Headed In The Right Direction

Proponents of lean manufacturing often speak in terms of a “journey. ” They see lean manufacturing as an ongoing, ever-evolving process.

Columns From: 8/16/2007 Modern Machine Shop, ,

Proponents of lean manufacturing often speak in terms of a “journey.” They see lean manufacturing as an ongoing, ever-evolving process. Their point is that the effort to reduce waste is never over. There is always a new and better “future state” to envision and work toward. The lean journey is not about reaching a destination; but rather, it is about embarking on a path that lies in the right direction.

The companies profiled in this special issue, which focuses on “Machining Today And Tomorrow,” are on a journey. Our intent here is to show the direction that they’ve taken and to reveal why it seems to be the right one to lead them into the future. Although we are not recommending these specific paths to other shops, we do want our readers to consider the investments and commitments needed to head in the right direction. For some shops, radical changes may be called for.

Change is a challenge to company leadership. It takes wisdom and insight to recognize what must be done, and it takes passion, energy and persistence to follow through. Family-owned businesses have the added challenge of preparing the next generation to lead the journey—and to shift course if necessary. “Following in the footsteps” may be exactly the wrong policy.

Life is a journey, too. I see that clearly as a parent. My son, the youngest, is about to start his senior year in high school. He is learning to make his own decisions about the direction of his life, of his higher education and of his career path. I can offer only guidance, support and love. He appears to be headed in the right direction, so I can’t worry about where his journey will lead. That will be up to him. He is hopeful and confident about the future, and, for that reason most of all, I have hope and confidence in him.

These thoughts have enlightened my contributions to this issue. No journey can begin or continue without hope and confidence. When you look at the direction our profiled shops are taking, don’t overlook the hope and confidence that is implicit in their activities. They are moving forward with purpose and resolve.

Many pundits believe that the path of U.S. manufacturing leads to a dead end. That would be true only if manufacturing companies had no directions to follow that were open-ended and promising. As it is, many shops and plants are ready to point the way.

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