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11 November 2011


This story hits home for me. I was raised in Evansville and knew a lot of people that worked for Whirlpool. In 2006, I was looking for a new job and I had a neighbor try to recruit me to work for Whirlpool. I said absolutely no way. Even then they had a horrible reputation for how they treated people and the writing was on the wall for the future closing of that once great facility. What struck me most was my neighbors comment about my line of work. When he found out I was a lean person he said, "Oh you have it easy then. All you have to do is sit in meetings all day and think about how it could be better. Not change anything.". Wow! That speaks volumes for the way Whirlpool views lean.

I bust your chops pretty hard over your political leanings but posts like this are why I keep coming back here. Good and valuable research. I understand that government regulations can be burdensome but nothing does damage like stupid managers. And Whirlpool seems to have cornered the market on them.

Just for laughs, google Whirlpool product reviews. Seems that, if you buy a Whirlpool product, your chances are at least even that you won't like it.

Thanks for the feedback on my short piece about the early days of lean manufacturing at Whirlpool. You raise some good topics for discussion. However, as a long-time proponent and advocate of lean manufacturing practices, I find some of your comments a bit harsh.

I think it’s important to point out that the article you question was merely an historical perspective. Despite my inquiries, Whirlpool provided no input on this piece. Therefore, my material was based on articles that we published more than 15 years ago. Also, my piece was written before Whirlpool’s recent layoff and plant closing announcement.

I always maintain a neutral stance and report just the facts. As a result, I never condone or condemn operational practices at any specific manufacturer. My intent with this piece was to take readers on a short trip back to the past. I believe that hindsight can be a powerful lean tool from which we can all learn.

Comment posted to Assembly Mag:
Having stumbled across this and followed the links to the other writings, I think, Mr. Sprovieri, you may have missed the point of Mr. Meyer’s comments. The distinction is between lean and LAME (as defined here: http://www.leanblog.org/2007/03/lean-or-lame/ )

Your suggesting that you feel Mr. Meyer ‘seems to be confusing the issues of lean manufacturing and outsourcing’ further shows that your inclination is to see tool use as evidence of being a lean organization. Although common, this is not true to how those organizations that are truly following the underlying philosophy of what is often referred to as ‘lean’ understand it.

Mr. Weber, in his comments to Mr. Meyer’s article, points out that he was unable to get any help of comment for his articles directly from Whirlpool. For those that ‘get it’, that is evidence enough that Whirlpool does not.

Looking for tools, and monitoring Mass-production metrics will only allow you to see what you are looking for. Again, for those that really know, true lean does not support traditional GAAP-metrics, so if you see the latter, you will not likely see the former; only the trappings, thus LAME.

Might I suggest that you and Mr. Weber contact Mr. Norman Bodek and ask him about his current thoughts on the proper implementation of what Toyota (and others) have learned over the years? I think you may find that his thoughts (if not literary style) align fairly well with Mr. Meyer’s.

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