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The Machine That Changed the World : The Story of Lean Production Paperback – November 1, 1991

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Productivity Press; First Edition edition (November 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060974176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060974176
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #353,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This provocative and highly readable book summarizes five years of research by the International Motor Vehicle Program (IMVP) at MIT into the role of the autmobile industry in the world economy. The authors, all directors of the IMVP, recommend that Western automobile makers adopt the concept of lean production in all phases of automobile production. A thorough and persuasive explanation of the benefits of lean production, along with numerous examples, mainly from Japanese industry, support their recommendations. This important book offers informed insight into the auto industry; for all public and academic libraries.
- Joseph Barth, U.S. Military Acad. Lib., West Point, N.Y.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"The best current book on the changes reshaping manufacturing and the most readable." -- -- Business Week

"The fundamentals of this system are applicable to every industry across the globe...[and] will have a profound impact on human societyit will truly change the world." -- New York Times Magazine

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Customer Reviews

This book should be read by every business student.
Aydin Ozol
This book is about a major study that has been executed in the beginning of the eighties about the competiveness of car manufacturing plants.
This book was a great introduction to the concept of lean manufacturing.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 59 people found the following review helpful By J. G. Heiser on February 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book while working for a major software firm--it was fascinating to me that Toyota could update their automobiles faster than we could bring out a new operating system.
This study of the world automotive industry by a group of MIT academics reaches the radical conclusion that the much vaunted Mercedes technicians are actually a throwback to the pre-industrial age, while Toyota is far ahead in costs and quality by building the automobiles correctly the first time. The lesson that it cost more to fix it than to build it correctly should be applicable to a lot of industries--not just manufacturing. The description of the marketing information system that Toyota uses was very enlightening. They involve the entire company in generating marketing feedback. Even dealer sales staff spend time working on the new product teams. Trust me, very few high-tech firms methodically collect feedback from their customers, and none have a system this comprehensive.
This is not just a book about lean production--this is guidance in understanding how your business operates and delivering good products that your customers want.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By W. Defilippis on April 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
I have read a lot of the so called quality books, and have a master's degree in the field, and I have found few books that had this kind of relevance to how things are produced and why they work or don't work. More importantly, this is one of the few 'academic studies' (I recall this one came out of MIT) that is actually clearly written and straightforward.

Yes, Toyota is much of the focus in this book and it can sometimes seem to border on the PR level, but that doesn't take away from the information in this book. Having had access to most of the auto manufacturers when this study was done, and seeing the nuts and bolts, it is what people do wrong at other places that is as important as what Toyota had been doing right (a trend, I might add, that in recent years has dimmed, Toyota has had embarassing quality faults recently). The book does mention that what Toyota "pioneered" was not entirely homegrown, many of the techniques existed, but Toyota was unique in the auto world in the number of things they chose to adopt (as a counterpoint, when the 70's hit and the US auto makers started having real competition, they hired Dr. Edwards Demming as a consultant, he told them many of the things that this book points out and they basically paid the check, used it for PR about how they were serious, and ignored him).

And these are not new issues and continue to plague companies, fallacies like:

1)"It is the fault of the labor force"..while the UAW has not exactly been cutting edge, what this book points out is something known in quality circles for years, that most of the problems are using your labor force badly, not listening to them, and just plain bad management.

2)"The secret is robotics"..
Read more ›
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By D. C. Palter on December 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
If you want to understand why GM, Ford, and Chrysler are doomed and have been doomed for two decades, this is the book.

I've worked both for GM (twice) and in Japan for a Japanese automotive supplier, and I can attest that this book really got it right.

Unfortunately, while everyone in Detroit has read this book, they have never followed any of its advice or conclusions. All the talk about restructuring the US automobile manufacturers is simply about reducing costs and not about making better products by working cooperatively with employees, suppliers, dealers, and customers. Instead, Detroit continues to beat up suppliers on price and wonders why their quality is poor, push employees on wages and wonders why employees care little if the company is successful, haggle with their dealer network to push unwanted cars onto unreceptive customers.

We can bail out the industry financially, but until they learn to compete with the Japanese, they are doomed to decreasing relevance and increasing losses.

This book isn't exciting to read, but nearly 20 years since its original publication, it remains as relevant as ever.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you are just starting out learning about Lean Manufacturing, and you only have time to read one book, "The Machine that Changed the World" is an historically important book but "Lean Thinking" is the one that actually gets you started toward implementation. It's one of those rare occasions where the sequel was better than the original.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. Clayton on June 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
Lean production (now frequently called Lean manufacturing) has melded into several industries here in the United States, but back when this book was written, it was just catching on. I read the book in 2000. Many of the concepts are still worthwhile in this book, both for the historical significance as well as the lean ideas presented.

The Machine that Changed the World is a fascinating book that teaches what the Japanese learned and how to apply their ideas to the US auto market. Competition is always tough, but these tools provides a competitive advantage to those companies who embrace them and make them part of doing business. Not all ideas are applicable to every application, but there are plenty of diamonds to be farmed here.

Well trained employees, a commitment to excellence by everyone (from the janitor to the CEO), teamwork, flexibility of skill sets, and learning lessons from successes and failures are all important elements of lean manufacturing. Setting up manufacturing lines efficiently, working closely with suppliers, line smoothing, encouraging innovative and cost saving suggestions and much more are also critical lean concepts.

Lean manufacturing doesn't happen overnight and a company and its employees must be diligent in their efforts to put high quality products at reasonable prices out the door.

The Machine that Changed the World is highly rated by many people and should be. It has timeless ideas to produce higher quality products and recommends never being completely satisfied. Well written and researched, this is a top notch book!

The Re-Discovery of Common Sense: A Guide to: The Lost Art of Critical Thinking
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