Do You Have a Lean Gas Tank?

GTO gaugesI’ve already mentioned that I recently started reading The Toyota Way again.  Jeffrey Liker has a great example that illustrates an important Lean principal in a simple way.  He does a good job of illustrating Pull Systems, Just-In-Time (JIT), and Kanban with this one example.

Pull Systems were inspired by American supermarkets where individual items are replenished when that item begins to run low on the store shelf.  On the manufacturing floor, you don’t make or replenish a part until it is needed downstream.  Pull Systems led to Just-In-Time, and Kanban is the signal used to indicate that a part is needed.

The example used by Liker is the fuel tank in your automobile.  You drive your car keeping an eye on the gas gauge.  You pull into a gas or petrol station when your gauge indicates that you need more gas.  While I’m sure there are exceptions out there, you shouldn’t fill-up before you get to the pre-determined level (this gas gauge has red markings when you get down to 1/8 tank).  You shouldn’t exceed the capacity of your gas tank either.  Your gas gauge serves as the Kanban in this pull system.

Continuing with Liker’s example, in a push system, you would be at the mercy of the gas station and refuel when they want you to.  Not only would your tank always be full, you would probably have your trunk and garage full of gas cans.

Can you share any examples of push systems from your work site?


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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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3 Responses to Do You Have a Lean Gas Tank?

  1. gwkessler says:

    Great example !

  2. Don says:

    There are more examples related to a vehicle’s gas tank! For example, you can’t put a diesel pump into a gas tank; gas pumps have breakaway nozzles in case your forget to take the nozzle out before you drive off; the cap clicks to indicate that it’s locked; most new cars have the gas cap attached by a cord; there is an arrow next to your gas gauge to indicate which side the gas filler is on; more sophisticated car dash displays tell you how many km’s are left based on the fuel available and your drive habits.

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