Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What To Do With the Current State Map.

My last post was about taking the first step on your Lean Journey -- creating a VSM (Value Stream Map). We discussed the current state and collecting data for it. Now let's take a look at the VSM you created and analyze it. There are two most significant numbers to study: processing time and delay, or inventory time. Are you shocked at how much more time is spent delaying vs. processing times? You should be, if you did it correctly.

Scrutinize all the numbers, making sure they pass a "sanity check." The numbers must be accurate and must include getting ready to start a process, such as the operator collecting information about the task, assembling all needed tools, cleaning the machine, and setting up the workpiece. If the VSM passed sanity, compare the non-value added (delay, transport and inspect) time with the process (value added) time. Typical results fall in the range of 10 to 1, up to 50 to 1 or even more. This indicates where to look for huge lead time improvement targets.

Reducing lead time has many benefits, among which are competitiveness against local shops and especially against foreign shops because of the distance and time involved in shipping by boat which can be 5 to 6 weeks or more. Internally, your shop, if you can reduce lead time by one-half you can do twice as much die work in the same calendar time. If your fixed overhead is normally covered by the current state work, your additional "earned lead time" work will generate a higher margin. Also, if you have the shortest lead time you can charge a premium if no one else can meet deliveries of emergency jobs.

Value added vs. non-value added time

The next step is to break down the value added and non-value added
activities (delay is one of them), which can be done with Pareto charts for each type of activity. This will result in two charts and will visually represent the activities that, when improved, will provide the most bang for the buck. Creating a Gantt chart from the VSM will illustrate the relationships of activities to time so you can see how long things really take, especially during non-scheduled times, that is, overnight, holidays and weekends. These charting tools are part of the Visual Factory, a Lean tool and die operation can use to show everyone involved what is happening at your plant. The visuals are much better than looking at tables of data.

Remember that value added time is activity for which the customer is willing to pay. If they don't require machining of non-functional surfaces, leave those surfaces unfinished if possible. Some non-value added activities are necessary, or enabling waste. For example, you have to move the material around the shop, from bench to machine and back, and you need to inspect the work in process to ensure you don't add labor to a piece which has become scrap due to errors in manufacturing it. However, these steps can and must be minimized so the total calendar and labor time can also be minimized.


No, that's not misspelled; it's a word I coined and have been using for fifteen years or more. There are many levels of manufracturing, but essentially it just means breaking activities down into ever-finer detail. The next step you'll take will be to break the activities in the current state VSM you created into individual maps for each activity that contains many labor and machine hours and/or long calendar times. An example target for this next level VSM could be the die design process or making cutting steels for a progressive or blanking die consisting of drilling, grinding, heat treatment, wire EDMing, and so on. The next level map could focus on the setup of the wire EDM machine, with programming and burning. You don't, however, want to go deeper than second level at this time. You'll have lots to attend to at level two when you get maps done for the most important first level tasks. Ultimately you'll look at feeds and speeds, cutter materials and geometries, and even chatter in more levels of VSMs.

The Future State VSM

In addition to manufracturing, the other step to begin working on is a future state VSM which will entail a lot of work by your teams. The idea here is to innovate all the steps in the first and second level maps, including both value added and non-value added activities. My next post will address application of this critical Lean tool to your shop and office operations. Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Let's Take the First Step

If you've made up your mind to give Lean for tool and die making a try, I applaud and congratulate you! But let me remind you of a critical fact--Lean for tool and die making is quite different from the high volume, low mix type of manufacturing that Toyota developed their production system for. The transition in thinking from making thousands or millions of the same few products to making only one die is complicated, but it can be done; we just have to think about applying the same techniques to our one-off products.

The Current State

In order to improve your operations you need to know where you are now. This is called the current state. Think of your shop as being at square one on a board game, competing with other shops at the same place. Some of them will roll the dice, so to speak, and jump into improvement initiatives they've heard or read about. The reasoning of the president or CEO often goes something like this: "Let's get a jump on the rest of the shops. We've read that it takes three to five years to get Lean, but we don't have that much time. We'll just do it in six months by skipping all the small, fancy, unimportant stuff. You're supposed to pick a person to be the Lean champion, whatever that is. Who's available? How about one of the designers (machine hands, diemakers, etc.); they're not so busy right now. Joe took a class in Lean last year, so somebody get him in here and we'll appoint him as the top Lean guy."

Two important mistakes occurred in this typical die shop. First, if you want to get ahead of your competition, you don't have to race into a Lean Journey because most die shops don't believe that Lean works for tool and die shops, so just by deciding and committing to Lean, you're already ahead of the pack. It's going to take at least six to twelve months to achieve significant results. Those reduced cost and lead time results, however, should be able to offset the costs of your consultant, the employees' time learning and implementing new and improvedprocesses, and the books, videos and other training materials you'll need.

Second, don't just select a Lean champion on the basis of who is available now. You should ask (not appoint) two persons who have the right stuff and willingness, then make them co-champions so that when one is busy the other can step in. A good choice would be a former diemaker who has become a die designer for one, and a diemaker or machinist who knows all of the shop floor activities as the other.

Conduct a Plant Assessment

This is really difficult to do because people will think you're saying that much of what they are doing is wrong. Don't let that happen. Approach it by saying that nothing they're now doing is wrong. There are just some better ways of doing things. Things to assess are many, but the most important is people's attitudes. This element is is called the people side of Lean. Everyone must get on board with the Lean Journey. Explain that you'll be counting on everyone to contribute ideas, questions and active participation. Their voices will be heard. So many shops have the ivory tower mentality. Middle managers such as group leaders, department managers, and even the top brass tell their folks, "I make the decisions and when I want input from you I'll ask for it."

Managers often have their little empires which they protect with their entire being. They often feel as though they're being shown-up by the consultant and Lean Champions. They may drag their feet or sometimes even sabotage the Lean effort. Watch out for this and correct it immediately. If you don't, valuable time and considerable money will be lost. People doing the actual work will follow their lead because employee reviews and the resultant impact on raises depend on the managers. Once you have everyone on the bandwagon you certainly don't want them falling or jumping off.

Data Collection

Back to the assessment: To capture the current state of your diemaking system, begin with a Value Stream Map, VSM. There are many excellent resources for this activity. Learning To See, by Mike Rother and John Shook, is a very good workbook. Rother and Shook are among the leading Lean practitioners in the world today. Their book leads you to your first and future value stream maps. In order to create the VSM you will capture data from everywhere--on the shop floor, in the office, the engineering department, and even sales. Video recording is the best way to do this. Before starting, let everyone know that videos are the best way to see what's happening in all the company's processes. If you take a golf lesson, many pros start with a video of your swing. That way, they can show you what isn't working right. Slow motion and stop action complement the lessons.

Another crucial aspect of this data capture is accuracy. Some people being videoed will work faster than normal in order to "look good," while others may slow down, thinking that they'll be pushed to work harder later. Tell all that they should work at a pace they can maintain for the entire shift. Make sure what the videos show is the normal, or actual, current state.

Your first VSM should be a very general one--say, the main five to ten processes. This map should start with the customer's request for quote, estimating, bidding, order entry, design, purchasing, build, tryout and buyoff, and finally shipping to the customer and receiving payment. Think in terms of "quote to cash." The second VSM will be composed of sub-processes within the first map. It will include the paperwork and electronic documents and communications that make up the overall process. At this point, pat yourself on the back--you've completed the first big step on the Lean Journey

Next time we'll discuss what to do with the current state map.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Guidelines For Lean Tool & Die Makers

Here are some very important factors and concepts we need to believe in:

Lean Works

Believe it. Give it a chance by soaking up as much of what you read here as you possibly can. If you don’t believe, or can’t understand, what’s being laid out for you here, let me know. I’m doing this blog to help the North American tool and die industry become competitive with even low wage countries.

Toyota’s results over the past fifty years or so are stunning. When I was a teenager, in the 1950s, Japanese products were of such poor quality that you had to buy two of everything because it broke or stopped working so easily. That all changed when they began a focused effort to improve. Deming, who couldn’t find a following in the U.S., decided to take his quality improvement ideas to Japan. His was the right solution, at the right time, to the exact problems Toyota was experiencing.

Look at where Toyota is today. In 2007 they earned $18 billion profit. The Detroit Three, in each of the companies’ best years never totaled that—together! I’ve read that Toyota currently has around $80 billion in cash. Enough to buy any one of the former Big Three, or possibly two of them. They must be doing something right.

In the early 1980s General Motors closed the Fremont, California assembly plant. It had the worst management-labor relationship of any plant. At that time, Toyota was considering manufacturing cars and trucks in the U.S. unsure whether their approach could be viable here, they decided to offer undertaking a joint venture with GM, using the Fremont plant as a test case for its unique production system. NUMMI, New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., was formed and operated similar to a long-standing manufacturing model which the U.S. government has used—the GOCO, Government-Owned, Contractor-Operated plant. GM would pay the lion’s share of costs ($450 million) while Toyota contributed $100 million they had raised in California. The profits would be split between the two companies. Toyota’s incentive was to test the American manufacturing climate before committing much more cash opening a green field operation. GM’s benefit, besides the profit sharing, would be having a new manufacturing model to send its managers to, so they could learn, first hand, new ways to build cars. I believe the GOCO and NUMMI business concepts are sound, win/win approaches to mutual improvement in operations.

Lean Thinking Is A Way Of Life.

Keep your eyes and mind open to new, different things—everywhere. We watch lots of television and gather ideas. History Channels, Discovery, Learning, Science and Biography and all excellent channels to watch. Programs such as Invention, How Do They?, Modern Marvels are just a few sources for idea inspiration.

Lean works in manufacturing, we know, but it’s gaining much needed momentum in health care too. It’s been applied to kitchens—in homes and commercially, in office systems for financial, accounting, clerical and to reduce the typical blizzard of paperwork.

Embark on an endless search for the one best way to do everything. There is one best way that one individual knows or has figured out—you or someone in your company. There is one best way that a group of people know of—say, in a department. There is also one best way you can find in literature, articles, and online, in the form of websites, forums, blogs, podcasts, webinars and so on. There is one best way that a concerted effort can discover or invent. We need to use our wits to the maximum.

Simple examples include Frederick Winslow Taylor’s pig iron experiment and the science of shoveling, both of which arose out of his development and authoring of The Principles Of Scientific Management, a book he wrote in 1910. Taylor originated the study of time study, a foundation of industrial engineering. One of Taylor’s contemporaries, Frank Gilbreth’s obsession with and his development of motion study, another fundamental in IE practice went so far as to time study his method of sweater buttoning, brick laying, and even shaving, His results? Button a sweater from the bottom up to save 4 seconds; the bricklaying process was reduced from 19 separate motions to just five and masons lay three times as many bricks per hour. He actually tried shaving with two straight razors at the same time. It saved a few minutes but repairing all the resulting nicks and cuts cost him the gain and then some. The idea is to try new things. Celebrate failures too—if you don’t fail sometimes, you’re not trying enough new things.

Warning: don’t get too caught up in the one best way idea, though. My refrigerator rearranging and attempts at standardization of its shelves and drawers nearly drew gunfire from my wife.

Accept, And Even Embrace Change

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. That captures the essence of continuous improvement. If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. Simple? Yes … and profound. The definition of improvement is change for the better. Change is the key.

The Lean Journey Is A Never Ending Activity

Continuous improvement means just that. Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning continuous incremental improvement. Note the italics. The best source for ideas is your people. The folks who do the operations and tasks know them the best. However, contrary to popular thinking, they are not the best at improving them. Trained engineers and consultants have learned how to do this, so get the workers and experts together to innovate new methods.

The Lean Journey Takes Time

It won’t happen overnight. The total process for tool and die shop activities becoming a DFS will generally take three to five years. There is, however, a technique that takes the sting out of that—Kaikaku, another Japanese word meaning a leap in improvement. Often called picking low-hanging fruit, these large gains are often able to quickly and significantly lower costs and lead times enough to generate savings that will pay for the costs of the initiatives of Lean and the DFS. The costs are substantial. Besides a top notch Lean die expert consultant, there is the time employees spend learning and implementing the programs, plus the expense for training materials, courses, videos and so on. But make no mistake, the cost of not embarking on the Lean Journey can be the company’s survival and the jobs of all the employees.

That’s all for now. Come visit here again soon.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Preparing For The Lean Journey

Okay, so we have a good idea of Ideal Tool Company, the imaginary tool and die shop of the future, one we envision as the acknowledged leader on the planet. How do we create it? More importantly, how can we change our existing shop to approach Ideal Tool's stature? It's simple, but not easy--take a Lean Journey, the phrase used by companies that are in the process of becoming Lean. The journey is long--in fact it never ends. Built on a foundation of Kaizen, the Japanese term meaning continuous improvement, it keeps making advances toward the goal.

Well, what is the goal of a tool and die shop, or any business for that matter? Eli Goldratt, in his landmark book, The Goal, defines it as "Making more money now and in the future." I think we'd all agree with that concept as the goal of a company, except not-for-profit ones that exist for purposes other than financial results. But even they require funding to accomplish their goals. Those organizations also need to operate in a Lean fashion in order to stretch the funds they have as far as possible. The Goal is based on concepts set forth in another Goldratt book, What is this thing called Theory of Constraints and how should it be implemented? The theory is widely known as TOC and has been followed by more than half a dozen of Goldratt's books, all about improving business operations.

TOC, combined with Lean Manufacturing principles developed by the Japanese automaker, Toyota, called the Toyota Production System (TPS) form the basis for a die making improvement initiative. The combination provides a powerful starter set of tools we can use to create the fictional Ideal Tool Company, or to make any tool and die operation become competitive globally--yes, even in high labor cost countries such as the U.S. We will use many other techniques, both new and old, as-is or revised, from others in our industry and outside it. Some have been developed by myself or are variations on those of other industries. I have compiled more than 200 individual methods, concepts and techniques over the past fifty-five plus years in tool and die. Many will be recognized easily but perhaps haven't been applied the way they are now configured in what I call an ideal toolbox.

So, where to begin? The first decision to make is how to approach this daunting task. We have two choices: go it alone or hire an expert consultant. Starting off on your own will save the cost of a consultant, but many mistakes will be made, a lot of detours and dead ends will present themselves. Wrong choices will be made at forks in the road. In fact, some paths will be taken because only a few choices will be perceived where other, in fact, do exist. With all the literature, media and other resources available on Lean Manufacturing, we find precious little pertaining to low volume, high mix (LVHM), because there are so few people who understand just how different mass production, or high volume, low mix (HVLM) manufacturing is, compared with LVHM. Make to order businesses are known as job shops, and which require a different application of Lean, TOC and the rest. Tool and die Lean is unique because only one tool or die is manufactured, but which can produce millions of parts.

The alternative, hiring a consultant, would seem a no-brainer choice as the way to go. However, the stumbling block in that scenario is finding a Lean expert who has the deep and broad knowledge of the tool and die trade and who has adapted the principles of Lean and TOC to this unique industry which only makes one of a kind products--dies, molds, fixtures, weld cells and the like. That is no trivial task, I can assure you, and is not easy, fast or cheap to accomplish. Hiring a consultant who thinks the principles can simply be applied by anyone skilled in Lean practices will find that the people working at the die shop will present hurdles they believe cannot be overcome and the consultant, not well enough versed in the trade, is unable to think through the seemingly impossible to overcome roadblocks that will arise time after time. Additionally, consultants don't come cheap.

The decision is a hard one to make because both options appear equally difficult. My experience, education, knowledge and skillsets equip me for the job, but my company has limited personnel who can step in and handle tool and die Lean assignments. But there is a way out of the dilemma. Join a group of shops interested in sharing the costs, as well as best practices, with each other--or create such an organization. We are working with a small number of individual shops now but are also in the beginning stages of forming a coalition of tool and die shops in Michigan which will extend to the midwest and even country-wide.

Hopefully you're not discouraged to the extent that you give up. You don't have to do that. Take the plunge--contact us for details of our "Smartnership" which will obtain funding, tax advantages and the benefit of sharing consulting costs and the work involved. Look at the expected results--reducing your costs enough to compete head-on with the likes of Chinese, Korean and soon, Indian and other low labor cost country competitors. Lead times can be reduced by half or better as well. It won't happen overnight, but if you don't get started, it never will happen.

Got enough to think about? Good. My next post will continue with other things you need to do when preparing to start your journey to global competitiveness.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Die Factory System

My last post was a walk-through of the Ideal Tool Company, an imaginary tool and die making facility of the future. Ask anyone in the die and stamping business which is the best die shop in the world and they'll all say Ideal Tool. It stands head and shoulder above the competition in every way.

It was started with a clean sheet of paper, or more correctly, a blank computer screen. That is why everything is in the best possible location, from departments to equipment to personnel. Work flows smoothly through the shop with each step of the process pulling what's needed from the upstream process and delivering to the next, so every step is both a customer of the previous step and a supplier to the succeeding one. This pull method includes external customers and suppliers as well. The scheduling is done with a kanban, or just-in-time (JIT), system of visual documents and cards, very similar to how a supermarket restocks its shelves. Some restocking is done by in-house stocking staff while others are done directly by suppliers such as bakery products, beverages, and so on, which are placed on shelve by the distributors. As a matter of fact, that's where Toyota Motors's Taiichi Ohno, Manufacturing VP, who co-authored the Toyota Production System (TPS) originally saw the system in the 1950s in San Francisco.

From the blank computer screen came a scientifically developed Die Factory System or DFS. This system was responsible for all the innovative solutions to typical die shop woes such as coordinating and prioritizing everything to minimize the lead time and reduce costs while increasing quality and ease of manufacture. The entire die design and build process focused on converting from the traditional craft-based methods which followed long-standing rules of thumb, to a science-based total system approach utilizing technology to its fullest.

Lean manufacturing principles (the Americanized term for TPS), along with Goldratt's Theory of Constraints (TOC) and many other concepts were carefully combined to created a new way of thinking for the devekopers--eliminate the waste and enable more throughput to achieve high profits. Ideal Tool is a cash cow, thowing off 25% profit on sales, in spite of the foreign competition's prices for dies.

Ideas found in the DFS come from many sources. Employees at every level turn in suggestions for improvements and also problems that they see but have been unable to solve themselves. The average is one good suggestion from each person each month. Suppliers are expected to do the same--and they do--as do customers. Just think about how law enforcement uses this concept. We often see them on television asking for leads from anyone who saw or knows anything about a crime or hit and run accident, for example, and how often that process works for them. Another huge source of ideas is other industries' methods adapted to the die making operation. Trade magazines, newsletters, seminars and webinars, training programs, and industry consultants can all provide many excellent ideas. Of course, all the suggestions, ideas and leads absolutely must be explored, evaluated and implemented in a timely fashion--say within two weeks. Feedback to the originators also needs to be handled quickly and reasons given for not being accepted or people will soon slow and stop generating them.

As a journeyman die maker and die designer, and mechanical engineer in the 1950s and 1960s I had the opportunity to design a die shop from a clean sheet of paper (no CAD was available at that time) for the family tool and die business. We had a 10,000 square fool building and had exhausted the available property with the building and parking. In those days, unlike today, shops could earn a nice profit on sales and the company decided to acquire some acreage and erect a next-generation tool and die facility a few miles away. At that time it was generally though that mechanical engineering was the proper discipline to follow if you wanted to maximize your contribution in the die field. However, I now know that MEs are fine and helpful, but we are best at making things, electrical engineers are best at powering and controlling them, but industrial engineers are best at how to make systems that are profitable. I have studied much industrial engineering since learning that, some 20 years ago.

A great opportunity presented itself back in 1966 to this 25-year old, and I relished the prospect of creating an ideal shop. We had ten acres to work with, so space was plentiful. The company decided that we should build 25,000 square feet of plant floor space, plus 3,200 feet of offices and engineering departments. When complete, a mere six months had passed, from the first shovelful dug to the first day employees reported to work. Although we had a general contractor who erected the shell, I was charged with planning and directing the remainder--plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling (yes, central air conditioning throughout), air lines and compressor, wood block floor, three cranes to 15-ton and the office layout. Foundations for six tryout presses to 450 tons, and for the heavy boring mills were also part of the project.

You are probably wondering what this "ideal shop" looked like inside, right? Well, my plan was to lay things out differently than the old shop, but I struggled with what that should be. And, since the time available was only six months, the decision was made to make everything exactly like the existing shop, only about triple the size. The thinking was that the layout got us to where we were at that point, so why not continue in similar fashion? So that's what we did. In the end we wound up with an expanded version of the old shop, not necessarily anything radically new. Looking back, I feel pride in having done it, and it worked well enough for us for many years until the turn of events now called off-shoring of dies by our customers occurred. But today I would never consider a layout like the one we had--everything in villages--presses, large machines, small machines and assembly each in their own defined area.

That's all for now. My next post will address what was learned during 1966, what new technologies have appeared and most of all what many years of working with die shops around the world and especially my study of Lean manufacturing and TOC and adapting their concepts and others to the tool and die industry. Please come back again for more and don't hesitate to contact me directly if you think we could help you with a Lean Journey.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Attention Tool & Die Shops: Take the Lean Journey

What's a Lean Journey? Let's take a walk through an imaginary die shop of the future--one that is well along its Lean Journey. We'll call it the Ideal Tool Company. What does it look like? Let's see ....

Well, first off, it is a high quality.producer of tools, dies and fixtures. It has best in class deliveries and high profits. It is a clean, orderly, highly organized facility and has a full complement of well-maintained, late model equipment (even robots), a well trained, top notch workforce and an extremely efficient manufacturing system--a Die Factory System (DFS).

This shop of the future always has a large backlog of orders from customers who care about them. Substantial amounts of orders are on a T&M (time and material) basis, because the customer trusts them and vice-versa. The customers pay on a progressive billing arrangement which affords Ideal Tool an excellent cash flow. The profits are used wisely: updating technologies and equipment, employee training and some goes for research and development, as well. There also is an employee-sharing, bonus pool
distributed at the end of each calendar quarter, which makes the employees happy.

Ideal Tool Company's work environment is comfortable and healthy. Flexible hours are the usual case with a 24/7/365 operating schedule so that emergencies or hot projects can be readily handled. Deliveries are as required 100% of the time--with unbelievably short lead times. Highly skilled, friendly people are available for on-site visits to customers needing service.

Everywhere you look are graphical displays showing the processes, job progress, functional areas and standard work directions--nothing is left to chance--and it's all updated continuously. Departments work together in synchronized teamwork and errors are rarely made.

Products are constantly improved and new ones developed for specific needs. The company's product line includes many different kinds of tools and dies, molds and fixtures. Spare parts manufacturing is done as fill-in work to offset the frequent peaks and valleys in the industry. Everything is scheduled with a focus on being on time all the time. The whole place hums like a finely-tuned engine.

Ideal's reputation is second to none on the planet, and known as the place to go when you need a tool or die that matches your requirements exactly, and at a fair price. Innovation is Ideal's hallmark, enabled by a special suggestion plan that produces at least one good suggestion per week from each employee, most of which the company implements. Patents of many kinds adorn the office walls, as do numerous industry awards such as, Shingo Prizes, a Baldrige Award, customer letters of appreciation and community service and beautification plaques. Memberships in the most important trade associations, professional organizations and local service societies hang proudly as well.

PHEW! What a tour that was! You're probably thinking, Yeah, like that's ever going to happen, What a dreamer, etc., etc. Of course, as the song goes, "if you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?" That's what I see in my mind's eye. A passage in Robert F. Kennedy's eulogy sums up my feelings in this regard: "Some see things as they are and ask: Why? He saw things that never were and asked: Why not?"

So, is it a matter of Why not? Or is it, That's impossible? Well, the answer is, Absolutely! We CAN get to there from here. Is it simple? Well, sort of, but it's not easy by any means. It's not quick either, although major advances can be made in as little as six months--if everyone is on board fully. There will be pain and suffering, but it will be worth it, right? The worst part of becoming an Ideal Tool Company is ... we'd have to change things--lots of things--in ways we never dreamed of. We'd have to do things in ways that fly in the face of our long undisputed rules of thumb and common sense. However, the definition of improvement is: change for the better. Think about it. Einstein perhaps put it best: "The definition of insanity is: doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result." It ain't gonna happen.

Okay, we've got our marching orders: Get to where Ideal Tool Company is and do it now. The first problem is how to do it. The answer is in the title of this blog: Lean Tool and Die is what facilitated our vision of the future shop, the Ideal Tool Company, which operates in a DFS, a Die Factory System..

Stay tuned for my next posts on how to implement Lean principles in your one-off tool and die operation.

Lean DOES work in tool & die

Our consulting firm, G Corp, is dedicated exclusively to all things tool and die. My interest in applying Lean manufacturing principles to the tool and die industry actually began before the word Lean was coined as a substitute for the Toyota Production System, or TPS, in the landmark book, The Machine That Changed the World, published in 1991. TPS is that "machine" and it certainly has changed the world. However, the tool and die making industry has not embraced the idea.

As a matter of fact, the general thinking in the industry is that Lean won't work for tool and die shops because we only make one of a kind products, namely, dies. I've written a number of articles on the topic for various trade industry magazines in the past several years. They are available on our website,, for free. If you are in tool and die or stamping, check them out. Let me know what you think.

G Corp has developed a Die Factory System, DFS, which applies Lean for die makers as a total system approach, something that I believe has not been done anywhere on the planet, or at least no one is talking or writing about it. I'm interested in collaborating with shops and consultants that have done so or want to.