Prologue: It’s about business operations leadership. Managers want high cash flow and excellent customer service, yet leaders typically don’tunderstand the practical science that drives their businesses. This book provides that practical scienceusing concepts anyone can learn and apply. Factory Physics for Managers enables managers to establish order from chaos and shows howyou can:
1) Understand what does or does not work for your business when using the excellent tools of Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, or Theory of Constraints
2) Weed out the hype from the help in the overwhelming flood of recommendations from industry analysts and consultants
3) Greatly improve the results you get from your current ERP/MRP IT system. Find out what is required to reduce inventory 50% and improve customer service.
Chapter One opens with a clarification of the difference between theories and buzzwords. A good theory is highly useful because it makes accurate predictions about natural events that have not yet occurred. Unfortunately, contemporary leaders very frequently resort to the use of buzzwords that sound impressive, appear to convey understanding, but do not. The results are hit or miss.
Toyota, the archetype of a Lean company, is a great example. Taichi Ohno himself, inventor of the Toyota Production System (TPS), said he didn’t understand the science behind the TPS. He was trying to establish flow of production. With great intuition over decades of effort, the TPS has emerged and surpassed all competition but there are widespread misconceptions about the TPS. One is the misconception that the TPS uses a perfectly “balanced” line–all stations running at or close to 100%utilization. However variability is unavoidable and requires buffering. Toyota used as much as a 30% capacity buffer in developing the TPS. So Taichi Ohno definitely “hit” on his leadership of the company however it was not by using the buzzwords others so frequently attribute to his system.
Boeing provides a good example of how application of technology without a good understanding of the underlying science can lead efforts astray. Installing a coupled, moving assembly for the 777 jet airliner was a mistake and cost Boeing tremendously in production output at the peak of the market.
We propose a science of operations with concepts that anyone can use to reduce inventory, cut costs, improve customer service and cash flow, and make operations management easier. Note, we didn’t say make operations management easy, but it sure can be conducted in a less chaotic fashion than we so often see today. Since we are talking science, and not an initiative by imitation or just a bunch of statistical analysis, we welcome constructive arguments (in other words, conjectures and refutations ) to strengthen the science to everyone’s benefit.
Over the next months, I and my co-authors will be publishing summaries (~300 words in length) of the chapters in Factory Physics for Managers. It’s not a serial since the book has already been published but the summaries should serve as good conversation starters for those who are reading or who have read the book or those who are just interested in the ideas mentioned above.
With the publication of Factory Physics for Managers by McGraw-Hill, we open discussion of a new way forward for leaders and managers in industry. There is a natural science of operations that is neither widely understood nor widely taught. It does not require undergraduate or graduate level study; it does not require fancy computer programs to understand. It leads to higher cash flow and better customer service. To illustrate, when Sir Isaac Newton stated his first law of motion, “An object will remain at rest or continue moving in a straight line unless acted on by an outside force” he was not using any complex math or fancy computers. He made an observation about nature. After hundreds of years of tests of that observation using extensive mathematical models, practical experiments, and, more recently, highly sophisticated computers, Newton’s observation about nature’s behavior has stood the test of time.
Factory Physics for Managers states a highly useful science of operations in plain language. The book provides multiple examples of the successful application of this science and examples of those who have ignored or misunderstood the science. It is in the end an endeavor of practical science. We look forward to your comments and contributions. This blog will serve as a forum for further discussion.
One of the initial reactions we got to the book was, “Leading in a “Post-Lean Six Sigma World?” I don’t know about that, Lean and Six Sigma aren’t going anywhere.” Agreed. However, we don’t mean a world without Lean and Six Sigma. “Leading in a Post-Lean Six Sigma World” describes an operations management world evolved to a widespread understanding of the natural science driving operations behavior. In this world, tools and techniques are used when they are most effective, not because the tools and techniques are employed successfully at some other company or because they are popular.
Also, join us and your peers in Chicago on May 9th for a Factory Physics workshop. Learn the concepts of a practical operations science that other companies have applied successfully to cut WIP, reduce cycle time and inventory, improve customer service and cash flow, and make operations management easier. Click here for more information and to register.