My short bio: I am Chris Roser, professor for production management at the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences. I am a lean expert, Toyota, Bosch, and McKinsey alumni, and interested in the past, present and future of manufacturing. I lived and worked multiple years in the USA, in Japan, and in Europe. I am writing a blog, and just completed my first book “Faster, Better, Cheaper” in the History of Manufacturing: From the Stone Age to Lean Manufacturing and Beyond.

My Proof: My Blog; My Twitter; [My Linkedin](

Edit: The questions come in now faster than I can answer, so I will skip some. Apologies

Edit2: Dinner break, will be back later, thanks for the questions :)

Edit 3: one Cesar salad later, back to writing ...

Edit 4: Almost ten hours later, 10PM my local time, it is time for me to quit. Many thanks for all the good questions, I would consider my first IAMA a success. This is Chris Roser, Signing off ...

Comments: 399 • Responses: 79  • Date: 

EriqLaplus35 karma

Hey Chris,

Thanks for doing the AMA. This is an awesome topic, and one I've always been interested in. I studied applied mathematics, but I was always interested in the operations research and statistics side of things.

What is the role of "Data Science" in manufacturing today? I know that it is primarily the tech industry which has adopted this term, but are you beginning to see the manufacturing industry also use this term? If so, what do you think are the primary differences (if any) between how a tech sector data scientist would work versus a manufacturing sector data scientist? Finally, can a company's ability and reliance on analytics be used as a litmus test for their future?

Finally, a little more open ended: how serious do successful companies treat data versus experience?

Thanks again!

LeanProf28 karma

Data science, often also called Big Data: There is much potential in it. Industry collects an enormous amount of data, but then does very little with it. If you have a lot of data, then you can go through it and try to find correlations, maybe even causations. But this is a lot of effort.

Currently this is missing a “killer app” in manufacturing. If you have something like this on Amazon or Facebook, they can analyze millions of users, and generate a big benefit from it. In industry, the expense is similar, but the benefit may be smaller. Also, manufacturing historically lacks the expertise for this, and does not have the right people to do this. Hence there are only few companies that are using it. Yet, as computers get smarter, they may be able to investigate data on their own without a human pulling all the strings. Then it will probably spread in industry like wildfire.

bktechnite5 karma

I know that Amazon hires web developers to develop applications that compiles reports automatically. It isn't even that hard to do. What do you mean that there's no expertise?

What manufacturer needs to do is first hire a dev to give them a scope of work. That is, 1. We want to be able to track XYZ, 2. We have this much money to do it, 3. Is it feasible and doable?

I think there's plenty of people who can answer those questions in the U.S., you just need the c-suite in the manufacturers to know the benefits and existence of this service.

LeanProf22 karma

No expertise in the manufacturing firms. Also, (often) not yet the right mindset. Managers in manufacturing think in material and processes, not so much data patterns. People use the tools they are used to and had previously good experience. The manufacturing managers still lack this experience, and may not see the need. This is slowly changing, but still quite a bit from the mad rush of companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon competing for the best available talent (this also means that any analyst is probably expensive to hire for manufacturing companies). Also: I am not sure if a web developer is the right person to analyze big data. This is in my opinion more complicated than an automated report.

To use your words: "We want to be able to track XYZ" - Manufacturing managers usually don't even know what XYZ to track.

bigoted_bill30 karma

Hi Chris, As a former mid level manager of a manufacturing plants supply chain I have been a witness to many tense situations as you can imagine from being in a lean and a "Just in time"chain. do you have any insight about the relationship between people on the manufacturing floor and the people ordering the materials?

LeanProf29 karma

I have been where you are, and feel your pain. You need material/inventory to cover fluctuations. To successfully reduce inventory you need to reduce fluctuations. Merely reducing inventory will just cause problems.

What can often help is good communication. Inbound logistic and manufacturing should be close, so both sides can react faster in case of problems. Ideally, some of the Logistics people should have their office in/ or next to the shop floor.

DegeneratePeasant7 karma

It seems that ERP software has helped with this within companies. Is there a possibility for an entire supply chain, consisting of several suppliers, distributers and manufacturers, to be on a common ERP system? Maybe that's a pipe dream since companies aren't always privy to share their data.

LeanProf9 karma

I have a mixed view of ERP systems. They are good for things that change slowly (HR), but for a fast changing manufacturing operations I had constant problems with differences between reality and data. There were also quite a few companies that had huge trouble with their SAP system, losing lots of money and some even going bankrupt. Toyota tries to keep ERP out of its shop floor. Putting everything in an ERP computer will not make the problems go away, but will make it more difficult to see and fix the problems. Still skeptical on ERP.

Timedoutsob27 karma

Can we expect huge changes to environmentally sustainable manufacturing any time soon?

LeanProf26 karma

It will be a gradual change. Sustainability in manufacturing actually has three parts: Ecological, Social, and Financial. You need all three. Focus seems to be on the ecological part, but it also has to make sense moneywise, too. Anything even remotely green is advertised quite a lot in industry, often more than it is worth. During some factory tours they just have to show you their wastewater treatment facility. Changes in consumer opinion and government regulations lead to make it worthwhile for companies to become green. However, appearing to be green and being green has almost the same effect, except the first one is often cheaper.

The social sustainability also sometimes still falls short (e.g. Volkswagen and their Prevent-group supplier problems, but many more)

Timedoutsob7 karma

Yes, i'm aware of how money is the overriding factor in most decisions. It's a shame more effective measures aren't put in place by government to incentivise and enforce better practices.

LeanProf24 karma

It doesn’t help if the company is green but bankrupt. I think the measures of many governments are often going in the right direction, but lobbying can water things down. Investigative reporting and the internet do give power to the common people here. Governments are also going after offenders (although preferably foreign ones: Volkswagen Dieselgate anyone?)

u38cg26 karma

What do you make of the argument that if it isn't cheaper, it isn't greener?

LeanProf4 karma

Money is a crude but often usable estimate of environmental use. A 15.000$ Toyota is probably better for the environment than a 80.000$ Mercedes. Of course there are also counterexamples of electronic recycling in Bangladesh with lots of pollution rather than expensive recycling in the US/Europe. Hence: It depends.

Mecheng199319 karma

Do you think that engineers can be replaced by automation? More specifically AI and robotics?

What are some jobs that will always need human input?

LeanProf18 karma

I am convinced that in time engineers will be replaced by computers. This may be faster than we expect (Moore’s law of doubling approximately every two years), and will probably take us by surprise. E.g. Googles Alpha Go beating a human world champion hands down surprised the GO community, who though this was still decades off in the future. If you are at the beginning of your career, don’t expect your job to be around as long as you do.

Jobs for humans: In manufacturing probably everything can be automated. What probably will happen is that we are willing to pay extra for “made by human”. In case you own a very expensive car like a Rolls Royce or an AMG sports car they do have one guy building up a single engine. This is not cheaper or more efficient, but sold to the customer as “something others don’t have/can’t afford”. Instead, you get the guy’s signature engraved on the engine. Already “handmade” is prominent in some advertising for products, even though “machine made” would probably be better and cheaper. If like for me an AMG is out of your budget, you still can go for handmade soaps, clothing, jewelry, and other stuff.

dangersandwich10 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA!

I am convinced that in time engineers will be replaced by computers. This may be faster than we expect (Moore’s law of doubling approximately every two years), and will probably take us by surprise.

What time scale are we talking about here? 25 years? 100 years (a generation)? Three generations?

As an engineer with an interest in economics, there is currently little (if any) evidence in the economics community that automation will be able to completely eliminate demand for human labor, especially the type of labor that requires critical thinking and abstract thought processes. Automation technologies have historically acted as a multiplier on human productivity where humans have a comparative advantage, and it's very hard to imagine this changing pre-singularity.

Skill-biased technological change (SBTC) will require humans to continually develop more comparative advantages through more education and training, and automation technology can help us do that by freeing up more of our time to work on improving the best technologies while automating whatever we can, which results in a continuous cycle of increased human productivity.

I can see simpler engineering design tasks, like for example, a) designing enclosures for sensitive electronics; b) designing simple machined parts; and c) reducing part count (DFMA) getting replaced by automation technologies, but this is an example of technology acting as a complementary to engineering, not as a substitute. Certainly some engineers that exclusively do these types of simpler design tasks may get replaced, but this is a case of wage/skill mismatching rather than automation being a perfect substitute for all engineers.

LeanProf8 karma

The thing is, computers are becoming better exponentially. With an exponential growth, even from a low base, it is only a matter of time until it exceeds our abilities. In some fields it even does already (Watson on Jeopardy, Alpha.go, Deep Blue...). Currently Computers still look & are inferior, but again, double this every two years!

tolman8r5 karma

I think it will be the individualized economy that humans retain. For example, the individualized creativity of a caricature is not replaceable by a machine or algorithm. It requires a level of perception wand creativity.

Another would be individualized art. The Etsy economy will survive, as everyone tries to be "unique". Not just based on "because it's more expensive", but because "this one is mine, and it's not replaceable".

LeanProf7 karma

Disagree. There are already computers make art that looks like human. e.g.

For me, our brain is a connection of nodes (neurons) with electrical signals. No reason that a computer couldn't do something similar in a few years.

tolman8r3 karma

You are the professor indeed. I'll consider that evidence, and thank you for replying.

I will only say in rebuttal that the imperfection of humanity is where I think art comes from, and I believe that it cannot be reproduced completely by computer.

LeanProf5 karma

Don't be too impressed by titles ;)


As a guy soon to graduate with an industrial and systems engineering degree, which field is going to see the most job growth in the next 5 years. Which non traditional field needs lean the most?

LeanProf27 karma

Most job growth: Difficult to say. Definitely not operators on the shop floor. I would be wary of the automotive industry in general, too. When the self-driving car comes around, we need half the vehicles we have now, and they will not be purchased by individuals but by companies (uber?) that are much better at negotiating prices. And, you don’t want to be in an industry fighting for survival in 10 years. What will probably be good is the robotics industry and the machine tool makers. But, predictions are hard, especially about the future.

As for lean: service and administrative tasks are just starting to get lean, there is still lots of potential. Some of my consulting colleagues only rarely get a manufacturing client nowadays.

DegeneratePeasant10 karma

When the self-driving car comes around, we need half the vehicles we have now

What do you mean here, is this because individual self-driving vehicles can spend more time on the road by being limited by a human's need for rest?

I think, if you consider that a truck is only good for so many thousands of miles, you'll wear them out quicker by having them on the road longer, so it might be a wash, unless there's something I'm missing.

LeanProf13 karma

A normal car has an utilization of 5%. Car sharing often approaches 30%. Even factoring in that more people drive and that they wear out faster, I think we will need much less cars than before. But then, while there are studies that say so, other say different. We will know when it happens. I believe in a reduction, but I cannot prove it to you.

Meychelanous8 karma

what is the "everybody-learning-or-having-bussiness-about-manufacturing-have-to-know" about past, present, and future of manufacturing?

and, Do you have any interesting opinion or fact about DFMA, present and future?

LeanProf3 karma

Every manufacturer should remember that he/she is still dealing with people, and should treat them with respect. This seems to be difficult for us. While technically we improved every year, always creating better and faster technology, in dealing with humans we still make the same mistakes as 5000 years ago.

DFMA (Design for manufacturing and assembly): Good tool, but you should involve both design engineers and manufacturing people for best results.

Meychelanous3 karma

agree. people are one of the reason everything progress slowly. even DFMA... people think their project will not get benefit from DFMA and refuse to use it...

LeanProf2 karma

I am thinking, what will be the next big thing in manufacturing after Lean and Automation. I don’t know, but management surely has lots of potential for improvement. If now I would only know how to fix this issue …

TuckRaker7 karma

Any thoughts on Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut?

LeanProf10 karma

Haven’t read it yet. Probably should, thanks for the tip. Based on the Wikipedia summary :This is a very real problem. Computers will take over more and more of manufacturing. In the past, people were able to educate themselves to be more useful than a computer, but computers are catching up. Already some academic jobs are taken over by computers, and it will not stop there. For me, it is not a question of “if” but “when” a computer will outperform a human mind. Probably within our lifetime most humans will be made redundant by computers.

In an ideal scenario, when machines do all the work, we can do whatever we please. But the transition will be quite difficult. There are also alternative scenarios where computers may eventually lead to human extinction (think Terminator, Matrix, …).

Edit: Fix Link

LeanProf10 karma

Just downloaded the novel on my kindle :)

FITGuard7 karma

When I read your book do I have to sound it out in an Australian accent to make sure I get the full effect? I just want to fully engage myself.

LeanProf8 karma

Ich bin a German. Hence you should speak it with a German accent :)

This brings me to the most German sounding word I know. Butterfly usually sounds nice and lovely in any language. Papillion in French, ChoCho in Japanese, and so on.

The German word:


pukingfratbro7 karma

What are your thoughts on lights out manufacturing?

Also, do you think US manufacturers do a good job of implementing and using SCADA systems?

LeanProf16 karma

Lights out manufacturing is already in existence in some factories in Asia (Fanuc), although I have not seen it myself. I am sure the use of robotics will increase, although they may not turn off the lights completely for some time. If you want to see the future of manufacturing, just visit a nearby oil refinery or petrochemical plant. There aren’t any workers there anymore, only chemists and some maintenance. In the 1950’s there were some big strikes in the US chemical industry. When the managers noted that they could run the factory at 80% efficiency without any workers, they just let them strike.

SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition): Don’t know the US that well on SCADA, but if Europe is any reference: There is lots of data collected, although usually not used very much. Some of the data is also probably unusable or less than useful due to some assumptions or boundary conditions (e.g. tracking batches through a mechanical vibrator that mixes up batches)

Edit: To clarify: With mechanical vibrator I mean something like this:

Matt_Warnert6 karma

Hi Chris, Love the blog. What general areas do think are best growth areas for a young professionals? and general advice for young professionals?

LeanProf16 karma

As for growth areas, there is no single answer. Find something that suits your talent and makes you happy. If for you happiness includes wealth, then a combination of math and verbal skills is often useful. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees usually pay better than liberal arts. It is difficult to plan a career ahead of time, but it includes a lot of luck and chance.

Some general tips:

  • Do get the best education you can have/afford. While people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg were successful without a university degree, for the average John Doe a degree helps with the career. Unskilled labor is already replaced by computers.
  • Be nice to people even if you don’t have to. In particular secretaries can really help you if they want to. Make friends, not only with higher ups.
  • Don’t always trust the official good news in the company, in reality it is often much more mediocre than in the fancy presentation
  • Go see for yourself, look at the real machines/customers/etc., rather than merely presentations and data

Again, always be nice to secretaries, they helped me a lot when I needed it most.

Edit: Forgot: Know how to use Excel, including formulas, and if possible also a bit of VBA!

exaybachay_5 karma

What are your views, in relation to manufacturing and in general as well, about technologies such as nanotechnology -- do you believe it will impact the future of manufacturing profoundly and society as a whole as many suggest (Peter Diamandis, "Radical Abundance", etc.)?

LeanProf10 karma

The increased automation and computerization (not only in manufacturing) will create a real challenge for society. If everything is done by machines, then nobody will have a job. Only the wealthy ones owning the machines will have money and power. This will have a huge impact on society, possibly within the next 30 years.

One possible solution out of this is a basic income for everybody, i.e. everybody getting paid USD 2500 per month, no questions asked. Currently, basic income models seem to be unaffordable, but this is the only solution I can see. The problem is the transition from our current economic model to a robotic-work.based one. We should trust our politicians to have good judgement and the ability to make wise decisions for the best of everybody … aah, who am I kidding, we are screwed.

As for Nanotechnology: It is a fad, useful for some applications but far from changing the world. Besides, it is around for much longer than the name itself.

Mike_from_HR5 karma

Hey Chris, random question. What is your favourite type of sandwich?

Edit: wording

LeanProf8 karma

My favorite sandwich is a sandwich that does not come alone, but with other sandwiches :P

I also like ham and eggs.

Timedoutsob4 karma

So the triple pack mix sandwich. Do they make three sandwiches stack them up and cut them or just make half sandwiches?

LeanProf6 karma

I was more thinking along a sandwich buffet...

When making sandwiches myself, I prefer to use a baguette, sliced in half, and covered with tomatoes, ham, cheese, salad, cucumbers and some mustard. In any case, now you have made me hungry ….

Timedoutsob4 karma

Yeah i'm a baguette man myself too, but damn if that stuff doesn't all fall out the side or worse still and you cut it to deep and the top breaks off. (sidenote: Yuck, tomatoes.) Sorry for making you hungry. edit: Well done with getting the book finished. Good luck with it.

LeanProf3 karma

Yes, it is messy eating. But isn't that a similar problem with hamburgers?

Edit: Grammar

Mike_from_HR4 karma

A fine choice.

Holy shit forgot about time zones, was not expecting a reply from an author at 10 pm about sandwiches.

LeanProf3 karma

Australia? Good Onya, Mate, spent six months in Melbourne.

makethewaldrop5 karma

Hello Chris! I am a Senior in High school and I'm finishing up my last year of a machining program at my vocational school. I already have a machinist job with a Fortune 500 manufacturer, but I would like to further my education. Particularly in the field of manufacturing.

I understand that machinist and operator jobs will soon be all automated and gone, so I plan on going to get my degree in automated manufacturing technology engineering. Do you believe this type of degree would keep me competitive in a ever changing job field like manufacturing? Thank you very much for your input!

LeanProf7 karma

Good thinking. As an operator you will be facing even more lay-offs in the next few decades than before. Qualifying yourself in automation and robotics related fields will give you a much better position, not to mention a much better income. You also have the plus of real shop floor experience as a machinist, which probably many of your academic peers won’t. Hence you also know the other side of the coin. This will help you later in distinguishing the good from the crap in management ideas, and also may help you to connect to the (remaining) people on the shop floor.

ilikepho4 karma

What, as a kid, got you into this line of work? Curious as an elementary teacher.

LeanProf3 karma

I always liked to tinker with gadgets. I taught myself programming as a teen (commodore 64), loved to take apart old devices that we were to throw out (still do), and generally was interested in technical and logical things. Plus I had parents who supported my interests.

As for becoming a lean expert: Pure chance. After my PhD in the USA I wanted to go to another foreign country (originally from Germany), and wanted to go to Japan. The only job offer I got was from Toyota, and – voila - now I am a lean expert.

piggachu4 karma

Hey Chris, Do you ever think 3d printing will ever get as fast as injection molding is today?

LeanProf5 karma

No. Injection molding is moving material as fast as it can without damaging it from internal friction. 3D printing always has to do this selectively. Hence, injection molding will always be faster.

Of course that is per part. If you include the time&cost necessary to make a mold, then 3D printing is already better for smaller lot sizes.

NotTooDeep3 karma

In the good old days (1980s), there was a hierarchy of ways to get parts made. Injection molding was the choice for making millions of parts; fast, repeatable, but high upfront costs for the molds. If you only needed thousands of parts, then thermoforming was the choice. Lower complexity in the tooling meant lower tooling costs. If you needed hundreds of parts, there was a manually made mold of silicone rubber that had hand poured thermoset plastics for the parts. This last one is probably replaced by 3D printing, which will always be slower and cheaper in upfront costs than injection molding. 3D printing will have to improve on surface quality to compete with thermoformed parts.

LeanProf2 karma

Agree. The surface quality of 3D parts is still lacking, and often requires further polishing etc. to be usable.

For injection molding there was also the option of steel mold (more expensive, lasts longer) and aluminum mold (cheaper, shorter lifespan). I have also heard of copper molds, but never seen them myself.

halfback9103 karma

Hi. I have worked in various positions in Supply Chain, both in vendor management and now in analysis (inventory, specifically).

When do you think my current role (inventory analyst) will be automated?

LeanProf2 karma

Difficult to say, but if you have the chance, try to move upward into management. As with most things, the change to automated inventory analysis will be gradual, and depending on your exact circumstances an administrator may get hit in 5 years or in 15, or in 30. At the moment I would not leave the position unless I have something better, but I would make sure that my skill set remains marketable and would continue to educate myself.

FITGuard3 karma

I would love to own and read your book, I am also very poor and do not have $60.00. What are my options?

LeanProf5 karma

Ask your local library if they could get a copy. Alternatively, the library of congress should have two copies.

FITGuard3 karma

Excellent, I didn't even know that was an option. #millennialProblems

LeanProf5 karma

Even if they don't have it, they may be able to get it from another library.

IsThisNameTaken71 karma

You'll be glad to know that nothing by you appears to be on Library Genesis.

LeanProf2 karma

Didn't even know the Library Genesis. But maybe my book is too new ...

noblessefan2663 karma

Hey Chris! Thanks for doing this, I just wanted to ask, as a writer, whenever you try to look back at something that you wrote when you just started out; what work made you feel good about yourself best? What was it about? Cheers!

LeanProf5 karma

My pleasure :). I wrote many academic papers in my career, but started writing for „non-scholars” only 5 years ago with my book, and 3 years ago with my blog. Looking at older blog posts, I am sometimes positively surprised what I wrote (I sometimes forget details, and are happy to find them again). What I like most about my writing is that I try to make it interesting and funny. In my book I put in lots of anecdotes and stories to make the history come to life. There are already too many dry and boring books out there, I don’t want to add to that.

Johan_NO2 karma


I'm sure you've heard Elon Musk claim that by increasing volumetric density, or productive volume to dead space ratio, he could increase the production capacity of their current plants 10-fold or more. What's your take on that? Is he in to something? Is this the next logical step in manufacturing?

LeanProf2 karma

He is on the right track, not sure about the 10fold. The less space you use, the less transport distance. I had one plant that had a 50% reduction in floor space (new highway going through), and gained a 100% productivity improvement (some outsourcing, though).

Drakonnan1802 karma

Hey Chris, i'm currently studying mechanical engineering and have been learning a lot about manufacturing processes. I've considered majoring in manufacturing because I find it extremely interesting in the processes behind how things are made. What tips would you have for someone in your field right after they graduate? Where/What kind of work did you look for once you graduated?

edit: Maybe also some tips that helped you get through university?

LeanProf2 karma

I love to see how things are made. I am enjoying the manufacturing basics class I am teaching every semester. As for tips after graduation: Check my other comment in this thread:

If you are majoring in manufacturing, make sure you stay on top of the automation and robotics side. No matter what field you will be in, this will surely help you. As for the exact field: Hard to say. It depends on your interest, and also the offers you get. I am pessimistic on the long term outlook of automotive (due to self-driving car), and optimistic about robotics and machine tool makers.

arminsson2 karma

Hi Chris Thanks for doing this! What are your thoughts about the decentralization of manufacturing as a trend? And also what do you think is going to be the next biggest revolution in manufacturing?

LeanProf2 karma

Decentralization: I still see more of a trend to larger factories, if possible with suppliers on site (e.g. automotive). Currently, economy of scale is still valid in most cases.

Next big thing: Besides the obvious (Computers & automation) I see big potential in better management. Now if we would only know how to get better management ….

Blitzableitoah2 karma


with you being in Germany at the moment, how do you see the future for the relatively strong manufacturing here? Will the system with the current Mittelstand be still stable, or will it decline like the manufacturing in the US? Thanks for this AMA!

LeanProf2 karma

The Mittelstand (Small and medium enterprises for the rest of the world) will be the backbone of the economy. While there is an economy of scale, smaller companies benefit from better communication (see NotTooDeep and his hubble telescope above ) .

DioTheFerocious2 karma

Hi Chris, thanks for doing this and congratulations on completing your first book.

What are your thoughts on Carbon Credits in the manufacturing industry and the effectiveness of this system? Do most manufacturing companies account for these credits. Also since you've worked in the US, Europe and Japan, how prominent is this system in each of these places? And whether the fact that these credits can be 'sold' to other organisations can lead to it becoming more of a 'business transaction' rather than an obligation to the environment and society?

LeanProf2 karma

Not too familiar with Carbon Credits, but like any KPI it can be and probably will be gamed. Imagine a company logging wood and reforesting again to grow the next batch (in 20 years). Nothing easier than taking a token of money and sell the “tree planted” to a company to offset carbon, even though they would have planted the tree anyway. I pretty much ignore such numbers as unreliable.

YoMothaFlippin2 karma

How does one develop an interest for "the history of manufacturing"?

Were you introduced to some kind of manufacturing at a young age?

Honest question, because most interests seem to come from childhood

LeanProf2 karma

I was always interested in technology. My parents also helped me. My das as an engineer often took us to see different plants. However, I hated history at school. History is usually a history of politics, and this bores me. Only in the last 15 years I read more and more books with an interesting social or technical history (e.g. Jared Diamond), and got interested. I also think technology shaped our current lives much more than any political change or war.

maloney10112 karma

Hello Chris, what is a good starting point for learning lean outside of a university setting? Are there particular organizations that are more reputable than others? Thanks.

LeanProf2 karma

Learning by doing. I do simulations with my students, with an open ended results. the resulting "factory" looks different every course.

It is like learning to ride a bicycle. No matter how many books you read, you learn only by riding a bike. Some universities have "lean clubs" where they do some jobs for industry for a little bit of money. In Germany I know the "Hochschulgruppe Lean" in Karlsruhe /KIT

rkim7772 karma

Thank you for an AMA from an expert like you. Earlier this year, Carrier moved their manufacturing from Connecticut to Mexico to save on labor costs. Offshoring is a trend now. How can the United States be made attractive and competitive for manufacturing plants again?

LeanProf3 karma

Reduce the power of the unions. Foreign investors stay away from closed shop states, and try to get “less unionized” locations. While in the past unions brought important and necessary benefits, currently they are more of a hindrance than a help. While nobody will officially admit this, it is often an important reason behind closed doors.

jacobrettebdel2 karma

Hey Chris,

I have been working for a systems integrator since graduating college 3 years ago with a degree in Applied Manufacturing Engineering with a concentration on design and automation. What advice do you have for me to keep me on the top of my field throughout my career?

LeanProf2 karma

Education. Never stop learning. But in design and automation you are well placed to face the future.

luckyk3v2 karma

With older government-driven industries like aerospace manufacturing — with old standards and practices driven into its culture — how do you see this industry moving out of its roots from old, manual manufacturing and tired facilities?

LeanProf2 karma

It is difficult to change a company culture. The larger it is, the more difficult. Having a new CEO with new ideas every 3 years does not help.

The usual way is for old companies to die and new ones to prosper, but of course the old companies don't like that, nor do their employees. And there is no guarantee that the new company will also be in the US. Not nice, but this survival of the fittest is necessary for industry.

richie_engineer2 karma

Advice on process engineering books:

1 What are your favorites;

2 What classics should still be read;

3 What is tired and needs to go away;

4 What new ones are worth looking into?


LeanProf2 karma

I like Michel Baudin's books. Other than that I don't read too many books, i was disappointed too often. But i guess I should read more.

Also, with slight bias, I recommend my blog :)

jondajaba2 karma

Hey Chris, do you see augmented reality, like the Microsoft HoloLens, playing any type of roll in manufacturing in the near future?

LeanProf2 karma

Not really. It is mostly to impress, look good and sell more products. Maybe in the future.

mynameisnotmac2 karma

Hello, Chris! I'm not sure if you are the proper person to answer this but I'm gonna ask anyway. As an architect, I'm aware that most of the new materials available after Industrial Revolution (steel, glass) led to mayor changes in the concept of space and how we inhabit it (the Modern Movement). Do you think that nowdays the materials, means or production or work force available have changed enough to the point that we can see a mayor change in the way we build cities or inhabit our private spaces?

LeanProf2 karma

Albert Kahn is a sub chapter in my book, how he revolutionized industrial architecture, the use of space and light. Cool guy.

Maybe not materials, but the internet makes remote working/home office much easier. I have at different times people working for me through , and my wife has Italian language classes with a native speaker in Italy through skype.

Bunkfoss2 karma

Hi Chris,

In a few words, how do you "sell" Lean to users who may be afraid/resistant of the paradigm?

In my experience, the fundamentals of Lean, when applied to a manufacturing environment, can save enormous amounts of rework, data mining, and ultimately money. However, often, my coworkers chastise it and say the efforts are a waste of time.

Thanks for doing this!

LeanProf6 karma

Lots of people got burned by a bad lean implementation. Some plants are outright hostile to “lean”. I usually avoid selling an idea, but instead try to help them with their problems. For me, lean starts with a problem. You work the problem, develop one (or better: Multiple) solutions, implement it, and check if it works. If you start by saying that we need to do kanban, 5S etc., you are starting with the solution rather than the problem. If during the solution process kanban comes up as helpful, do it, otherwise don’t. Try to help the people with their problems rather than “doing lean” for lean’s sake.

NotTooDeep3 karma

LOL! I used to work in aerospace manufacturing 20 years ago before changing careers to programming. We used to joke on the shop floor about the 'methodology du jour'. There was always some new manager with the hots for TQM or Lean or whatever. We used to place bets with each other on how long it would take before the new manager was 'transferred'. For all of the work that Deming and others put into telling management that they needed to engage the people on the shop floor, we rarely were asked for our input.

At my last small aerospace company, it was different. Managers and engineers would sometimes show up and tell us we were going to pass on some big contract because we couldn't afford the new machine tool that would be required to fulfill the big contract. The young toolmakers would huddle with the old toolmakers for a bit, and then tell the upper crust that we'd get back to them. Typically, we'd solve their problem in a day and have the proof of concept ready in a week, months ahead of the engineering for the part. Most of the time, the proof of concept became the production tooling.

Software engineering has a similar problem; Extreme Programming, Lean, Scrum (that has to be a dirty word), Agile, etc. Management can't see what we're doing and can't understand it when we show them, so we do what we do best and let the results speak for themselves. The process in software development is dominated by the individuals executing the process.

But I do miss aerospace manufacturing! Building parts for the Hubble repairs, building spy satellite structures, it was sexy and beautiful. I could work all weekend and Sunday night hold a $4 million part in my two hands that would keep our company solvent. My hands miss that so much.

LeanProf2 karma

Exactly. The usual response in the lower ranks is "bend and wait", i.e. keep a low profile until it is over and the next fad comes along. A lot of management is nowadays management by fads or by decree. Small companies often have much better communication. In a big company, development is often too good to talk to manufacturing.

Building parts for Hubble? Cool!

ThelostTaco1 karma

If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

LeanProf3 karma

Tursiops truncatus. Alternatively: Homo Sapiens

How about you?