Bookshelf: Thinking Lean

Bookshelf: Thinking Lean

Kaizen and the Art of Creative Thinking, By Shigeo Shingo, Enna Products Corp., 2007, 255 pages, $59.40

Co-publisher Norman Bodek shares what he calls "another Shigeo Shingo treasure" that he discovered while visiting Shingo's widow a few years ago. The book, translated from Japanese, was originally published in 1958. In simple textbook fashion, the book presents six models that Shingo refers to as the Scientific Thinking Mechanism.

Shingo introduces readers to "Principles of Analytical Thinking" in the first chapter with the basic but often overlooked value of dividing similar groups. He cites a hypothetical situation during which a company groups materials based on supplier name and the actual inventory items. Shingo refers to this method as "cross division," which can cause confusion when two different division criteria are imposed simultaneously. In other words, what happens when you have an invoice for a particular product from company A? Do you file the invoice under the company name or the product name?

Shingo tackles problem-solving tactics with more examples, including a factory he once visited that had several machines idling at once because of routine maintenance. The company didn't think it was such a big deal until Shingo calculated through quantitative analysis how much downtime was actually occurring.

Later in the book, Shingo walks the reader step-by-step through the process of improvement. The chapter, "The Evolution of Improvement," provides some historical context and innovative examples of how some companies transformed crude tools into mechanized systems that reduced labor and increased efficiencies.

For those not familiar with Shingo, the book also provides an informative timeline of his key achievements until his death in 1990. And if that's not enough, the book concludes with further analysis in a back-and-forth conversation between Bodek and David Veech, executive director of the Institute for Lean Systems in Louisville, Ky.

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