The theories, buzzwords, mantras, and missions that have streamlined successful manufacturing over the last 30 years are familiar even to casual students of business, let alone those deep in the trenches. Terms such as quality circles, make-to-order, just-in-time, and push vs. pull have become so common to the business vernacular that few can remember a time before these terms were coined - and before they defined the ways in which any successful manufacturer had to view its business. The movement towards a just-in-time environment had its roots in post-war Japan, where survival required nothing less than a total reinvention of the nation's manufacturing processes. Thirty years later Japan's success in manufacturing forced American industry to adopt the same principles. It became inordinately clear that by cleverly harnessing the available technology, boldly reworking their processes, systematically reprogramming their mind-sets, and helping their people adjust to a new way of both thinking and working, American corporations could gain an important competitive edge. Not to mention the fact that they would avoid the disaster they knew awaited them if they did not advance in this direction along with their competitors. This article first appeared in the May/June edition of The Journal of Business Strategy. It is reproduced here by kind permission.
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