Theory For The Rest Of Us

If you've paid any attention at all to the newer thinking in manufacturing philosophy over the last decade, you probably don't need to read this book. Then again, maybe it wouldn't hurt.

Columns From: 5/1/1996 Modern Machine Shop, ,

If you've paid any attention at all to the newer thinking in manufacturing philosophy over the last decade, you probably don't need to read this book. Then again, maybe it wouldn't hurt. It's "All I Need To Know About Manufacturing I Learned In Joe's Garage" by William B. Miller and Vicki L. Schenk (Bayrock Press). The book is primarily a short fiction that explores the major foibles of traditional manufacturing methodology along side the more modern views that are popular today.

The book is billed as "world class manufacturing made simple," and that it is. The story is told by Sandy, a manufacturing engineer at the Garrett Gear Company. He's been invited over to the home of his boss, the manufacturing VP, on a Saturday to help build shelves for the garage. It's a group affair, and coming along with Sandy is his neighbor, Ralph Morita, also an ME, but at Yamachi Gear, a transplant competitor across town.

Over the course of the day, the boss drives a crew of 20 people going about manufacturing the shelves in a traditional fashion. All the while, Sandy and Ralph carry on a quiet discussion on the methods employed, weighing the relative merits of the quintessential "American method" versus that of the Japanese.

The authors do indulge in some rather tiring stereotyping. The egocentric, bull-of-the-woods American manager. The demure, but incredibly insightful Japanese team player. The well intentioned every-man in the middle who'd do the right thing if only the environment were better. There's a Japanese word for just about everything that's good and worthwhile in manufacturing, much of which is vintage Deming. And the Americans in general are, well, misguided.

Still, it's a rather engaging convention by which a number of important ideas are explained and exemplified: Preventive quality vs. inspection. Pull vs. push scheduling systems. Just in time vs. just in case. Process vs. planning focus. Lean manufacturing. Continuous improvement.

Maybe you're unfamiliar with some of these ideas, or could use a little refresher. Or maybe your shop talks the talk, but walks another way. In any case, it's well worth the ten bucks and two hours you'll need to invest in the read. If that sounds like a deal, call Bayrock Press at 208-376-2266.

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