Lean Today, Rich Tomorrow: Succeeding in Today's Globalization Chaos, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Lean Today, Rich Tomorrow

Succeeding in Today's Globalization Chaos, 1st Edition

By Joe Bichai

Productivity Press

219 pages | 46 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781482235647
pub: 2014-09-24
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This book is about an actual Lean transformation that took place in a 100-year-old North American manufacturer's factory. Lean Today, Rich Tomorrow: Succeeding in Today's Globalization Chaos tells the story of how an obsolete factory destined for closure was transformed into the most productive North American manufacturer in its field, but this shift didn't happen without its share of obstacles.

Despite the problems the company encountered, the implementation of the Lean/TPS with JIT and Kaizen absolutely ensured its survival while many companies in the field fell under the shadow of bankruptcy. The company eliminated the bad habits associated with its antiquated push system, including piecework, batch process, and rework, and transformed its factory into a JIT/Lean philosophy-driven plant with one-piece flow, U-shaped production lines, and productivity sharing.

Telling a tale of adventure, the book guides readers through the steps taken by the company to improve processes and results over a ten-year period. This success story will give managers the tools to succeed in rallying and training a workforce to achieve Lean goals through a substantive change in culture. The book keeps the use of theory to a minimum. However, to make it useful to both students and professionals, it explains the basic concepts of the Toyota system.

Presented in a compelling story format, Lean Today, Rich Tomorrow: Succeeding in Today's Globalization Chaosis a practical work, told the way it was experienced. It avoids complex formulas, algorithms, and grand theories and instead illustrates the process used by this Canadian enterprise and its employees to achieve their successful implementation without the help of consultants.

Table of Contents

Ten Years Later

June 1991

Setting the Challenge

July 1991

An Analysis of the Situation

Economic Context of the Shoe Industry in Canada

State of Our Factory

The Solution: Toyota’s Lean Production System and Kaizen

Where to Begin?

Our Way of Working

Rethinking the Factory’s Layout and Production Philosophy

August 1992

The Module: A Production Nerve Center

The Design and Setup of the Pilot Module

Choosing a U-Shaped Module

Traditional Organization and Manufacturing Methods

Experimenting with New Ways of Working

Comparison of the Results Obtained

Presenting an Expense Budget to Management

Chapt er 4 G etting the Employees Involved

October 1992

Worries and Resistance among the Employees

Guarantees and Commitments from the Company

New Layout and Training

November 1992

Planning and Implementing the New Layout

Tailored Training Programs


Human Relations and Communication


Technical Training

Directed Practice



Reviewing the Salary, Structure, and Bonus System

March 1993

A Complex Existing Situation

A Crucial Simplification

Seeking Consensus

Organizing the Work

June 1993

Individual Work versus Teamwork

Carefully Considered Team Composition

Developing Autonomy

A Factory without Inspectors: Is It Possible?

Putting It to the Test

Kickoff Problems and Friction

Health Problems

Tensions within the Teams

Frustrations about the Removal of Privileges

A Concession to Benefit Workplace Atmosphere

Overcoming the Obstacles

November 1993

A Thunderclap

Perfect Timing for a New Project

Preliminary Study to Pinpoint the Problems

Portrait of the Factory Population

First Investigation into Health Problems

Second Investigation into Problems

with Psychological Well-Being and Communication

Summary and a Concrete Plan of Action

The Facilitator: A Positive Agent for Change

From Supervisor to Coach: A Changing Position

The Foreman: Caught between a Rock and a Hard Place

Moving from Supervisor to Coach: A Difficult Transition

Choosing Supervisors Who Have What It Takes to Coach

Establishing a Gain-Sharing System to Stimulate Productivity

April 1994

A Bonus System that Gets in the Way of the Objective

Need for a Gain-Sharing Model

Sharing Plan Based on Productivity

An Employer/Employee Committee to Put the Plan into Action

After Two Years, a Mitigated Report on Shared Gains

Adjusting Our Aim

New Just-in-Time Training to Get Employees Involved

Spectacular but Fragile Results

Revision of the Productivity Gain-Sharing Plan

Seeking a New, More Equitable Gain-Sharing System

A Surprise from the Employees

Report that Inspires Vigilance

Carrying Out a First Assessment and Detecting Errors along the Way

January 1999

Length of the Learning Curve

Effect of Bottlenecks

Scope of the Information Technology (IT) Adjustments Required

Length of Time to Implement Hand-to-Hand

Putting Kaizen into Practice in the Factory

January 2002

Examples of Small Kaizen

Adding a Velcro® Strip on the Sewing Machines

Installation of a Scrap-Catching Bag

Designing Functional Packaging Tables

Design of a Heel Reinforcement Container

Creation of a Color Code for Bottom Injection and Transport

Example of a Medium Kaizen

Installation of a Box Lifting System

Example of a Big Kaizen

Automation of Strap Cutting and Gluing Tasks

Example of Everyday Kaizen

Tour of a Chinese Supplier: A Wake-Up Call

Early 1998

More than a Company: A City!

Workers in Residence

Realm of Muda

Quality, but at the Expense of Productivity

Difficult New Awareness

Unequal Struggle

End of an Era


Increasingly Fierce Global Competition

Factory that Is Productive, but Underused

Changing Fashion

Conflation of Circumstance

Inescapable Situation

Hard Decision

Painful Delay

Closure Announcement

Final Weeks

After Contrecoeur: Lean at Work

Winning Conditions for a Successful JIT and Kaizen Implementation Project

March 1993

Unconditional Commitment from Senior Management

Attitude of Honesty and Openness toward the Workers

Full Commitment from All Employees

Choosing Hand-to-Hand or Pull Production: Simply Inevitable

Aspiration to Become a World-Class Company

Toyota’s Lean Production System, Kaizen, and Related Concepts

Toyota Production System

Total Quality Management

Just in Time, Pull Production, One-Piece Flow, and Takt Time

Total Productive Maintenance, Overall Equipment Effectiveness, and Jidoka


The 5S


Elimination of Mudas

Visual Management

Suggestion Program

Rules for the Smooth Operation of the Gemba

Toyota Production System and Kaizen in Brief

Tour of World-Class Japanese Factories

Toyoda Iron Works

Yamaha Motors

NGK Insulators, Chita Factory

Togo Seisakusho

Taiho Kogyo

Toyota, Takaoka Factory

Myths and Realities of Japanese Industry Workers

Japanese Workers Are Very Disciplined and Respect

Authority Much More than Workers in Other Countries

Japanese Factories Offer Their Workers Lifelong Employment

In the Toyota System, Any Worker Can Halt the Production Chain

In Japan, Rejects Are Measured in Parts per Million Rather than by Percentage

Chapt er 18 Toyota’s Troubles

A Highly Publicized Accident

Mountain out of a Molehill

Lessons Learned

Rebuilding Trust

Chapt er 19 North American Production Returns to the Fold

Offshoring: A Win–Win Situation?

Offshoring Also Comes at a Price

The Pendulum Swings Back

Appendix: Bonus Plans and Productivity Gain-Sharing Plans

Scanlon Plan

Rucker Plan

Improshare Plan




About the Author

Joe Bichai has been recognized and looked upon as a leader in the world of Lean manufacturing. Throughout his career he enthusiastically shared his knowledge of Lean and continuous improvement philosophy. Committed to the success of domestic manufacturing, he has conducted numerous seminars and taught future grads how to be competitive in our global markets.

After graduating from the Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal as an industrial engineer, Bichai joined Electrolux as a young and eager engineer. He worked his way through the ranks and was promoted to I.E. Manager, later to Manufacturing engineering manager and to finally plant manager. In 1986, he decided to start his own company, JITech Manufacturing services, offering his customers, a one-stop shop for manufacturers looking for plastic molds as well as molded and assembled products.

In 1991, he seized the opportunity to partner up with Kamik (Genfoot Inc.), the leading Canadian footwear manufacturer. Since then, Bichai has been leading the manufacturing activities of their three North American factories.

In 1998, the CSIE (Canadian Society for Industrial Engineering) awarded him the Leadership award for promoting Canadian productivity.

In 2000, he was awarded "the most influential engineer of his decade" award by the Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal’s industrial engineering department.

For the past 30 years, Bichai has been a proud advocate of the Japanese manufacturing management techniques that led him in 2001 to join the Gemba Kaizen and Just-in-Time study tour at the Japan Kaizen Institute, where he perfected his continuous improvement knowledge learning from Imai Masaaki, founder of the Kaizen Institute.

In 2007, Bichai’s French version book Agir ou Périr was published by the Presses Internationales de Polytechnique and was selected as a finalist in the annual Quebec Better Business Book Grand Prix competition.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Quality Control
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Industries / Manufacturing Industries
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Workplace Culture