Lean Manufacturing

We Live in a Pull Universe

By Jon Miller Published on September 21st, 2007

Lean manufacturing works, and this has been proven through decades of practice. Yet decades are admittedly not much when measured against geologic time. Some aspects of TPS such building in quality, getting ideas from people who actually do the work, and creating systems to make problems visible border on the obvious. These don’t need a lot of backing through scientific models. When it comes to the principles of Lean logistics and just in time (takt, flow, pull), the art of coordinating the effective use of resources across time and space, people with letters after their names tend to weigh in.
While there are things like Little’s Law and fluid dynamics that explain why one piece flow is so clever, the idea of downstream pull is less obvious. I have a theory that nature operates on a pull, that we live in a pull universe. Many fundamental natural phenomena are based on pull rather than push. For example, these are some “pull forces” in the universe:
Capillary action
Rain (condensation, gravity)
How many “push” forces can you think of in nature? Magnetic repulsion? Repulsion of particles with the same charge? Or are these just another aspect of pull?
Seventeenth century astronomer and scientist Johannes Kepler is best known for having worked out the orbital motion of plants. Kepler also said “Nature uses as little as possible of anything.” Wasting as little as possible of anything is also the goal of kaizen and Lean manufacturing. How does nature achieve this? That’s what we should study.

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