Lean Manufacturing

Toyota Owes Grandpa Ford

By Jon Miller Updated on May 15th, 2017

Earlier this month the Lean Insider attempted to answer the question Which Lean Book is Right for My Boss? These folks ought to have the answer, since Productivity Press has published the lion’s share of important books on what we call Lean manufacturing today.
I have my favorite books on Lean, and I look forward to finding new books that will make it into this personal top 5 list. But who needs to read five books? If we would just implement 80% of what is in any one of these books we would far more good than getting a PhD in all things Lean.
Alan Mullaly is a CEO of a big American firm who is making his managers read books on Lean these days. The company is Ford Motor Company and the book is The Machine that Changed the World, according to word on the street.
Last month Mullaly made a surprise visit to Toyota in Japan, then both sides denied rumors of a tie-up. Today Toyota’s chief Watanabe told the Nikkei Business Daily that Toyota would be open to some type of alliance with Ford, if only Ford asked. That is potentially big news for the automotive world. But it is not surprising.
Ford and Toyota are soul mates in a way. The leaders at Toyota owe something to Grandpa Ford. The people that are at the helm of Toyota today got where they were because they studied works like Henry Ford’s Today and Tomorrow and took his sage advice. Here is a sampling from that book, sequenced as a Lean implementation guide:
1. First, create a plan (32)
2. Strive for simplicity (p. 13)
3. Make cleanliness a must in all areas (p. 60)
4. Constantly perform experiments (p. 17)
5. Measure work scientifically and work to make things take less time (p. 81)
6. Put people and tools in the sequence operation to minimize travel (p. 80)
7. Use standardization to strengthen processes and to drive out waste (p. 49)
8. Mistake proof designs (p. 67)
9. Automate those process that you can (p. 90)
10. Create opportunities for people to think (p. 248-250)
This is Henry Ford circa 1926, folks. It’s spooky.
Do just eight of these things. If safety, quality, delivery and cost have not gotten significantly better for you as a result, I will gladly stop by and give you another 10 ideas for you to try. And I’ll probably just get them out of Henry Ford’s book.

  1. Kev

    January 24, 2007 - 2:01 am

    I have Today and Tomorrow, published in 1926, still in good condition and bought off ebay for less than £5 ($7.50?). The added bonus is that it smells of library!
    I think it is very similar in style to Taiichi Ohno’s writing that Jon has very kindly translated on this site, in that it is less like the “ten steps” or tool list that seems to (wrongly) proliferate in modern writings and more of how I [Ford] think about work.
    I love it and would certainly include it in my recommendations for a reading list.
    But it is a child of its times “. . . We do not take married women unless their husbands are unable to work. . . ” so keep it in perspective.

  2. Jorge Alonzo

    July 20, 2007 - 11:38 am

    Great articles. Enlightening!

  3. Mike Johnson

    April 2, 2008 - 7:51 am

    Its a wonder that the modern FPS was modeled from TPS system, that was inspired by Henry Ford himself. It shows that most good ideas are often forgotten, and then revamped as a new idea and marketed as a cure all. But being lean is not just a good idea, but its the way of doing business if you want to stay in business. Great comparision.

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