The evils of mass production
[Off topic. I formatted all the links in this entry to open in a new window. Do you prefer it?]
For people unfamiliar with manufacturing, “mass production” is what any manufacturer does, spitting out carbon copy widgets on mind numbing production lines. Within manufacturing though, we know the definitions aren’t so simple. Just because a firm produces identical copies doesn’t mean they’re employing “mass production” ala Taylor, aka “push manufacturing. We know there’s a better way; lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing means (in part) combining best practices of organized manufacturing systems with craft manufacturing, aka “hand made”. The latter by the way, technically means one person makes the entire product start to finish rather than through batch processing typical of “mass production”.
I’ve often thought that humans are genetically hardwired to batch processes. Take agriculture for example. You can’t pull a single serving of corn like you can with a coat or even a car like Toyota does. For much of human history, batching meant survival. That is not to say batching is efficient, survival usually isn’t. I’m guessing it’s hardwired into us because even children do it instinctively.
In the book Lean Thinking, the author’s daughter needs to help her mother by folding some flyers and placing them into envelopes. The author asks his daughter which method is better, to fold each sheet singly and set it into the envelope, or, to fold all the sheets in one batch and then set them into envelopes (another batch process). The child goes away and thinks for awhile and decides it’d take less time to batch the work. Anyone who’s read the book has thought of timing the process both ways but I doubt all but a few have. Fortunately for us, Ron Pereira has made a video to show the results using the example from the book. I strongly encourage you to see it; hopefully, it’ll change the way you think about making products.