Lean Manufacturing in Italy

A few days ago I have spoken with the Industrial Director of an important manufacturing multinational company based in Italy. To give you an idea, they have several factories in Italy and a few in other countries, typically in the developing world. They are clearly a worldwide leader in their business.

He’s a friend of mine, so the conversation was without any limitation and absolutely confidential. Of course, I cannot disclouse his name, nor company’s one.

He is responsible for all factories production. He was helding a similar position at a local level in a much bigger US multinational company, a very very well known one, where he had the opportunity to see lean manufacturing in practice. Before that, he had just studied about lean, but nothing beyond that.

I was asking him: “How much is lean adopted in Italy?”
“Not that much”, he said. “There are managers that don’t know about it, even if the majority probably knows it. But the problem is that in reality it is not put in practice. There are companies that talk about lean concepts, but they are keeping it only at the surface.”
Me: “Does it mean that almost all manufacturing companies are still sticking to Fordism and Taylorism? Or better, are they imitating Taylorism?”
Him: “Yes, sort of. If you are lucky you find somebody who has read something about lean, but not more. To give you an example, I’m looking for 2 Quality Managers for 2 factories, one here in Italy and the other one in [CLASSIFIED]: I’m not able to find anybody with practical experience in lean manufacturing. Only talking about it, trying to picture themselves in good shapes because they have read a couple of books. By the way the position is lucrative, the role is ambitous, but that doesn’t help either!”

This situation is pretty common in Italy. There are many sectors where we are simply following many steps back behind other leading nations. This is sad, because there are capable people, willing to try new things, but not enough entrepreneurs or venture capitalists willing to take some risks. In theory we are prepared. In practice we are sleeping. We don’t risk that much, but we are constantly declining away. There’s an atmosphere that reminds me the fall of an empire, but without any imperial heritage. Well, not recent anyway.

One Response to “Lean Manufacturing in Italy”

  1. Marco Says:

    He should consider himself lucky because I usually meet people who say “lean…mmm…you mean that Japanese thing?”

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