieving Excellence with Kaizen and Lean Supply Chains was published in early 2009 but has been distributed only within Kaizen Institute and its customers. Now this book is available to all and will surely join become a classic on the practical application of Toyota Production System principles to supply chain design. Written by Euclides A. Coimbra, a senior consultant and Managing Director of Kaizen Institute with over two decades of experience teaching, designing and implementing lean systems, it is an ambitious book. Across 280 sheets of A4 size paper, this book attempts nothing less than a full explanation of internal and external logistics systems that enable lean supply chains.
For any student of continuous improvement this book is a pleasure to read. The 17 chapters are filled with detailed charts, photos, layout and flow diagrams and other useful graphics, many in color. The writing is clear and direct, all the more remarkable as English is the native language Mr. Coimbra, who hails from Portugal. Some readers may be put off by the frequent and unapologetic use of Japanese terms for lean concepts such as junjo for sequence, mizusumashi for water spider, gemba for shop floor, etc) but there are far more technical terms in English introduced in this book. All of them are of high value and utility, not intended to impress the reader with jargon.
The book is divided in three sections. Part one reviews the lean paradigms and “thought habits” relevant to converting a traditional supply chain into a lean one. The author goes on to introduce “Company A” as the actual company whose case study around which the book is built, and sketches out the lean supply chain concepts which will follow. For the intermediate to advanced student of lean it may be interesting to stop reading at chapter 3, study the current state information for Company A and attempt to draw up a future state plan for a lean supply chain. The reader can check their understanding against the content in chapters 4-13 and then compare their conclusions with the actual implementation of Total Flow Management at Company A, described in Chapter 17. This approach can be used by university lecturers to develop a case study exercise for students, as a team exercise among operations managers and directors, or for employers in designing interview question for potential lean leaders.
Part two of the book is a 160 page feast of lean systems and tools as they apply to internal and external logistics. Chapter by chapter the author walks the reader through topics including line layout and design, material replenishment, standard work, SMED, low-cost automation, supermarkets, water spiders, synchronization, leveling, pull planning, external logistics and warehouse design, milk runs, customer service policies, delivery flows and logistics planning, all the while using examples and illustrations, never shirking away from difficult topics, raising the cons with the pros of designing a lean supply chain.
Part three of the book is titled “How to Implement Total Flow Management” and deals primarily with grasping the current situation, establishing a vision and plan, taking action “the kaizen way” and finally a reviewing what was actually done at Company A. Supplemented by a list of projects and actions taken during the TFM implementation at Company A, the final chapter provides valuable insight into the steps taken in an actual lean logistics transformation.
The book’s appendices add value by providing descriptions of kanban loops, kanban calculations for various types, pull planning algorithms for logistics and production, and finally a set of TFM self-assessment scorecards. The lack of a glossary is a glaring omission, considering the wealth of lean terms and concepts and the high number of Japanese terms used throughout the book. The book ends abruptly by concluding the story of Company A, without afterword or final words of inspiration for the reader. For all its rich depth and detail, it is a lean book in substance and spirit.
Total Flow Management is available for purchase through our web shop.
Disclosure: Total Flow Management was published by Kaizen Institute, my employer. The author Euclides Coimbra is my respected colleague within Kaizen Institute. It is my pleasure but not my duty to review this book.