Lean manufacturing: not a panacea

March 22, 2009

Not long ago, I attended a meeting of the local APICS chapter at which managers from a manufacturer of dental equipment described the process they used to obtain outstanding cost savings by  implementing  “lean manufacturing” techniques.

Shortly thereafter, during a visit to my dentist–who had recently purchased new equipment from that company–I discovered that there was a major flaw in their new dental chair– absolutely no ability to adjust part of the chair for people of varying heights–a rather major oversight, the hygienist observed.

So….implementing “lean” techniques may have reduced production cost, but it failed to meet the needs of the customer.

Clearly, my dentist purchased the piece of equipment anyway, but, surely, the next time, he will be more careful to check to see that basic necessary features are in place.  In the meantime, he may tell his colleagues who may be contemplating equipment purchases about the design defect…

So..”lean” is not a panacea.  There is still no substitute for common sense.