[Book Review] The Lean Enterprise: From the Mass Economy to the Economy of One

Lean management as a tool to improve corporate performance is nothing new. However, a book discussing lean management in light of the customer-centric economy has not been around. 

"The Lean Enterprise", a practically-focused new book by Alexander Tsigkas, covers exactly this intersection. Alexander Tsigkas is an Assistant Professor at Democritus University of Thrace, Greece, and a Mass Customization enthusiast since many years.

The Lean Enterprise CoverThe Lean Enterprise: From the Mass Economy to the Economy of One, by Alexander Tsigkas. Published by Springer.

The book is divided into three part:

Part I. The rising
economy of “one” gives an overview of what is changing in the social
system of production, focusing on the shrinking role of central planning
and the rising power of individuation in the value creation chain. 

Part II. "Lean
eEnterprise in theory" refers to the principles of lean thinking, the
transfer of lean philosophy from East to West, and discusses the
necessary adaptation to the Western way of thinking and practice. It
presents a practice-proven method for achieving a lean integrated demand
and supply chain and analyses in detail the related implementation
steps. Criteria for the successful transition of a company to a lean
state are presented.

Part III. "Lean Enterprise in Practice" provides a number of implementation cases in different types of
production companies using the method presented in Part II. The goal is
to help the reader comprehend how the method can be applied to real
lean implementation situations in resolving various issues, ranging from
production to the supply chain. A vision of implementation to lean
electricity rounds out the book.

In his book, Alexander Tsigkas

  • shows a methodical step-by-step way to design and implement lean
    management, in production, in logistics in cost accounting and
    procurement and in Sales and Marketing 
  • demonstrates numerous case studies from a wide range of industrial fields, helping the reader to learn how to proceed from theory to practice quickly   
  • presents a unique way of how to use the method for repositioning lean management when needed
  • offers a European way to lean management: a method-based
    implementation instead of a principle and tools based Japanese philosophy.


Alexander tsigasIn an email interview, we has some questions for the author. Here are the answers.

FTP: For
interested readers it is not difficult to find books on lean management, lean
enterprise, lean production and so on. What sets your new book apart from the
already existing competition on the market?

AC: What I wanted to achieve with this book is to merge "Lean Thinking" and "Lean Practice" with the increasingly individualization and
customization of products and services addressing markets of one.
This is not
only a technical aspect, but as as far as I am concerned, this mix comprises
the key substrate of a new social system of production currently emerging away
from mass production.

A large number of the books available in the market
reproduce lean principles based on the Toyota Production System without any
critical reflection as whether they fit or not the western way of thinking and
acting. They are usually of general purpose and case studies from real factory
life are limited. Last but most important, they realy do not reveal how exactly
"pull" in the factory can be achieved, and if they do there is no method
behind as to how to design optimal "pull" of work and materials in
different production environments.

FTP: In your book you present a “European way” to lean management Can you explain what exactly that means and what is
unique about it?

AC: In Europe and I would add also the US, production is driven
mainly by engineers. The western way of thinking and acting is more engineering
oriented and less workers oriented as it is the case in Japan where the culture
of continuous improvement is written into their "DNA" (sort of
saying). In Europe (and the US), engineering based factory means that
improvements come mainly through the engineers, who love to design systems
(also production systems), set them for operation in production, observe them
for some period of time and if they need improvement they redesign some part of
it or all of it, at some point in time.

The every day continuous improvement way
of the Japanese is culturally not compatiblble with the western way of thinking
and acting. Where it is implemented, it is executed imposed by force by the
management, with usually high effort and therefore costs compared to
the benefits achieved. Why therefore impose a way of lean thinking and practice
that is strange to the local culture and not using the culture to proceed at a
methodical and more engineering based way of Design for Lean Production and
time discontinued improvement? 

FTP: Which
groups do most benefit from reading your book? Is is aimed more towards the
manager in a large multinational company or can SME profit from the findings
and implications as well?

AC: The book is aimed towards both the manager
in a large multinational company as well as the managers of an SME. Exactly
because it a method based process, it can be adapted and used to be
implemented in many different company environments. The cases show exactly how to adapt and implement the method in large
enterprises as well as SME. Almost half of the book is
dedicated to implementations covering various cases and

Furthermore, this book also addresses the academic community
which needs more insight into the theory and method that support lean in
connection to customization practice.

FTP: Alexander, thank you very muc — and I hope your book will find a wide audience.  See you at the MCP-CP 2012.

By | 2018-06-14T06:54:01+00:00 September 10th, 2012|Books, Cases-Industrial|

About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.