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Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,741 ratings  ·  100 reviews
Based upon MIT's five-million-dollar, five-year study on the future of the automobile, a groundbreaking analysis of the worldwide move from mass production to lean production".The fundamentals of this system are applicable to every industry across the globe...[and] will have a profound impact on human society--it will truly change the world". "--New York Times Magazine"
Paperback, 323 pages
Published November 1st 1991 by Productivity Press (first published 1990)
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Rafael Rosa
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
## 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 However, it's pretty outdated, which reduces it impact and direct applicability.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
Stephen Kramar
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 me ...more
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 i
Jun 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Nov 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, ...more
Bob Wallner
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lean, audible
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 formu
Deane Barker
A disappointing book. It's about making cars.

You might think, "Well, yeah, this is about Toyota, right?" And it is, so I should of known it was about making cars, but it's **really** about making cars, and how many people actually make cars?

Clearly, most people are going to read this with an eye towards applying lessons to broader business questions, and I just don't think it's that kind of book.

In reality, the book isn't the thing. The book is just the final outcome of a long study done by the
Robert Sanek
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 F ...more
Mathias Meyer
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 foun
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Review Read
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it

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
Nov 19, 2017 rated it liked it
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 erro ...more
Mike Fowler
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, lean
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 eith
Tejashwi Sharan
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 busine ...more
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 wa ...more
Phil Eaton
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mike Badgett
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Rafael Basto
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Bill Shavce
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good overview of the origins of lean production. Although focused on the automotive sector, it gives a fairly compelling case for the adoption of lean in virtually any industry. It was published in 1990, so it lacks some of the more recent developments.
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: management
This book is about applying the LEAN method in industries, when it got released automobile industries already using the techniques. Techniques & tools for Controlling, Quality & monitoring are good lessons. ...more
Prafull Tembhurne
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Even after 2 decades, this book stands relevant not just for the automotive industry, but for other industries as well. And the interesting part being, most points in lean manufacturing boil down to simple logic rather than some crazy equations to achieve their goals.
Kiên Lưu
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good overview about lean production through the examples in car industry. Though its practically just a history kind of book. You would need to look for another if you want details on how to practice the method.
nathaniel miller
Great read!!!

being in the auto industry you'd think I would have read this sooner! It's good to learn about the history of lean, and from there get a game plan on how to move forward!
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An interesting narrative of the rise of the Japanese way to organize production and business far more effectively that had been done by Henry Ford and his contemporaries prior. I'd recommend anyone to pick up a copy to learn a thing or two how to win in manufacturing
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An unexpected page turner!

Want to go and buy a Toyota now. But don't need a car. And most people would be better off living in communities where you didn't need them. Still, engrossing read on the culture and processes behind the manufacturing machine.
John Stepper
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Stunningly well-researched. Balanced, in-depth, insightful. Inspired me to go much deeper into lean thinking and see how it can be applied in other areas, especially the parts about employee development and engagement.
Kerrie Beech
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book about how lean production has revolutionised the automobile industry. The writers explain the rise and fall of craft and mass production, how lean production started at Toyota and the advantages of lean production compared to craft and mass production.
Ieva Repšienė
Sep 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
70 % of the book is very interesting, while other part is a bit repeated stories and theories from another angle. But still, worth reading. Got a lot of understanding how LEAN works. Easy and understandable reading even fot those who does not read in english.
Casey McClarnon
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great for anyone in manufacturing. Or anyone in consuming because this is what created our world of inexpensive products.
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