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Jon Miller

Quality Insider

Book: Total Flow Management

Achieving excellence with kaizen and lean supply chains

Published: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - 09:23

Total Flow Management: Achieving Excellence with Kaizen and Lean Supply Chains, by Euclides A. Coimbra (Kaizen Institute, 2009), has been distributed only within Kaizen Institute and among its customers. Now this book is available to all and will surely join the classics on the practical application of Toyota Production System principles to supply-chain design.

Coimbra is a senior consultant and managing director of Kaizen Institute with more than two decades of experience teaching, designing, and implementing lean systems. Across 280 sheets of A4 size paper, this book attempts nothing less than a full explanation of internal and external logistics systems that enable lean supply chains.

For any student of continuous improvement, this book is a pleasure to read. The 17 chapters are filled with detailed charts, photos, flow diagrams, and other useful graphics, many in color. The writing is clear and direct.

Some readers may be put off by the frequent and unapologetic use of Japanese terms for lean concepts, such as junjo for sequence, mizusumashi for water spider, and gemba for shop floor, but there are far more technical terms in English introduced in this book. All of them are of high value and utility, not intended to impress the reader with jargon.

The book is divided in three sections. Part one reviews the lean paradigms and “thought habits” relevant to converting a traditional supply chain into a lean one. The author goes on to introduce Company A as the case study around which the book is built, and sketches out the lean supply chain concepts which will follow. For intermediate to advanced students of lean, it may be interesting to stop reading at chapter 3, study the current-state information for Company A, and attempt to draw up a future-state plan for a lean supply chain. Readers can check their understanding against the content in chapters 4–13 and then compare their conclusions with the actual implementation of Total Flow Management at Company A, described in chapter 17. This approach can be used by university lecturers to develop a case study exercise for students, as a team exercise among operations managers and directors, or for employers when designing interview question for potential lean leaders.

Part two of the book is a 160-page feast of lean systems and tools as they apply to internal and external logistics. Chapter by chapter, the author walks the reader through topics including line layout and design, material replenishment, standard work, single minute exchange of dies (SMED), low-cost automation, supermarkets, water spiders, synchronization, leveling, pull planning, external logistics and warehouse design, milk runs, customer service policies, delivery flows, and logistics planning. All the while, Coimbra uses examples and illustrations, never shirking away from difficult topics, and raising the cons along with the pros of designing a lean supply chain.

Part three of the book, How to Implement Total Flow Management, deals primarily with grasping the current situation, establishing a vision and plan, taking action “the kaizen way,” and finally reviewing what was actually done at Company A. Supplemented by a list of projects and actions taken during the total flow management implementation at Company A, the final chapter provides valuable insight into the steps taken in an actual lean logistics transformation.

The book’s appendices add value by providing descriptions of kanban loops, kanban calculations for various types, pull planning algorithms for logistics and production, and a set of total flow management self-assessment scorecards. The lack of a glossary is a glaring omission, considering the wealth of lean terms and concepts and the high number of Japanese terms used throughout the book. The book ends abruptly by concluding the story of Company A, without afterword or final words of inspiration for the reader. For all its rich depth and detail, it is a lean book in substance and spirit.

Disclosure: Total Flow Management was published by Kaizen Institute, my employer. The author Euclides Coimbra is my respected colleague within Kaizen Institute. It is my pleasure but not my duty to review this book.


About The Author

Jon Miller’s picture

Jon Miller

Jon Miller is co-founder of Gemba Research LLC where he leads development efforts including consulting solutions, training materials, and establishing internal consulting standards. Miller was born in Japan and lived there for 18 years. In 1993 Miller was fortunate to start his career working with consultants who were students of Taiichi Ohno. Since 1998 he has led dozens of lean transformation projects in a wide range of industries. Miller has taught kaizen in 15 countries for more than 15 years. He is a frequent contributor of articles to a variety of publications and written more than 800 articles on lean manufacturing, kaizen, and the Toyota Production System on Gemba’s blog.