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Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production

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This volume carefully traces the rise of the Toyota system from its take-off point in Ford's mass production system to its spread across the world, starting with the NUMMI joint venture with General Motors in California and now advancing in Europe, Latin America, and East Asia as well. It then identifies and describes the advantages of this system, which needs less of everything including time, human effort, inventories, and investment to produce products with fewer defects in smaller volumes at lower costs for fragmenting markets. The Machine That Changed the World even gave the system its name: lean.In the decade since its launch in the fall of 1990, The Machine That Changed the World has sold more than 600,000 copies in 11 languages and has introduced a whole generation of managers and engineers to lean thinking. No lean library is complete without this groundbreaking book.

"The fundamentals of this system are applicable to every industry across the globea[and] will have a profound effect on human society. It will truly change the world." - New York Times

Paperback / 1990 / 323 pages

323 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1990

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James P. Womack

20 books55 followers

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Profile Image for Rafael Rosa.
63 reviews11 followers
January 28, 2016
## TL;DR
The original book about Lean in the western world, written in 1990 it provides an interesting peek into the past, the "japanese industrial invasion" and the world before the height of globalization, all through the lenses of car manufacturing. However, it's pretty outdated, which reduces it impact and direct applicability.

## Opinion
Lean was born on the japanese auto industry and it spread the world. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar enough with factories, so my interests lie on the use of Lean ideas to software development, where it has a lot of followers and I'm trying to have a better understanding of its basics.

The book describes the results of a 5-year research program during the 80's where they visited 90 factories around the world, comparing the performance of traditional mass production factories vs lean ones. The result is that lean manufacturers usually had better productivity, better quality, lower inventories and capital requirements, etc, the difference in the results was mostly explained by how "truly lean" a factory was, not everybody that called themselves lean or even where based in Japan, had good results.

One important thing I realized is that they split Lean in many parts (manufacturing, product design, supply chain, customer relations, management) and the one that is probably most applicable for software development is the part about product design, which is pretty close to the ideas around agile development. I'm sure I can find more insights by researching this specific aspect of Lean. The management part, however, was the least sophisticated, which is expected, since they were at the beginning of the process.

Some cool things the books mentions, but are mostly trivia:
* Since then they were considering the impacts of electric and self-driving cars
* No mention whatsoever to the Internet or the unification of communication, looks like it came as a surprise
* They missed the Asian Tiger phase, the fall of Communism, rampant globalization, NAFTA, EURO zone, the Japanese crisis, etc. It seems they were pretty optimistic
* The NUMMI factory closing wasn't in the cards back then, now resurrected by Tesla
* The authors never hint the possibility of expanding the use of Lean beyond manufacturing, but perhaps they assumed this was obvious
* They mention China twice in the book.

Much of the book predictions were dependent on macroeconomic trends and the regulatory situation of the time, I wonder if they would have changed their predictions or recommendations if they knew about the changes in world economics since that time. I guess they would. Also, they expected that Lean manufacturing would replace mass production by the end of the 20th century, I'm not sure how far we are from that on this day.

The productivity benefits of Lean are "obvious" but what should society do with workers that get displaced by the increased productivity and job cuts that these lean transformations entail? They have no suggestions beyond "the government needs to figure it out", which is pretty scary.

All in all, it's a very good historical perspective of manufacturing since Ford and cool insights into the original perspective on lean.

## Summary / Notes
* Lean manufacturing
* "It transfers the maximum number of tasks and responsibilities to those workers actually adding value to the car on the line, and it has in place a system for detecting defects that quickly traces every problem, once discovered, to it's ultimate cause."
* Employees divided into small groups
* Every member of the group is trained to perform all the tasks
* Quality isn't guaranteed at the end of the line, but instead it's built in on every step
* Employees have the authority to stop the line to correct problems as they are detected
* Problems aren't just fixed, instead the root causes are identified through the "5 whys" method and the fixes are applied to the source, avoiding their recurrence
* Rewards are focused on group and system performance instead of individual performance
* Employees are not super specialized, instead they are generalists trained to solve problems
* They have time to study and work on improvements to the process on regular intervals, Kaizen
* Waste elimination is critical, be it inefficient processes or too much inventory
* Inventory minimization is a constant effort, to reduce the amount of capital needed to make goods. Just-in-time is a part of it
* There are concerns that Lean work is even less fulfilling then regular mass production work, given the pressure for constant improvement and reduction of waste, generating a lot of stress. The counter-point is that they are empowered to control their work and environment
* Lean product development
* Lean products aren't developed in white rooms by engineers isolated from the rest of the company and the consumers, fighting for support from departments across the company. Instead they are developed by multidisciplinary teams lead by an empowered leader, the *shusa*, who has the mandate to design the product and all the necessary process changes and tools to guarantee its success, and they have access to a lot of data from consumers, partners and factory workers.
* The shusa has authority to do whatever it takes to make the project move, including poaching and overriding other departments
* The designers are assembled from talent across the company for the project and then disassembled
* Designers' performance is evaluated by the shusa and they have more impact on their careers than their normal managers
* The high risk decisions of the project are tackled at the beginning of the project, not at its end, similar to the problem solving on the factory floor
* Design is done together with suppliers, tool manufacturers and factory workers, instead of working in isolation and fixing integration problems after the project is done
* Lean design projects tend to have a shorter cycle and stabilization times
* Lean supply chain
* Lean supply chains are a cooperative process with suppliers, where the company has full knowledge of the numbers and capacity of the suppliers and vice-versa, the goal is to optimize the benefits and profits for both parties. Quite different from mass production supply chains, where the company and the suppliers are at odds all the time, hiding information and trying to maximize their profits disregarding the common benefits
* Lean suppliers are long term partnerships
* Suppliers are active participants on product and production design. Proprietary information is often shared.
* Price isn't the only guideline for choosing a partner, quality and overall relationship is more important
* Suppliers are expected to start with a high price and lower it as they get more volume, expertise and improve their own process
* It's common for company executives to work as "attachés" at the supplier. Equity exchanges are also common
* Just-in-time inventory is used to reduce capital costs and space requirements on both sides. This require good integration between company and suppliers
* The company usually has a tiered supply chain, they have few suppliers of big components (like chassis, drive train, etc) that in turn have their own supply chain of smaller components. This reduces the amount of direct relationships each company has to manage
* Lean customer feedback
* Lean companies try to maximize the life time value of customers (they didn't use this specific term, but that's what they meant). To do that they try to create a strong connection between brand and consumer, spending more time and effort building relationships
* Dealerships are owned or partly-owned by the company, instead of having multibrand dealers
* In the 80's the sales was door-to-door, with the salesperson creating a strong connection with the consumers. In the 90's this moved to a showroom model, but the importance on the relationship remained
* On dealerships the salespeople were organized in teams of non-specialists, just like in the factories. Performance bonuses were dependent on the group performance, not individual.
* To improve the relationship, the salespeople gathered a lot of data about customers, like the modern CRM systems, and interacted with them not in random intervals, but in moments where the customers might need their products
* Lean enterprise management
* A lot of the financial power of the Japanese Lean manufactures came from their *keiretsu* structure, at least from the authors perspective. In a keiretsu money comes from affiliated banks and companies that have equity interests in each other
* Careers in Japanese companies are based not on skill but on seniority. Moving between companies means starting from scratch, which enforces the "job for life" employment. The lack of this kind of stability on Western companies have impacts on their ability to actually implement Lean.
* Lean is ideal for companies that can produce their goods near their consumer markets, reinforcing supply chain benefits and just-in-time production based on customer demand, for this reason the authors suggest that companies should open independent but connect subsidiaries on their target markets, with constant executive exchange programs to reinforce culture and share lean knowledge.

Profile Image for Gauss74.
437 reviews76 followers
January 4, 2023
Una delle tante crisi che ci hanno colpito nel 2022 è stata quella energetica, e probabilmente non è stata neppure la peggiore, come scopriremo presto. La conseguenza ovvia per me è stata che ho avuto ed avrò troppo tempo libero nel senso più drammatico del termine, essendo responsabile di produzione in una azienda energivora. Era evidente che le condizioni produttive peggioreranno per tutti, quindi quale modo migliore di spendere il tempo libero in eccesso che iscriversi ad un master in management? Ed è quello che ho fatto.
Quello che non avevo previsto è quanto sarebbe stato impegnativo: ebbene sì, ci si accorge che i cinquant'anni non sono i venti quando si torna a scuola.
Molte cose sono cambiate, nei ventidue anni che mi separano dalla fine dell'università. Le lezioni interattive, gli appunti telematici, le spiegazioni registrate, internet: tutto da un certo punto di vista è infinitamente più facile, il punto è che quella facilità viene giustamente spesa assegnando un autentico diluvio di testi d'approfondimento a corredo.

Questo "La macchina che ha cambiato il mondo" (ma in italiano è quasi introvabile) è il fondamento unico ed indispensabile per chi decida di migliorare le proprie prestazioni manageriali studiando; giova ricordare che questo non è certo l'unico modo, e forse neanche il migliore. E' un libro vecchio, parla del mondo dell'inizio degli anni 90, quando finiva la sfida del comunismo e cominciava quella dell'estremo oriente e del cosiddetto quarto mondo. Posso dire con certezza che il libro è un capolavoro proprio perchè nonostante il fatto che in mezzo sia capitato di tutto, è rimasto incomparabilmente attuale.

E' rimasto attuale perchè dal punto di vista manageriale la modernità non sta tanto nel punto di vista politico o economico o di marketing (alla fine della fiera il fatto che si parli di automobili è solo un necessario dettaglio); la modernità sta nell'approccio con cui si gestiscono i problemi. Tutto il libro è un parallelismo tra la produzione di massa come è stata impostata da Henri Ford nella sua omonima, leggendaria ditta e la produzione Lean così come è stata impostata da Iichiro Toyoda nella sua quasi omonima, leggendaria ditta. Lasciando da parte i tecnicismi, per chi non fosse interessato professionalmente è un confronto da un punto di vista spettacolare e mai visto prima tra il mondo del novecento (la produzione di massa) e quello del duemila (la produzione snella).

L'umanità. Lo abbiamo visto con le guerre mondiali, lo vediamo anche qui. Nel Novecento il fantaccino, l'operaio, è un costo. Ci credete che per le aziende americane le risorse umane sono un costo variabile persino oggi? Questo vuol dire che se il bisogno di carne da cannone (soldatino o operaietto poco importa) diminuisce, basta licenziare. Carne da cannone appunto, perchè uno degli obiettivi dichiarati della catena di montaggio è diminuire al massimo le competenze richieste al lavoratore, il posto di lavoro a prova di cretino, per dire. Solo che appunto, dopo i primi tempi di apparente agio, chi esegue un mestiere troppo facile e ripetitivo, rincretinisce. Nelle imprese che guardano al futuro, nel Duemila, le risorse umane sono un costo fisso. Perche sono una risorsa preziosa, da sviluppare e custodire gelosamente, come un figlio. E' ben vero che i giapponesi lavorano di più degli occidentali (ci hanno fatto anche un film, negli stessi anni in cui usciva questo libro), ma lavorano di più perchè lavorano meglio. Poi c'è l'Italia, che rincretinisce gli operai, si lamenta che sono rincretiniti, e li considera un costo fisso lo stesso perchè visto che altrimenti gente non formata e non addestrata finirebbe sotto a un ponte, blinda i contratti. Ma l'Italia è un altro discorso, la Fiat è roba da fantascienza: torniamo alla realtà.

Il mondo. Uno dei modi di distinguere il mondo del duemila da quello del novecento, è approcciare il problema da questo punto di vista. La produzione di massa sa diventare competitiva solo producendo sempre di più, tagliando tutto ciò che non è produttività, e dando risorse solo a quella. Scelta strategica che richiede un mercato in perpetua espansione e risorse infinite: il mondo del novecento, appunto. Solo che il mondo attuale è diverso. Il cambiamento climatico e la guerra del gas in Ucraina ci mostrano che le risorse sono finite. Le persone hanno tutto di tutto, tranne che tempo. Affannati nell'ansia di performare sempre di più per avere più soldi per avere più cose (approccio quantitativo quanto mai novecentesco), non abbiamo neppure più il tempo di desiderare. I tempi nostri, di risorse limitate, di mercati saturi, di gente sfinita (ah, caro Dante, eri secoli avanti quando pensavi a gente che spingeva massi in nome della ricchezza, conservata o dilapidata), hanno bisogno di spostare il fuoco. La produzione industriale, con tutta la sua cinica volontà di potenza e di ricchezza, deve tornare a mettere l'uomo al centro. I consumatori sono troppo stanchi per desiderare ancora, ed allora bisogna andare loro incontro. Capire i loro bisogni veri, nella loro diversità, e risolvere solo quelli.

Tutto nel ventunesimo secolo è capovolto. Non si può forzare con la pubblicità chi compra a desiderare quello che a noi conviene produrre. Siamo noi industriali, cambiando radicalmente priorità e mentalità, a dover capire consa gli uomini e le donne realmente vogliono e sono disposti a pagare per avere, e metterglielo a disposizione. Tenendo conto che tra queste priorità ci sono sempre più la sicurezza di chi lavora (non è uno slogan: tra il 2000 ed il 2020 gli infortuni sul lavoro nel mio settore sono calati di almeno 3 volte), ed anche la gestione di un ambiente sempre più privo di risorse e sempre più malato.

Al netto dei tecnicismi che lascio agli ingegneri, quello che questo libro insegna è questo. Che non abbiamo i mezzi per produrre all'infinito, e che neppure serve produrre all'infinito. Se vogliamo far diventare ricca l'impresa, quello che serve è far diventare gli uomini e le donne più felici. Quindi bisogna mettere l'umanità al centro, sia quella che lavora con noi considerandola la risorsa più preziosa, sia quella che compra i nostri prodotti andandole incontro, senza accettare con compiacimento che spinga il suo masso nel quarto cerchio per venirci incontro.

E' difficile? Certo che lo è. E' quasi impossibile: la crisi che ci attanaglia dal 2008 a oggi, contro la quale negli ultimi 3 anni siamo riusciti solo a peggiorare, si spiega benissimo in questi termini.
Il punto è che non abbiamo alternative.

O c'è qualcuno che crede che la pandemia e la guerra in Ucraina siano il risultato di un complotto? Davvero? Davvero davvero?

Profile Image for Zainab.
52 reviews41 followers
January 30, 2021
Sometimes, I just mix the content with the writing. The writing was off, draggy, too research-businessy for me. But the content was good. There were a lot of charts and tables that I conveniently ignored. Why not? I'm not writing a research paper. Also, I got my way through the main thesis (a few charts did help). And the thesis was that lean production is the best thing that happened to the auto-manufacturing industry, and even if it has its teeny-tiny flaws, it's self-improving and ever-evolving. Thanks to Toyota boys: Eiji Toyoda and Taichi Ohno.

The book actually reminded me of my first (and last) full-time job as an engineer (not for the right reasons). I might have shown more interest in the manufacturing and processes management side of things (at least for a few months), had I read it earlier. Design processes, optimization of parts, and my MD's favorite, System Engineering, could have been leaner. Anyway, left for good. Hmm, I should share it with my former colleagues though.

Also, that's the thing about lean production, it can be applied to any product or service. Best used in DevOpsSec these days. I might use what I learned from this book in my future endeavors.

I will write a detailed review soon that'll cover the following:
1. How the American and European auto-manufacturers got interested in the Japanese.
2. What techniques each industry used before Lean Production.
3. Superiority of Japanese total quality management, build-in-quality, feedback loop systems.
4. Contribution of the Japanese labor in decision-making.
Profile Image for Stephen Kramar.
115 reviews1 follower
March 25, 2020
I approached this book as part text book, part history book, and it did not disappoint. It was recommended reading to me as an introduction to the concept of "lean." I've studied and read a little bit about lean in the past, but did not have the broader context of craft production and mass production to compare it to, so my previous understanding was limited. As the story of how the automotive industry progressed through these stages of production I could begin to see the value of each of the methodologies, plus their pitfalls, and the whole supply chain impacts began to make sense. I use the words "begin" and "began" on purpose, as after reading this book I still have some questions and doubts about "lean," and especially its application in non-production environments.

Also, to be clear, this isn't the book to read if you are seeking a primer on how to implement lean in your organization.
Profile Image for Baris Aydemir.
19 reviews
February 5, 2022
I can only imagine how sensational this book was when it came out in 1990... The IMVP did an excellent job collection all those information from those different assembler in different regions. If only I had known this book around 2004 when I was working for a French Tier-1 automotive supplier. It would have been made my day :)
Years later the book still makes sense, basic principles, the transition from craft to mass then to lean production well reviewed. I was keen with Japanese lean methodology, however it made me realize the important role Henry Ford has played in the beginning of 1900s.
2007 afterword make some adjustments, but it would be interesting to get an update for 2020 with electrification, future of combustion engines, OEM collaborations, pandemic impact, raw material crises, cost pressure, CO2 regulations, government restrictions, etc...

James refers to 2 other follow up books Lean thinking and Lean solutions. Haven't read them yet.
Profile Image for Marius Greblikas.
159 reviews6 followers
February 20, 2020
Įdomu, tačiau nuobodoka. Daug faktų, gal todėl vietomis jau miegas ima :)
Smagu buvo sužinoti esminius skirtumus taro Ford stiliuko ir Toyotos :) Aš kažkaip net negalėjau pagalvoti, kad masinė gamyba, tai neefektyviai gaunasi :) O LEAN man atrodo, kaip kitaip ir būti negal :)

Smagaus skaitymo ir visiem nuolatinio tobulėjimo !!!
Profile Image for Bob Wallner.
343 reviews28 followers
November 16, 2018
The first book in the Womack and Jones Lean Trilogy, "Machine" is equal parts history book and business book. The authors do a good job of presenting the historical facts behind the automotive revolution really starting with Henry Ford, then moving into the Sloan years at GM and finally discussing the emergence of the Japanese market and the impacts felt both in the US and in Europe.

Unlike their other books, Lean Thinking and Lean Solutions, The Machine is not a "how to" book. There are no formulas on how to transform your company and there's very little guidance on how to roll out what was seen. There is a little discussion on leadership and management, as the focus of this book is really on what could be seen as an observer of the Japanese production system compared to what was going on in other places in the world.There are a couple of good sections on product development and supply chain that take you out of the factory and show how Japanese companies manage non-production activities.

There were a couple things that stood out for me in this book.

First and most notably I want to say how poorly GM is painted in this book. I'm actually impressed and I appreciate that they didn't try to censor the book.

Secondly I'm impressed with the author's view of the Ford Motor Company, I don't mean during the day of Henry Ford but in its current state. I've never visited a Ford plant but, the authors have painted a picture of a more progressive company that is open to embracing the Japanese method a production.

I was extremely surprised to hear that Sumitomo was part of Toyota's keiretsu. I spent 2003 working at a Sumitomo plant. The Japanese Nationals in the plant were very anti-lean and anti-Toyota. Their motto was, "We don't make cars, if our machines aren't running we're not making money."

Although heavy bias was put on Toyota in this book, the authors acknowledge that companies such as Mazda, Nissan, and Honda have all played a role in changing the landscape.

This is an excellent read and I regret that I waited this long to read it. The audiobook is a good choice as the  book is unabridged and the narrator is pleasant to listen to.
74 reviews1 follower
June 11, 2017
Though this book was written in the early nineties, it remains relevant today, not only to the auto industry but to many other industries.

The key idea, that the responsibility for quality of any component of a larger system rests with the persons closest to it (one person, a team, a supplier), taking out all crutches to ensure that quality issues are extremely visible, and then fixing the process that created the problem rather than the person, is a powerful one. This focus on product quality increases productivity (because less time is wasted in rework) and increases revenue over the long term.

But accomplishing this is not easy. This study brings out many facets of how this is accomplished by Japanese auto manufacturers. For instance, they standardize the process making it easier for different functions to work together. Though accomplishing standardized process is not easy, it is essential. As someone I know use to say, the process sets you free.

It is also interesting to see how Japanese companies are willing to rotate people through different functions, and how every person in the company has some exposure to the core function of the company (manufacturing).

The book also has a very interesting discussion of the Japanese supply chain, of how OEMs and their suppliers are tightly interlocked. In my opinion, this system can make it very difficult to start a new business. Suppliers are beholden to their existing customers, so they are not going to supply the new entrant. It is therefore no surprise that new entrants have to rely on foreign suppliers. Long-term they have to build a domestic supply base to get the quality they need to remain competitive.

Western companies are going to find it very difficult to supply in Japan, unless they embrace the same quality standards. Which is why luxury brand companies do well (LV, Apple) but mid-market companies often struggle.
31 reviews
June 24, 2008
Fascinating history of the development of mass production at the Henry Ford factory in early 1900's and how it excelled in terms of efficiency over European craft production. Large amount of statistics and graphs that were satisfying to me. Shows how the continuing use of cost and efficiency per part produced as the prime motivator in a company can be disastrous. Discusses the new idea of "Lean Production" where manufacturing flow, flexibility, and value added per customer are important. Written about 20 years ago so somewhat dated. Wish author had done a better study of Japanese culture, number of engineers, average math/science score, what is defined as a good job in Japan, since I think this plays a role in why Toyota is so much better at making cars than an American company. Great read for anyone with an engineering or management interest.
Profile Image for Fahim.
38 reviews2 followers
November 24, 2012
I read this book for one of my Six Sigma, continue improvement class. The book was interesting at the beginning when it talked about the history of lean production and improvement. There are lots of great examples about mass production and lean improvement in Ford Company. It also talks about Toyota and other car companies who adopted lots of changes in their manufacturing process based on their market knowledge. This book can be interesting for the people who are in auto business and industry, or have a passion for cars and whatever relates to cars. I did not enjoy this book that much because of its technicality. I'm not too much into cars, so that is my problem.
Profile Image for Nirvana.
3 reviews2 followers
March 13, 2018
هدف از مرور این کتاب درک بهتر تولید ناب بود که تو متدلوژی اجایل برای تولید نرم افزار زیاد درباره اش میشنویم و میدونیم از صنعت خودرو سازی اومده
واقعیت که کتاب رو بصورت خط ب خط نخوندم و بعضی فصل ها رو اصلا...
اما اون دید مورد نیازم رو به دست اوردم و بیشتر. متوجه فرق اصلاح و اقدام اصلاحی و بحث های PDCA رو هم یاد گرفتم
البته کتاب به صورت ارایه تو‌ گروه تو‌ چند جلسه بود که بحث و یادگیری تطبیقی هم داشت.
Profile Image for Robert Sanek.
86 reviews26 followers
September 19, 2020
Listened to just over four hours of this (~37%). I enjoyed the authors discussing the beginnings of car production through the craftsmanship in the 1880s, the move to mass production in ~1915, and eventually the evolution to lean in the last few decades. The authors really try to make the point that lean production is a 'step function', similar to how radically mass production changed things versus craft production, but they didn't fully convince me. The book itself mentions that the ROIs that Ford saw from his change in production techniques were so insane that he could afford to easily raise wages and still remain enormously profitable. We haven't seen anything similar for lean production, and although there is plenty of data provided in the book to show that lean can do much better than high-inventory mass-production, it's not the orders-of-magnitude improvements that were found in the early 1900s at Ford.

The parts of this book focusing on lowered inventories and JIT delivery reminded me of The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win, and helped underscore to me the idea that minimizing WIP and excess inventory is generally a good thing. But the book never really had good pacing and after a few hours I felt like I was just hearing more about specifics of different factories in Europe vs. US vs. Japan, which couldn't hold my attention as someone only somewhat interested in the automotive industry. Overall, not a bad use of time and probably a good read for someone with a higher interest level.
2 reviews
January 21, 2023
Great overview of the automotive industry since its birth until the 90s, exploring the several differences between handmade production, mass production and lean manufacturing.

The book highlights the benefits acquired in each step, just as well as the hurdles and common misconceptions faced during the implementation of both mass production and lean manufacturing.

All in all, it is a great book to understand some of the philosophy of lean manufacturing and how it has great impacts not only the bottom line, but also improves employee engagement and proactivity, just like satisfaction of customers, employees and suppliers.

It is only successfully implemented through what may seem a slow process of cultural change and implementation of new tools, but good evidence on its effectiveness is shown. As a cultural shift, of course, there might be differences in its implementation when it comes to different regions or industries.

The last 2 chapters were somewhat repetitive, but throughout the book there is good insight in how the complete implementation of lean changes the relationship all the way from the final customer back to the suppliers. The higher level of integration also helps on faster development and engineering of new products with a reasonable price-tag and a good fit to the customers' requirements.
Profile Image for Mathias Meyer.
Author 1 book36 followers
September 16, 2020
While I endorse and am curious about the Toyota production system and the lean approach, I‘ve been a bit disappointed by this booked. Granted, it is a broad study about how lean compares to mass production in the car industry. The data and research are thorough, no doubt.

What I did find is that this book is less about the machine that actually changed the world and more about proving that it did. This book is an interesting backdrop for others in this space, like „The Goal“ but on its own I found it a bit dry.

Independent of the machine, some of the predictions of the car industry from thirty years ago have also taken an interesting turn of events. The book talks about how experts are still figuring out climate change and if that‘s a thing.

I also would‘ve wished for a more up-to-date revisit of the storyline as a whole and what‘s happened since then. The included update from 2007 is just prior to GM‘s collapse and bailout and just as GM had gone all in on using lean production. But neither of these two points are real criticism, just wishes and thoughts thirty years later.
Profile Image for Cori.
597 reviews18 followers
March 21, 2020
What intrigued me: My mentor, Tom, recommended this book to me when we were discussing my career goal of becoming better versed in the automotive industry.

What I liked: It's a classic for a reason. I have a passion for lean/agile so this book was applicable for me on multiple levels.

What I didn't like: It's very dense with lots of theories, data, and figures. I found when I set it down it was hard to pick back up again. Definitely something that you need to pace yourself with to absorb.

I would have preferred in this edition for the additional learnings since 1990 to have been placed in the applicable parts of the book rather than a chapter at the end. I felt like I had to go back and reference the original information.

Favorite quote: "The best lean producers believe that the point of production is where value is truly added, not through indirect managerial activities, and that all employees need to understand this fact as soon as they enter the company."
Profile Image for Review Before Read.
20 reviews1 follower
July 10, 2020

In the beginning, I was thinking, why a title is a machine that changed the world when it talked only about the automobile production system? As I went along I discovered that the book may be talking about only automobiles but it's methods, principles, philosophy was so open that every industry, every sector easily evolved its practice along with it. Be it Muda, total production management, root cause analysis, Kaizen, Gemba, five why's. The case of Toyota created an improved version of business where employees, employers, vendors & customers can be a part of the Win-Win environment.

It was a great adventure to read this book. Everything is written in proper synchronization so readers won't find problems in connecting the dots. I always find it interesting reading the books written based on past events that moulds present. I work in IT sector where we talk about project management, agile scrum having no idea what it is. My readers !!! everything you see in your workplace came from Toyota factory.
282 reviews
November 19, 2017
Book compares the progression from craftsmanship (by hand and custom manufacturing) with mass production and lean production. The authors had surveys and contact with car manufacturers and summarized the results in the book. As you'd assume, craftsmanship has the slowest production rate and highest errors, whereas lean production had a better production rate with the least errors and mass production, according to the numbers, seemed to have a higher production rate with a moderate amount of errors. The production types also had implications for employee advancement and morale, where lean production allowed workers to constantly think about improvements as opposed to just doing only your assigned task. There are a lot of details in the book and it was a bit overwhelming to the point of sounding repetitive. Good book for anyone interested in improving a process or production. Although it's geared toward mechanical products (cars), many concepts could apply to any process.
Profile Image for Mike Fowler.
181 reviews6 followers
March 12, 2020
Having first learned about Lean development from the Poppendieck's trilogy of books it's quite interesting to see where those ideas developed from. The car manufacturing history is more fascinating than I expected and there is a lot of excellent critiques of mass production firms.

Interpreting this myself to the software industry, software development is largely craft production as defined within The Machine. Most larger software firms are continually trying to apply mass production thinking either through the endless tooling standardisation or pining hopes on code generation. Given how bespoke most software development is, Lean production is rightly the way to go allowing for the craftsmanship required to satisfy individual customer requests whilst achieving a higher quality standard in a more controlled and predictable way.
Profile Image for Tejashwi Sharan.
28 reviews
December 16, 2019
In the beginning, I was thinking, why the title is a machine that changed the world when it talked only about the automobile production system? As I went along I discovered that the book may be talking about only automobiles but it's methods, principles, philosophy was so open that every industry, every sector easily evolved its practice along with it. Be it Muda, total production management, root cause analysis, Kaizen, Gemba, five why's. The case of Toyota created an improved version of business where employees, employers, vendors & customers can be a part of the Win-Win environment.


Profile Image for David.
786 reviews8 followers
June 12, 2018
This book is an important work in the business literature. While focused on the auto industry, the application of Lean thinking, and Lean management is nearly limitless. I worked in the Car Rental business for a number of years, and I can say I learned far too much about the quality, or lack there of, for the American manufacturers of the 1990's. While this book, at times, may seem like a love letter to Toyota, certainly Toyota has done a spectacular job since the 1950's. Yes, they lost their way, but are still a force in the industry. I think the points are quite, clear, and this is a good starting point to understand the origins of lean. The updates are particularly useful additions.
Profile Image for Phil Eaton.
73 reviews94 followers
April 4, 2020
Covers the history of automobile manufacturing in the US, Europe and Japan from the early 1900s to 1990. It particularly focuses on the culture and organization of Japanese companies like Toyota where long-term commitment to employees and product quality helped them attain market leadership around the world.

It includes a study of over 80 assembly plants of different companies in each region assessed.

The afterward, written in 2007 is also a great self-review and clarification in the twenty years since the book was written. However, not being so recent it did miss out on some interesting changes like the collapse of Daewoo or the massive success of Hyundai in the last ten years.
Profile Image for Mike Badgett.
11 reviews4 followers
April 19, 2018
A few things to point out.
1) This shouldn't be the only process or business management book you ever read.
2) It's old and dated and is talking about an industry you probably don't work in.

Having said that, this is a fantastic book. If you approach it with some patience and curiosity, you will likely learn a few things. I work in software and this a fascinating glimpse into a powerful, influential, and altogether related field.
October 25, 2018
Recomiendo leerlo

Muy buen libro. Me hubiera gustado ver más ejemplos de cómo solucionar la diferencia cultural corporativa que le faltaban a las manufactureras para poder convertirse completamente al sistema lean. También hay un error de escritura, hay un "6" en lugar de una " a", sin embargo, esto no es relevante para la lectura, sólo lo menciono porque justamente este libro habla sobre eliminar la mayor cantidad de errores y despilfarros posibles.
Profile Image for Rafael Basto.
32 reviews
February 3, 2020
Great book for anyone wanting to learn the history and evolution of the car industry and the basics of lean as they came to be in Toyota and other Japanese automakers.
The afterwords, written several years later than the original book are very interesting, as it contains the authors further insight as they continued learning and writing about lean, and point out for some inaccuracies in they're original work.
Profile Image for UChicagoLaw.
620 reviews150 followers
December 8, 2020
"The Machine that Changed the World is the story of the Toyota production process and the rise of lean manufacturing. In our current political climate, it is essential background to understanding the way that manufacturing has changed over the years and what kinds of industrial policies are and are not likely to bring production back to America."

—Lisa Bernstein, Wilson-Dickinson Professor of Law
Profile Image for Allison.
231 reviews
March 7, 2021
Audiobook this. Unless you are really into the automotive industry, this book is better suited for commutes and chores than curling up in a chair.
While all of the narratives were relevant to the construct, some were more dry than others. Many of the concepts discussed were worth recording to ponder later. My biggest learning was of the various difficulties of change management to get from mass manufacturing to lean.
46 reviews
July 3, 2021
Classic evangelical lean manufacturing text (not as extremely biased as The Toyota Way, however). Has a standard overview of the history of auto production, where it adds unique value is the overview of the lean vs. mass explanation of design, production, supply chain, labor management, customer sales, and corporate structure. Refreshing 2007 afterward running through several points the authors would "make differently" in hindsight.
July 26, 2018
Li este em 2014 para uma disciplina de produção.

É interessante como o autor coloca o carro como o produto mais importante do séc XX, descreve as linhas de montagem e principalmente o sistema de produção enxuta da Toyota.

A parte que mais me chamou a atenção foi a importância da relação entre a montadora e os fornecedores de componentes.
121 reviews
October 17, 2018
A well written book, presenting a rigorous study of the automotive industry. Providing a fascinating understanding of how things were made & done in the automotive industry within the time period of the study, introducing the concept of ‘lean’ manufacturing, with a convincing argument for its application within all forms of human collaborative activity.
May 15, 2021
One more book that makes me sure that books should be read with pencil in your hands to make the marks.
A comprehensive excursion into the history of production from manufactory, through mass production to lin. A lot of things to think about and to try to fit for your business. The useful book that will not lie on the shelf without permanent attention.
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