A sea change is happening in the design of production lines, based on Lean principles. What used to be considered "best practice" regarding mixed-model line design is evolving in a new direction. This short article lists the ways in which this change is happening.
Now that I have your attention, no, Kanban is not dead. There has been, however, a sea-change in the way that the Lean community thinks about Kanban, and there is a growing openness to other material delivery options. Before I dive into that topic, however, a few words of introduction are offered, for those who need a quick Kanban refresher.
One of the things we have noticed in working with Toyota during the past few years (Toyota Material Handling is a member of the Lean Factory Group) is that they don't really use the term "Lean" to refer to themselves and what they do. After all, the Toyota Production System was developed long before the 1991 publication of The Machine That Changed The World, and there was no real reason to call it anything different.
The U.S. remanufacturing industry, according to Nabil Nasr of the Rochester Institute of Technology, generates estimated sales of $100 billion annually. The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article describing the challenges and opportunities facing this increasingly attractive industry. Some countries, fearing that remanufactured products such as medical instrumentation are not as reliable as new product, restrict or prohibit such imports. And some U.S. remanufacturers struggle to compete against very low-priced new imports.
It has long been a puzzle why so many Lean and Six Sigma implementations, launched with enthusiasm, fanfare, and abundant resources, fall short of expectations or, even worse, simply fail. Satya S. Chakravorty, professor of operations management at Kennesaw State University and a seasoned Six Sigma/Lean practitioner, addresses this question in a recent Wall Street Journal article (January 25, 2010) : “Where Process-Improvement Projects Go Wrong”.
A recent article by F. Kaid Benfield illustrates how Lean principles apply to a debate now taking place among Green Building practitioners. At issue is the fact that six recent award-winning LEED buildings are located such that they are largely or entirely dependent on automobile travel for access.