Over the past few years, companies across the globe have been finding ways to make their products leaner. A variety of companies have found success in implementing lean production techniques. This allows companies to develop, produce, and distribute products with less human effort and expense. Lean production should not be used to benefit just one company on the value chain, but allow breakthroughs to be linked up and down the value stream. Companies should take the ideas of lean productions and use it equally down the supply chain forming a new organizational model called the lean enterprise. The lean enterprise is a group of different functions, individuals, and legally separate organizations that work together to maximize value.
Unfortunately we have not found a group of companies that have applied lean enterprising techniques. The competitive edge companies try to gain over each other has blinded leaders of many organizations along the supply line.
It takes every team in a supply chain to make a lean enterprise work. To be a successful lean enterprise manager you must understand the conflicting needs of individuals, functions, and companies.
In looking for a solution it is useful to look at the different German, American, and Japanese industrial traditions. Germans traditionally have very defined functions which leads them to be very knowledgeable about a specific product. The result is that they have great technical depth but little cross-functional cooperation. American industry has become so individualized that the competition that fuels capitalism destroys cooperation within a value chain. Conversely, the American drive to break away from employers and traditional intercompany relationships is a large reason for our economic success and new inventions. The Japanese seem to focus better on the whole value chain since there is a lot of obligation between employees and companies. Technical functions...