Lean production techniques are 50 years old and McKinsey has a post discussing what’s next for Lean.
When the first issue of McKinsey Quarterly rolled off the printing presses, 50 years ago, nearly everyone in senior management thought that manufacturing operations had been perfected. Henry Ford’s great innovation, the moving assembly line, had been refined over the previous five decades, had served as the arsenal of democracy during World War II, and by the mid-1960s was operating efficiently, at great scale, in a wide range of industries around the world.
The authors think Lean is as big as Henry Ford’s assembly line.
Lean is one of the biggest management ideas of the past 50 years. No less than Ford’s original assembly line, it has transformed how leading companies think about operations—starting in assembly plants and other factory settings and moving more recently into services ranging from retailing and health care to financial services, IT, and even the public sector. Yet despite lean’s trajectory, broad influence, and level of general familiarity among senior executives, it would be a mistake to think that it has reached its full potential.
So what is next? What gets done by the information companies
The future of lean is exciting. Its tools for eliminating waste and for increasing value as customers define it are being enhanced by huge gains in the volume and quality of the information companies can gather about customer behavior, the value of the marketing insights that can be integrated with operations, and the sophistication of the psychological insights brought to bear on the customer’s needs and desires. These advances bring new meaning to the classic lean maxim “learning to see.” The contrast between where companies are now and where they’ll be 20 years on will seem as stark as the difference between a static color photograph and a high-definition, three-dimensional video.