U-M professor's top-selling book focuses on Toyota's methods

04/15/04

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---University of Michigan professor Jeffrey Liker's book, "The Toyota Way," has become a surprise top-seller in the business management book category and is being translated into six languages just three months after its January release.

In his book, Liker, a nationally recognized expert in lean manufacturing, outlines the 14 principles of lean manufacturing that comprise the Toyota methods of lean production, and talks about why most companies haven't caught on.

Liker's book contends most companies fall short of implementing true lean principals because they focus on short term gains through the so-called surface tools of lean, such as creating cells, and do not create a true lean culture. Critical to the lean system are developing people and partners, but many companies fail here. For example, the Big Three automakers struggle with labor issues and continuously squeeze suppliers to make short term revenue gains, he says.

"Toyota will invest $5 today with the belief that they will get $100 in two years," Liker said, illustrating Toyota's long-term visionary approach. "American companies won't do that unless I can show them today, in extraordinary detail, how they will get $10."

The management principals in "The Toyota Way" may be applied to any business, large or small. That is why publisher McGraw-Hill Trade believes the book is popular.

"He has really broken into something above and beyond the academic market," said Mary Glenn, executive editor, McGraw-Hill Trade. "Companies and business people are looking for success stories and in an economy like today, success stories are few and far between."

Liker has studied Toyota for more than 20 years, and the book contains dozens of anecdotes on the company's successful methods, and interviews with Toyota executives and employees.

Liker, a professor of industrial and operations engineering, is the director of the Japan Technology Management Program (JTMP) and co-director of the lean manufacturing program at the University of Michigan.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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-- Oscar Wilde
 
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