In manufacturing and particularly in the automotive sector, lean means eliminating waste; single-piece flow, 5s activities, value stream mapping …. . All that effort to save what might be less than 1 penny per piece attributable to waste. So what does lean manufacturing have to do with the bankruptcy of Chrysler … absolutely nothing and absolutely everything. It just depends on how you define the end of the manufacturing process.

So if you define the process of manufacture to end with the receipt of indefeasible, final payment for goods produced, the question is, in a world economy with international competition, “How Many Lawyers Can Fit in a Chrysler Bankruptcy”

Well as of the end of the 21st day the answer is 414 or 27.6 added each business day (the .6 is an associate). This number is based on the total number of lawyers filing “Notices of Appearance” so that the lawyer can make filings and appear before the court. The 414 number does not include the minions of lawyers who are back at the offices and who will not see the light of day until this bankruptcy is over. What is the ratio of lawyers appearing to lawyers providing support … there is no way to know.

The 414 number also does not include the federal government lawyers who are working behind the scenes. Only PBGC lawyers, 5 of them, have made appearances. We never have really thought about it but we guess that US Treasury lawyers don’t have to enter appearances (or maybe the US Treasury lawyers don’t want to appear). Well how many times have you seen the US Government provide DIP Financing anyway. They probably just don’t know how to act.

So who has the most lawyers appearing in the Chrysler bankruptcy – the prize goes to Chrysler at 11 lawyers. The UAW is a close second with 7 lawyers entering appearances. We don’t want to embarrass anyone so we won’t publish the list. Just be advised that there are a lot of suppliers being represented by more than 2 lawyers and there are several being represented by more than 5. Definitely not lean. How many lawyers does it take to … .

Of course, from a competition standpoint, the good news is that Chrysler already has a significant number of overseas suppliers. Based on the assumed supplier contract list, 27 from Japan, 26 from Germany, 23 from Mexico, 21 from China, 5 from Taiwan 4 from India. To these suppliers we have only one thing to say: Surprise, Surprise, Surprise.

So these types of legal costs are just a cost of doing business in the United States. Right? … Yes, exactly the point. The simple fact is that no industrial society on the face of this ever shrinking, ever more competitive world imposes the legal costs/burdens on manufacturing that ours does. How is the US automotive sector going to survive unless it can get lean from beginning to end?

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