Respecting the Customer: The Foundation for Just-in-Time

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 11-30-09

This is a guest post by Shawn Patterson from DTE Energy. You can learn more about Shawn from his LinkedIn profile, or as featured in Chapter 10 of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean.

Probably the most powerful attribute of the Toyota Production System is the deeply ingrained principles underpinning all of the concepts and tools that have been so oft studied. Just-in-Time is an example of the strong values that drove the revolutionary thinking of the founders of the Toyota Production System.

To many lean practitioners today, Just-in-time is at the highest level of lean principles. However, looking a little deeper at Just-in-time thinking, it was actually born out of a still higher principle—respect for the customer. To the TPS founders, burdening the customer (the next link the value chain) with delays or excess deliveries demonstrated a glaring disrespect for the customer. The ultimate respect that could be paid would be to fulfill customer demand when the customer needed the product or service. From the principle, the concept of Just-in-time was born.

This example illustrates the power of lean thinking. Getting it right at the highest principle level will drive the right actions and innovations. Getting a whole company to operate from those principles, though challenging, really is the holy grail.