If you really want to understand the application of Japanese management philosophy beyond its interpretation as Lean Manufacturing, forget about tech start...
This week, Mark Gevaux AKA The Ribman launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise £10k to pay for premises so that he can keep up with demand for his amazing sauce Holy Fuck.
Here's how Mark is operating in a Lean way;
keeps waste to a minimum by only making sauces to order (JIT)
focuses on value to his customers by prototyping and testing his potential new creations by offering them a sample from a silver flask
he gets to know his customers through Twitter and conversations at his stall
keeps inventory to a minumum by making sure he only ever cooks what he believes he can sell on his stall
avoids sunk costs by uses existing platforms such as Blogger, Twitter, PayPal and now KickStarter
keeps his stalls simple and functional apart from a bit of Hammers decoration
I don't know anything about his supply chain but I bet he shares revenue with farmers (he's a trained butcher) in order to guarantee high quality and rapid release of materials.
All of this produces an incredible product which I've purchased a few times online as well as visited many times at Camp Bestival, KERB and Brockley Market.
And now, with his Kickstarter project, he's minimising his exposure to risk on sunk costs by crowdsourcing capital from his customers. With this he's planning to buy two shipping containers, one for a kitchen and one for storage, which he says will allow him to increase production to over 1k bottles per week.
Which is Holy Fucking awesome.
I asked him if he'd studied or thought about this kind of stuff before, which he responded to in about 25 seconds;
Perishable goods seems a good fit for Lean thinking because managing and avoiding waste and focusing on customer value should naturally be an important part of the process. The way in which Yiannis Papoutsis grew his MEAT empire was similar - he had a small amount of redundancy money from his job as a mechanic for a touring ballet and used it to buy a burger van and create the best burger he could possible create. Albeit Yiannis turned to a more conventional method of raising capital and very quickly opened a few different joints.
Right now, Mark knows instinctively that his biggest constraint is his manufacturing capability and he's combatting this constraint by playing to one of his best strengths, his loyal following.
I guess to some people it comes naturally.