I have been re-reading Henry Fords book My Life and Work. I got the idea to re-read this from Walter Lowell, the Lean Initiative Director at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. It is available as an e-book from The Project Gutenberg (see below).

In this wonderful book Ford talks about how he developed the horseless carriage. In terms of efficiency and lean use of energy, this was one of the first innovative engineering ideas that contributed to the industrialization of America. We all know the story and how it developed including Henry’s idea of interchangeable parts and, I would argue, one of the first Value Stream Mapping demonstrations of the lean use of people using the manufacturing production line. This led me to thinking about our current manufacturing dilemma in America and how my professional training in job analysis and vocational rehabilitation could begin to create some solutions for our manufacturing industry in America. More importantly my client base everyday is growing with 50 something men and women who only know how to use their hands to make stuff. They find themselves unemployed or underemployedand worn out from $8.00 dollar an hour service jobs and in dire need of some real work and a livable wage. They have worked in construction and manufacturing and now can’t find anything reasonable to do.

All political rhetoric aside it is a real problem for many American citizens both disabled and able bodied. How can lean thinking utilized by our government and manufacturing sector begin to solve this problem. What would Henry do?

As I read Henry’s book I looked for inspiration to combine all this evolving knowledge I have recently gained with the problem of our shrinking industrial base and my charge to help individuals with disabilities and related barriers find and maintain gainful employment in an integrated and competitive employment environment. This was the first quote I decided to build upon.

“The Government is a servant and never should be anything but a servant. The moment the people become adjuncts to government, then the law of retribution begins to work, for such a relation is unnatural, and inhuman.”

I guess that means that if the governmentis creating useless jobs that do not grow the economy then in the end an unproductive dependency is created. But workforce development programs going back to the Conservation Corp have contributed to our economic development in this country including the development of the interstate system and many other infrastructure projects that support and sustain businesses in our country.

Lean government proponents would do well to combine value stream mapping and other LSS toolswith workforce development programming and provide a boost to our manufacturing sector. What an idea… use Henry’s Fords evolved manufacturing ideas combined with job analysis and employability development models and put our citizens back to work making stuff. What stuff? Stuff that comes from natural resources found in America. This is not entitlement but rather building on our historical strengths.

Lean thinking is a transformational concept that must remain part of our entrepreneurial and public sector strategic planning. Where’s the muda?


Ford, Henry – My Life and Work, The Project Gutenberg: Release Date: January, 2005 [EBook #7213] Produced by Marvin Hodges, Tom Allen, Tonya Allen, Eric Eldred, Charles Franks, and the DP Team The Gutenberg Project

About the Author