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Issue: October 2008 APPLIANCE Magazine

Appliance Line
Business in the Future Will Be Brutal

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Tim Somheil, Editor

Standard industry practices will include public executions, exploitation of space-time wormholes, and open warfare with competitors.

Tim Somheil, Editor

This is the 73rd Century, as portrayed in Lean 9001: Battle for the Arctic Rose, a science fiction novel portraying future society organized around corporations, not nations. Two of those corporations—ARC and the Krotes—are vying for dominance in the market for the most valuable tree in the universe. ARC has a secret strategic weapon: the long-lost tactics of Lean and ISO 9001.

ISO 9001 is not a thrilling theme for a work of fiction, but Arctic Rose authors John Guderian and Timothy Renaud have created an enjoyable story that really does give the reader insight into the principles behind Lean and ISO 9001. Along with the instructional intent, the book succeeds here and there as a true technothriller.

Good sci-fi technothrillers hold reader interest with appealing technology, which needs to be described in enough detail to be plausible without reading like an engineering manual.

In fact, well-written descriptions of technology can make an otherwise dull book readable—take Michael Crichton’s Timeline or Jules Verne’s The Carpathian Castle. Verne’s 1892 literary stinker is noteworthy as one of the first technology-driven novels. It’s the story of a Transylvanian village plagued by supernatural-seeming disturbances until the hero exposes the disturbances as nothing but high-tech trickery worked by a fiendish local baron. Verne’s story provided enough science to make the existing and even the speculative technology seem plausible, and left the reader eager to learn more about it.

Good Corp./Bad Corp.

Arctic Rose does actually manage to create the same sort of reader eagerness to explore its subject further, even when the plot progression seems too carefully planned. This is particularly true when the Krotes discover ARC’s secret strategy and jump on the Lean/ISO 9001 bandwagon themselves.

But the book must follow this path to illustrate how the two companies implement Lean and ISO 9001—one conscientiously, the other recklessly. The payoff to all the plot machinations comes in watching the good guys achieve real process improvement while the bad guys go down in flames.

Lean and ISO 9001 methodologies can be extremely beneficial for appliance producers if integrated properly. Like any enterprisewide initiative, it can only be successful if it has strong support. Even the people in lower-level roles in the company need to understand the rationale behind new practices if they’re going to support it day after day. A book like Arctic Rose is not a how-to manual, but it may help your people grasp the Lean basics. You do come away from this book with an understanding of several vital Lean concepts.

And there are some very amusing what-not-to-do sequences that keep you interested. My personal favorite is a scene in which Damar, Krote’s VP of operations, has just ordered a quality control manager shot and hung from a tree branch for rejecting too much product. But Damar worries that his actions may be overly harsh and compel the other inspectors to allow too much substandard product to get shipped.

That would be bad—Damar recalls a previous instance in which an inspector gave the OK on a shipment of product that was actually so bad the customer refused delivery. The losses in shipping costs were huge.

Damar executed the inspector himself and sent the inspector’s head to the customer in a box. One would have thought that the personal attention would have made the client happy.

“But,” Damar laments, “the customer never dealt with us again.”

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