Keen for lean.

Author:Cullen, Noel
Position:Letter to the editor

I enjoyed Bill Fischer's overview of Toyota's problems in the April issue (That was Kaizen; this is now"). Many critics have rushed to blame the company's unyielding focus on the lean manufacturing philosophy for its recent troubles. I suggest that the opposite is the case: the approach has helped Toyota to address and tackle its quality problems at source.

Few other car manufacturers would have acted as decisively as Toyota to do the right thing by its customers and shareholders. Now is the time for CIMA members to follow Toyota's example and wage a war for quality and against waste.

I have been working for some time with clients and staff of a large consultancy's finance transformation team to see how lean concepts can be applied to the finance function to improve its performance. Despite the dramatic improvements that lean thinking can achieve on the factory floor, many companies fail to harness its potential benefits for their support functions. The big difference between manufacturing and administrative processes is that people inherently introduce variability into the latter. In my experience, this presents challenges that are quite distinct from those posed in the manufacturing environment. Typically, the greatest source of waste from a lean perspective is the flow of information among people and departments.

The application of lean thinking to...

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