Lean Manufacturing

No Pushing

By Jon Miller Published on October 20th, 2005

It always horrified me to see perfectly good products being sold at a discount because they were no longer in season or in style. Why fill a dealer lot full of cars, only to sell last year’s models at a discount? Why design and produce perfectly good shoes and then sell them at a discount? There’s something wrong with this system. It’s called push.
The producer is pushing product the market due to the belief that factory utilization is important, whether customers want the product or not. Taiichi Ohno warns repeatedly against this type of overproduction in his book Workplace Management.
Have you ever ordered “the special” at a restaurant? How special is it? It’s been in the freezer a while, that’s how special (unless of course it痴 the catch of the day). If you are in Dallas, you can experience a chicken dinner served on a “pull” system.
There are many examples of “technology push” where products are developed and marketed without customer pull, but instead because of a faith on the part of the developer in the superior technology. The belief is “if you build it, they will come” to borrow words from a movie.
A good example of technology push is ironically named Push Technology. When I first heard about this I shook my head at this poor naming choice. It turns out people hated it. The overwhelming popularity of search engines (pull) today, and the near invisibility Push Technology speaks volumes. Some say Push is back as RSS feeds, but even here you are really “pulling” by subscribing to specific content.
You can read another excellent article Lean manufacturing on the Fashion-Incubator blog called Push manufacturing: subverting the fit feedback loop. It reads like a chapter out of a book titled “Lean Apparel”. Kathleen could write the book. The lesson here is that when you push, you lose touch with your customer.
The article talks about how the long lead-times as a result of off-shore production and shipping time leads into a sellers’ market push. The customer (retailer) must take what is available regardless if the fit, color, etc. is what they want or what their customer (the consumer) will buy.
The solution, says Kathleen, is niche manufacturers and designer entrepreneurs newly entering the market. In Lean terms, these smaller players are more nimble, able to flow and pull in smaller lots cost-effectively. The trade off is that the cost may be higher as these products won’t be made off-shore as easily. So ultimately as in all things it’s a balance between the three elements of demand; quality, cost and delivery. The only certain way to achieve this is through pull.

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