You cannot have a discussion about the early proponents of lean manufacturing in the United States without placing Robert "Doc" Hall high on that list. Indeed, when Hall's book "Zero Inventories" was published in 1983, the term "lean" had yet to be introduced into the manufacturing lexicon. Yet its pages described many of the ideas that evolved into what later became known as lean manufacturing -- just-in-time inventories, kanban and set-up reduction, for example.
For more than 30 years, Hall has been both a student and strong advocate of Japanese production methods and lean manufacturing techniques, propelled in part by Japanese visitors -- one from Toyota -- who took an MRP class he taught in the late 1970s, a return visit he made to Toyota, as well as a "seminal" workshop held at a U.S. Kawasaki plant in 1981.
In 1984 alone, Hall made 185 presentations around the U.S. on the topic of JIT and Japanese techniques, and missed only one of his classes, "and that was because the plane was late," he says.
Hall is professor emeritus, operations management, at Indiana University, where he taught for 32 years. His undergraduate degree is in chemical engineering, and he worked at Eli Lilly (IW 500/50) and Union Carbide.
Hall is a founding member of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence. He wrote or co-wrote seven publications on manufacturing and organizational excellence. He has received the Society of Manufacturing Engineers' Gold Medal and the AME award for outstanding lifetime service.
He has served as an IndustryWeek's Best Plants judge since the program's inception in 1990.
However, by no stretch is Hall resting on his laurels. In 2010, Productivity Press published his book "Compression: Meeting the Challenges of Sustainability Through Vigorous Learning Enterprises."
Compression, he explains, addresses the question, "How can we live better and use much, much less?" By less, he refers to fewer resources, less energy, even a reduction in wasted behaviors such as bickering. In his book -- and as chairman of the nascent Compression Institute -- Hall delivers the message that new ways of thinking and doing are required to meet the global challenges of today.
He's driving this effort at a time when many individuals would be enjoying retirement. Not Hall. "This is too important to relax over," he says.
For a full list of the Manufacturing Hall of Fame inductees, click here.