Mean Joe Lean Is ‘Hopping Mad’

These are stressful times, and we all need to let off steam. When such a release comes from a well-placed automotive executive in a room of journalists, it's bound to be newsworthy.

Never one to hold his tongue, Freudenberg-NOK Chairman and Chief Executive Joseph Day says he's “hopping mad” that the North American auto industry has failed to embrace lean manufacturing. And he derides “cottage” practitioners of the discipline in late September as he unveils The Lean Center, which will teach the efficiency-oriented practices popularized by Toyota Motor Corp.

Sponsored by Freudenberg-NOK, the Lean Center offers several training programs (for a fee) to other Tier 1 suppliers, with the hope of selling those services to sub-tier suppliers as well. The center is led by President Thomas Faust, former vice president of continuous improvement at Freudenberg-NOK.

A year ago, Mr. Day supported the newly created Michigan Manufacturing Technical Center in Plymouth, MI, as a lean resource for suppliers. But he has since parted ways with MMTC, saying the center focuses its education on the classroom instead of the shop floor.

Likewise, Mr. Day criticizes his friend Dennis Pawley, former executive vice president of worldwide manufacturing for DaimlerChrysler Corp. Mr. Pawley also was recently affiliated with MMTC but has since gone on to pursue his own waste-cutting initiative with the Lean Learning Center in Farmington Hills, MI.

“He does classroom training — it's not learn by doing,” Mr. Day says. “It's learn by sitting, and it won't help the industry.” He also lashes out at the industry for being more concerned with saving a nickel than with eliminating waste.

Without a stronger commitment to lean, Mr. Day says, the survival of the North American auto industry is at risk.