Signs of the Coming of the Lean

Since the publication of the first edition of Lean Performance ERP in February 2002, events have converged to further support the substance of a book that has fallen short of being a business best-seller yet sits in every university engineering library from Saudi Arabia to Macedonia to China and Japan. If you had been one of the few reading the book five years ago, the events that happened afterward (e.g., the discovery of the manufacturing planet of China, the realization that lean could not coexist in some de facto basis with ERP, the understanding that supply chains would be redefined by new technologies, and the Wal-Martization of America) would have made you a leader with the prescience to get the place lean before everything fell apart.

In the period following the book's publication, and the tremendous lack of adoption of its lean principles in practice, the economy has morphed rapidly into the round earth global picture. In 2002, as the book hit the stands, the "advanced economies" (Western European) GDP grew at about 1.7 percent, while the Asian economies collectively grew at 5.9 percent. In the second year after its publication, 2003 saw the official end of the Iraq war (May 1), SARS was named, the Blaster worm virus attacked most of our computers, and Forbes magazine declared "white collar offshore outsourcing" the year's most significant trend. By 2004, three years later, we still hadn't picked up lean; we saw that the United States was holding about 20.9 percent of the world GDP so maybe we didn't need to do something as drastic as getting lean. But wait a minute, in 2004, the United States grew GDP by 4.3 percent, but China grew at 9 percent. Wait another minute, where did I put that book on lean?

Here we are in 2007 with the publication of the second edition, and India is the rising star of global business, and the analysts, those prognosticators of world economic doom, are wondering if it is just possible that GM may follow Delphi into bankruptcy. Wait a minute, wasn't Delphi lean? Is it no longer OK to stay in Kansas? Well, I am glad you asked that question.

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