|Henry Ford's Lean Vision
Excerpt from Henry Ford's Lean Vision (Introduction)
(c) 2002 Productivity Press, all rights reserved
This part of the Introduction provides an overview
of the book's content
Lean Manufacturing Is an American Invention
The first chapter, “Brave New World: Changing How the World Works,”
provides two valuable change management tools for cultural transformation.
Ford and the Human Element
- Describes the Ford Motor Company's profound expansion of
the United States' wealth and power, and its role in other parts of the
world. This should overcome typical barriers to change like, "How do we
know it will work?" (It did.) "What's it going to do for the bottom line?"
(Ford wrote with a straight face in 1930 that his biggest problem was keeping
- Shows that Henry Ford, or at least his books, taught the Japanese
how to make those inexpensive, high-quality cars that captured a large
share of the American market during the 1970s and 1980s. Earlier scientific
management practitioners like Taylor and Gilbreth laid the foundations
of what we now call lean manufacturing; Ford systematized it on an unprecedented
scale. He also took the lean concept beyond the shop floor and into his
supply chain, thus creating the lean enterprise. American workers and managers
may be more receptive to lean manufacturing as the reintroduction of U.S.
developed methods than as the importation of Japanese methods.
The next three chapters relate primarily to individual success, organizational
behavior and culture, and organizational psychology— i.e., the "soft sciences."
Engineers and managers who want to transform their organizations must understand
and apply these chapters' contents to gain the workforce's enthusiastic
Ford and Operational Effectiveness
“Ford's Principles: The Foundation,” shows the close alignment of Ford's
personal philosophies and values with Japanese culture. Japan's receptivity
to Ford's ideas may have involved more than industrial engineering and
“Ford and Labor Relations” shows what employers must do to earn and keep
the loyalty and commitment of their workers. The basic idea is that managers,
professionals, hourly workers, and stockholders are all partners in the
enterprise. The only way for each stakeholder to get a bigger piece of
the pie is to make the pie bigger.
“Principles for Organizational and Personal Success” discusses key
characteristics for individuals and enterprises that want to succeed at
anything. These include an internal locus of control (self-reliance), vitality,
and persistence. The chapter also describes the corporate culture of the
early Ford Motor Company and shows how the company later lost that culture.
The next five chapters describe Ford's principles for operational effectiveness
in any organization. Chapters 7, "Eliminate Waste," and Chapter 8, "Ford's
Factory," are of particular interest to lean practitioners because they
focus respectively on waste reduction and lean methods. "Ford's Factory,"
the book's longest chapter, is full of specific examples of lean manufacturing
techniques. Chapter 9, "Marketing and Supplier Relationships," includes
supply chain management and supplier development.
Influences on Ford
“Perceiving Genuine Value” discusses what adds value and what doesn't.
Manufacturing is the backbone of national prosperity and security, and
the United States must stem the loss of its manufacturing capability. Value
comes from Ford's three principal arts: agriculture (to which we may add
mining, lumbering, and other extractive industries that get raw materials
from nature), manufacturing, and transportation. The stock market, retailing,
and the government do not create value or add value to anything. Do not
allow the cost accounting system to run a business enterprise.
“Ford on Economics and Government” discusses the role of monetary
systems, business cycles, government, and the stock market on businesses
and the creation of wealth. Ford was confident in the ability of a well-managed
business to defy cyclical market effects. Both the government and the stock
market can encourage dysfunctional behavior that undermines a value-creating
“Eliminate Waste” is about how to make money—a lot of money. The elimination
of waste from every aspect of a business enterprise adds the savings directly
to the bottom line. This is how Ford increased wages while reducing car
prices and expanding his business. People often look straight at waste
without recognizing it. The reader will learn from this chapter how to
look at any manufacturing or economic activity in a new light and recognize
waste when he or she sees it. Registration to the ISO 14000 standard for
environmental management systems should be not only free but profitable.
“Ford's Factory” covers Ford's introduction of most so-called Japanese
management techniques, along with a couple of ideas that we associate with
W. Edwards Deming and Tom Peters. The former include just-in-time (JIT)
manufacturing, error-proofing, design for manufacture, motion efficiency,
and process simplification. The latter include flat, lean, and porous organizations.
“Marketing and Supplier Relationships” focuses on identifying and
creating markets and working with suppliers. Ford's success began with
a clear vision statement about his prospective market. He also described
supply chain management and supplier development.
Henry Ford said, "I am going to see that no man comes to know me" (Gourley,
1997, 38), but it useful to trace and study the people and literature that
“Frederick Winslow Taylor and Scientific Management” discusses the
relationship between Ford's industrial methods and Taylor's Principles
of Scientific Management. It dispels the myths and stereotypes about Taylor's
desire to turn workers into mindless robots or automata. Taylor actually
introduced many ideas that modern management science considers very progressive.
Scientific management and Frank Gilbreth's motion efficiency studies are,
in fact, the direct forerunners of modern lean management.
“The Influence of Benjamin Franklin” discusses another inventor, and one
of Ford's fellow Freemasons. Ford wrote in his discussion of the economic
depression that followed the First World War, "Nothing has happened in
our history to render out of date the business philosophy of Benjamin Franklin.
Poor Richard's Almanac is still the best business compendium. The old American
virtues of thrift and industry have no successors or substitutes. Business
success is still a matter of making friends by service, and not a case
of cornering necessitous people in such a way that they will have to come
to you" (Ford, 1922a, 282-283).
Send Mail to(mail to webmaster@ is discarded due to abuse by spammers.)