The Newsletter of Lean Manufacturing Strategy

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Case Study

The Great Nuclear Fizzle



Focused Factory Series

Key Manufacturing Task

Implementing Lean






1 March 2006                       www.strategosinc.com

What Is Manufacturing Strategy?

The Great Nuclear Fizzle At Babcock & Wilcox

This classic case study from Wickham Skinner describes the sea of troubles surrounding Babcock & Wilcox in the 1960's. These included high costs, delivery failures, technology problems, quality issues, labor troubles, lawsuits, personality conflicts and the suicide of a key manager. Skinner traces all of this to a single issue: B&W's failure to identify their "Key Manufacturing Task."

Manufacturing Strategy derives from the Greek word Strategos that translates as "the General's art". The word retains much of its original meaning: 

  • Decisions and actions with long-term and wide-ranging consequences.

  • Pinpointing vulnerabilities in the opponent's position.

  • Exploiting resources and deployment relative to opponents.

  • Using topography, and technology for advantage.

Manufacturing Strategy ensures a match, or congruence, between the company's markets and the capabilities of production. It addresses issues that include:

  • Capacity

  • Facilities

  • Technology

  • Suppliers

  • Quality

  • Scheduling

  • Materials

  • Organization

  • Personnel 

The Great Nuclear Fizzle also demonstrates why Lean Manufacturing should be tailored for each individual firm. An unthinking use of another company's (or even division's) Manufacturing Strategy is often dangerous. 

A version of this case study is available for free download on our website. It comes with new and expanded teaching notes. I hope you find The Great Nuclear Fizzle interesting and useful.

All the best from the Strategos team.

Quarterman Lee

"Life In A Workcell" Video

The Human Side of Lean Manufacturing

Workers design and build their own workcell. It shows how the human and technical elements of Lean Manufacturing interact.  An ideal introduction for the shop floor. More Info>>

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