In the fall of 2007, when the U.S. economy first seemed in peril, I began answering reader queries here on the Business Desk. I still do so occasionally, but this page has expanded to include posts from eminent economists, "far-flung correspondents," and a variety of voices that have intriguing and/or useful things to say about economics, broadly defined. Please feel encouraged to respond to any and all of them.
Has the "short supply chain" movement has caught on?
City & State:
Question/Comment: I was wondering if the "short supply chain" movement is also a movement into lean production techniques. I know that several companies (e.g., Toyota) have done it for years, but I was interested to know whether it has caught on.
Paul Solman: Lean production has indeed caught on. But in a sense, it caught on a long time ago. In fact, you could say lean production is the whole story behind the Industrial Revolution: making more with less. Every technological improvement (or productivity advance) in manufacturing is then an instance of lean production, from Henry Ford's Model T assembly line to the "continuous improvement" movement made famous by the Japanese in the '80s.
To the extent a short supply chain helps make more with less, it's an aspect of productivity progress. In today's terminology, that means "lean production."