Lean’s U.S. Origins: The Seed of Change is Planted

(This is the second in a 12-part Series on the Origins of Lean in the U.S.)

“Go find the best management practices in the world!” That was the challenge that Omark Industries’ president gave the task force I was assigned to in late 1981. It was a broad and exciting charter, one that would significantly alter my career path.

Some of the team members went to Japan, while others traveled the U.S. in search of best practices, which if implemented would ensure Omark was functioning at a world-class level. We travelled in teams to gather data, insights, ideas and tools.

For me one of the most memorable tours was going to Marysville, Ohio to the Honda Gold Wing manufacturing plant where we saw many Lean principles in action. Their production line was simple and clean with little inventory around. We studied several dozen companies such as Lincoln Electric, read a bunch of books, and compiled our learnings. Then we met back in Portland to pore through what we had learned.

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