Lean in a High-Variability Business : A Graphic Novel about Lean and People at Zingerman’s Mail Order book cover
1st Edition

Lean in a High-Variability Business
A Graphic Novel about Lean and People at Zingerman’s Mail Order

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after July 2, 2021
ISBN 9781138387768
July 2, 2021 Forthcoming by Productivity Press
230 Pages

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Book Description

This clever and highly engaging graphic novel details a story about one organization’s Lean journey with inspiration from the Toyota Way.

Over the years, common misunderstandings about what Lean is, what the journey is like, and how to advance have proliferated. Often these misunderstandings come from the way people simplistically talk and think about Lean as if it is some concrete thing that you insert into an organization and step back to watch the results.

The authors, however, view the organization as a living system with interacting parts and constant exposure to the environment. It is dynamic so it’s hard to predict what obstacles you will face next. Just when you think you have it solved, new challenges arise from the market, competitors, government regulations, and every direction you turn to. When you look at your organization in this way you see Lean through a different lens. The goal is to make your processes and people into a more adaptive system so you can navigate through all the complexity and uncertainty to continually achieve your goals. This is how Toyota view things and they summarize the Toyota Way as continuous improvement and respect for people. Each person becomes a partner in struggling to learn and adapt, and specific tools are used in very different ways throughout the company to accomplish their goals.

The story presented here focuses on a small company called Zingerman’s Mail Order (ZMO). Tom Root was one of the founders of this spin-off of the Zingerman’s delicatessen. The deli was founded to bring high-quality artisanal food to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The purpose of this book is not to provide a "recipe for implementation" – the authors want you to get a feeling for the struggle, for the learning process. They explain and demonstrate many Lean tools within the context of the journey and how they were adapted for this particular business. Toyota kata became the centerpiece of developing scientific thinking skills to begin to bring continuous improvement to life.


Table of Contents

1.1 Intro

1.2. Lean journey begins

1.3.1. TourScene1-Intro to ZMO

1.3.2. TourScene2-Service Center

1.3.3. TourScene3-Corporate Gifts

1.3.4. TourScene4-Pick Market

1.3.5. LeanTourScene5-Bread

1.3.6. LeanTourScene6-HotPod

1.3.7. LeanTourScene7-OR_Pick

1.3.8. LeanTourScene8-Check

1.3.9. LeanTourScene9-Assembly

1.3.10. Tour-Recomb

1.3.11. Tour-Pack_Ship

1.3.12. TourScene12-Hiring

2.1.1. FirstTimeAtTheLine

2.1.2 Approach

2.1.3. ZingHistoryServantLeader

2.1.4. Current condition and initial direction

2.2.1a. ImproveFlow-Layout

2.2.1b. ImproveFlow-Markets_Routes

2.2.2a. Leveling

2.2.2b. Pacing

2.3.1. First reflection

2.3.2. Takt

2.3.3. HYN

2.4.1. Second year reflection

2.4.2. SOP

2.5.1. ZMO continues alone

3.1.1. Improvement systems are not equal

3.1.2. TBP

3.1.3. Kata to the rescue

3.1.4. Release the Kata

4.1. Lessosn learned

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Dr. Eduardo Lander received his doctorate in Manufacturing Engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (Advisor: Dr Liker). He then went to work for Toyota’s R&D center in Brussels, Belgium. He has since left Toyota and is working as an independent consultant with Zingerman’s Mail Order as one of his clients.

Dr. Jeffrey K. Liker is Professor Emeritus of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan and President of Liker Lean Advisors. He is author of the international best-seller, The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer, 2004 (26 languages, over 950,000 copies sold), and has coauthored nine other books about Toyota including Toyota Culture, The Toyota Product Development System, The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership (2011) and  Developing Lean Leaders at all Levels: A Practical Guide (2014). In 2016 he published The Toyota Way to Service Excellence and coauthored a lean transformation business novel called Trenches. His articles and books have won thirteen Shingo Prizes for Research Excellence. In 2012 he was inducted into the Association of Manufacturing Excellence Hall of Fame and in 2016 inducted into the Shingo Academy.

Tom Root is an entrepreneur who originally envisioned Zingeman’s Mail Order and started it up as a co-partner and then founded the Maker Works as his second business.

In 2002, Zingerman's Mail Order and Zingermans.com merged and Tom took on the role of Chief Financial Officer of the resulting business (known simply as Zingerman’s Mail Order). As CFO, Tom has championed open book management and taken the lead on educating staff about the financial ins and outs of the business. 

In 2004, Tom was introduced to the concepts of Lean Manufacturing popularized by Toyota. Building on his experience with open book finance, Tom worked to bring the philosophy of continuous improvement and waste elimination to Mail Order. For the last 10 years Tom has been practicing Lean thinking though process improvement, class development and teaching.

In 2008, Tom was inspired by the financial crisis to start Maker Works. Maker Works is 11,000 sq ft manufacturing facility that is operated like a health club. Individuals or businesses purchase memberships to have access to high-tech tools like laser cutters, 3D printers and CNC plasma cutters. The mission of Maker Works is to democratize the tools of manufacturing to foster job creation, community and self-sustainability.

In September of 2014, Maker Works celebrated its 3-year anniversary. It has attracted more than 700 members, added 16,000 sq ft of tenant space and played a role in a handful of start-ups including Sight Machine, a venture funded computer vision start-up.