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

4.5 out of 5 stars 125 customer reviews

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Paperback, November, 1991
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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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Productivity Press; First Edition edition (November 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060974176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060974176
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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"..
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Format: Paperback
This book is a classic on the advantages of being lean - Product Design, Manufacturing, Supply Chain Management - the entire gamut from concept to delivery in the Automobile industry.
What Ford's mass production did to craft production and its profound effects on the developed economies in the first half of the last century is an old but interesting story. With the advent of Ford's manufacturing techniques, there was a consolidation in the Auto industry. Within a couple of decades the number of automobile manufacturers fell from over a hundred to less than twenty and the big three cornering over ninety percent of the market share. Detroit became the center of pilgrimage for the rest of the world trying to emulate and replicate this success story in other continents.
Silently, the Japanese led by Toyota were working on a different concept of putting the automobile in the hands of the customer, at better quality, lesser costs, shorter development times and with the ability to offer a wider choice. The statistics collected from these "lean systems" is mind boggling. The competitive advantage that Japan enjoyed over the American system was neither due to lower wages in Japan nor due to higher levels of automation as widely believed. It was primarily the lean machine that was conquering the mass machine.
This book is based on the research done in the 1980's and published around 1990. The authors while acclaiming lean manufacturing as the panacea for the ills of manufacturing systems globally had at the time of the research and the publication of this work, probably ignored the next major change that would sweep across continents.
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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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