Skeptics and critical thinkers (I count myself to the latter) may argue that Lean 4.0 is nothing more than a rebranding of good old Lean Manufacturing, and new opportunity to sell refurbished Lean Manufacturing training and consulting, boosted by the Industry 4.0 hype.
You have no clue what Lean 4.0 is? Read my post: What is Lean 4.0?
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It may be true, it may be more than that, but by the end of the day, if the name sticks and the community adopt and use it, it will make no difference.
Lean was known by many names before Lean
First thing to remember, in the early 1980s Lean was known by many names before ‘Lean’ was finally widely adopted.
I can’t remember but I assume that hardliners of that time had welcomed Lean as a mere rebranding of their beloved ‘just-in-time’ or ‘Japanese methods’, among the many names that were buzzing around then.
Nevertheless, Lean (manufacturing) made its way into industrial parlance before spreading to business at large, dropping the ‘manufacturing’ suffix on its way. Less than a decade later, the same criticism about rebranding would have ridiculed their author as the name Lean was totally accepted, fashionable and used.
Marketing of the opportunists
Each time a concept gets attention, is hype, opportunists coming out of the blue turn themselves into year-long experts overnight. It happened with Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, Operational Excellence, DDMRP and many more. With them, training courses and consulting offers soon flourish.
Some organizations propose to separate wheat from the chaff with certification programs, colored belts, etc. But in essence those are opportunists too, surfing the trendy wave. It doesn’t take long until ‘serious’ organizations come up with standards to stick to, and the compliance audits to sell. That’s business. It is unavoidable. And somehow I am part of it.
I like the idea of Lean 4.0
Despite the skeptics and the opportunists, I like the idea of Lean 4.0 as an evolution of Lean in the digital age. At the time of writing this post (March 2019), I have only the intuition that, even so Lean is highly adaptive, the technological wave and the growing digitalization will have an impact on Lean. Its adaptations and paradigm shifts may well justify to name it Lean 4.0.
Time will tell if more people share my points of view, if the name Lean 4.0 will make its way to general adoption and if it will stick. If not, a final post on the subject will close it. Until then you may be interested to subscribe to this blog and be notified for each new post.