Publishing Lean Thinking in Hungarian

Lean Thinking

Lean Thinking in Hungary!

E-Con Group and HVG Books finally published the well known book Lean Thinking by James P. Womack és Daniel T. Jones in Hungarian. The book is known as the "bible" of the lean profession and was sold in more then 400.000 copies worldwide. The Hungarian title is Lean Thinking: Lean szemlélet - A veszteségmentes, jól működő vállalat alapja.



... Lean thinking shows how to acquire the capability of continuous improvement, how to tailor our processes to true customer demands and how to create a quality oriented, flexible organization that will concentrate on real added value through the whole supply chain. Additionally with less and less expenditure as the authors write: we learn to achieve "more and more from less and less" ...

The book can be purchased directly at the HVG Könyvek publisher and at main hungarian book resellers (Alexandra, Libri, bookline).



On the day of release our company organized a lean professional seminar. The worldwide acknowledged expert of the subject and author of the book, Prof. Daniel T. Jones attended the program as special guest.

For photogallery click on the picture:



Below you can read an interview with Prof. Daniel T. Jones:

E-Con: You just arrived in Hungary, for the publishing of Lean Thinking in Hungarian. This book was originally published in 1996 in English and in 2003 the second edition. What was the significance of that book?
Daniel T. Jones: Well, it sold 400.000 copies around the word and I think that these copies are widely read. And it really led to the spread of interest of lean in every country and in every sector, not just manufacturing. Right through to government and hospitals and public sector organizations. So it really has triggered a huge wave of change in how we organize business.

E-Con: If companies are thinking about implementing lean, what is the key factor?
D.T.J.: I think there are three key factors: the first factor is to learn to see what isn’t necessary, so learn to see what is actually waste, and what actually creates value. Second is to learn to see the sequence of steps that creates that value and learn to see the flow of the products through the factory or the flow of the service. The third is for management to understand that they have to change their behavior to support this, just as much that workers have to change the way they work.

E-Con: What should be the main emphasis of this first phase of implementation?
D.T.J.:First phase of implementation is really to get everybody engaged and enthusiastic and to learn how to look at their business differently. And secondly to realize that this is serious and it is going to change everybody’s life for the better - very significantly - over the next few years and it is a great way for a business to survive in very turbulent times and be competitive.

E-Con:What are the traps of this path and what shouldn’t we do?
D.T.J.: I think the first trap is in a sense that not to fall in love with the lean tools, and think that the tools are everything. The second is to realize that this is a business system that involves management as well as employees. And third to recognize that actually we often have to collaborate with other businesses, the suppliers with components for instance. And retailers sell up products to customers. So we have to work together not just within the organization but across organizations.

E-Con: You mentioned that managers have to change their behavior, what do you mean by that?
D.T.J.: I mean that managers have to recognize, that their job is actually to guide and to support the work that is done on the shop-floor to make the products and so Toyota talks about manager’s roles being ‘go see’, ‘ask why?’, why things are going well, why things are not going well and by showing respect, because it is the contribution of the people actually in the process that is key to improving the process and redesign it and improving performance.

E-Con: So it is mainly a bottom-up process rather than a top-down?
D.T.J.: It often starts as a bottom-up process, but actually it needs to be mirrored by a top-down process and almost a middle, a horizontal process through the middle when we are trying to connect activities that were in separate departments and turn them into a flow and manage that flow.

E-Con:Who are the key of that process or re-designing a process?
D.T.J.: Initially you need a group of experts either from outside or to build them – ideally – inside, to help train people in the tools and techniques. And then – it is up to line managers to then do it themselves with their support. So you do need some expertise, and you also need to understand, that this is necessary. So it needs to be a bit of a crisis, a sense that we will prosper if we do this and we will slip backwards and possibly won’t survive if we don’t.

E-Con:So the so-called ‘learning by doing’ does not really stand alone, there has to be training before they do ‘learning by doing’. Not just jumping of the cliff.
D.T.J.: It is not just about jumping to solutions that you might think are fine. No, it is thinking in a structured way about what is wrong with the process and how it may be improved. And for everybody to learn the new way of thinking that will sustain what otherwise is a pretty shaky process.

E-Con: There will be results and results will come really soon, as companies start to implement lean. What do we need to do to sustain those results?
D.T.J.: First of all we need to connect improvements, so these are not isolated islands of improvements - otherwise they get lost. So actually there needs to be an understanding of how these improvements link to improve the overall business results. So that is a management role, to guide people to make improvements that are going to help business, not just any improvements. The second is to recognize that we are going to have to engage everybody in the organization. In every function, not just in operations.

E-Con: What will give us the strategical goal, what is the first step we have to do?
D.T.J.: Well, I think that the first step is to recognize that indeed it should be possible over a three year period to very significantly reduce the lead time it takes to make something or to respond to a customer order. And it will be possible to dramatically reduce the waste and the inventories in the process and save cash. It will also save capital expenditure because you won’t need huge warehouses for the material. And it will improve customer satisfaction, so it is a route to growth.

E-Con:Is there like a standard how long a lead time should be? Let’s say if you have an hour of value adding time - what is the normal or an average or a good length of lead time?
D.T.J.: My rule of thumb is that an hour of value creating time shouldn’t take more than a day to complete. So if it takes an hour or two to make a product in a factory, and it takes thirty days, then the target ought to be eventually to get that to fifteen, to get that to ten, to get it to five and probably get it down to two or three ultimately.

E-Con:This is of course by reducing the number or the level of ‘muda’ or waste that we have in our processes. What is the most wasteful waste - if you can say something like that?
D.T.J.: Actually the most difficult waste to tackle, but the most important waste is making the wrong things, making too many of the wrong things – is called overproduction. Doing that is keeping our equipment busy, but actually making things that we can’t yet sell. It would be better to make in line with demand, so that as soon as we made something we can actually move it and ship it and sell it really quite quickly.

E-Con: But that might also change our equipments that we are using…
D.T.J.: Absolutely, but actually ironically if we focus on making the right things and if we focus on all of the preparation of the machines, the changeover of the machines and the maintenance of the machines we’ll end up actually using the equipment better and with higher utilization than we did in the past, when we did not care about those things.

E-Con: Usually there is a problem with one managing point of view that managers want to have their equipment used all the time and their OEE numbers looking nice and in the green part of their charts.
D.T.J.: The truth is that OEE’s are typically maybe 30-40% and after lean OEE’s are typically 70 or 80%. So actually OEE’s go up, rather than go down by producing more batches with much quicker changeovers but in line with demand. Because actually what we try to do is produce to sell and we are not just producing for stock.

E-Con:But if I am building for demand that it might also say that I am not using my equipment all the time as previously I did.
D.T.J.: Well, but then I am also not making staff that I have to discount later on that I didn’t need to get rid of it. So actually from a total system point of view, of my company point of view, the company actually has an interest in you making to demand rather than just being busy doing something that just stocks up products in the warehouse – that maybe the wrong product.

E-Con: We just finished the Lean Strategic Roundtable with General Managers of leading companies in Hungary. You spent 5 hours with these Managing Directors. What was your impression?
D.T.J.:My impression was that you have got some very good lean examples already in Hungary, and really quite advanced examples – mainly from multinational companies, operating here. So you do not have to go far to see good examples of lean, they exist in Poland. I think what is lacking possibly is a network to connect all of these examples and to enable other people to go and get inspiration from those examples. And I think that there is a big opportunity to interest other sectors, hospitals, public sector, utilities, and so on, in lean by taking them to see these examples, as well. So I think there is a great opportunity in Hungary.

E-Con: What were the general issues that these Managers are dealing with right now?
D.T.J.: In these advanced cases they have done, largely done the right things in improving their operations, but their challenge is to engage the rest of their organization – particularly top management and to extend their efforts beyond the factory gates - to include their suppliers and distributors to customers just to take a much bigger view of the challenge. Because the opportunities outside the factory gates are probably bigger even than the opportunities inside the factory gates.

E-Con: Not only in Hungary but everywhere in the world companies are struggling with the crisis. What would be your message to these companies in this period of life?
D.T.J.: Well, the crisis is an ideal opportunity to do lean. Because everybody understands, change is necessary, lean provides a way forward, it can guarantee jobs and can maintain production in Hungary, rather than sending it to China or wherever. China is not the answer and this is really the route that companies should take to come out of this recession in a state where they can grow.

E-Con: Still we hear a lot of cases where they are closing down companies or laying off lot of people. Would not lean be a solution for that problem?
D.T.J.: I think that the German industry, which embraced lean a few years ago - when they thought unemployment is going to rise -, recognized that the challenge was to learn how to work smarter in order to continue to make those products - even in a higher wage environment. And they succeeded – I do not see why Hungarian firms cannot learn from that lesson?

E-Con: What would be your message for the rest of the Managing Directors who are just starting on that path of implementation?
D.T.J.: For Hungarian Managing Directors I would suggest an early opportunity to go and see a lean company and to think and talk with the managers there about what this would mean for their own transformation. And how they can maybe borrow some people or some skills, send some employees to work in that company. All kinds of exchanges are possible to accelerate the process of learning. But the conviction that lean is the right thing to do has to come from the top, so they need to go see it first.


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