Financial media mavens were quick to accuse Bloomberg Businessweek of a bait and switch when its April 30 issue hit the street. There on the cover was a photo of a menacing, slickly dressed businessman wielding a chainsaw behind the headline “My Life in Private Equity.” Inside, however, was a positive story about how a small private equity shop was using the much-celebrated Toyota Production System to improve efficiencies at manufacturing companies it owned. “Bloomberg Businessweek should be ashamed of itself,” scolded Fortune.com’s Dan Primack. He said that in the name of selling magazines, the rival publication went with a cover that’s “a direct misrepresentation of what Businessweek put inside its own pages. Shameful.”
With its blood-red lettering, grainy background and black-and-white imagery, the magazine invokes Patrick Bateman, the Wall Streeter/serial killer at the center of the satirical-novel-turned-horror-flick “American Psycho.” That was no accident, as we learn from At-edge.com, a photography blog that notes the Businessweek team had settled on “American Psycho” to create an iconic image of Wall Street greed. Trouble is, the story doesn’t appear to be about greed — let alone Wall Street. It’s not really about private equity, either.
The piece was written by Brendan Greeley, who joined a two-week boot camp run by Monomoy Capital Partners for managers of manufacturers in its portfolio. Four times a year, about 20 managers gather at a Monomoy-owned plant to suggest and carry out efficiencies based on Toyota’s system, which itself stems from the Japanese concept of kaizen, or, as Businessweek explains, continuous improvement.
Greeley is impressed, especially after he personally helps create a more efficient way for orders to be communicated between the office and warehouse floor at Scottsboro, Ala.-based Heat Transfer Products Group, a maker of industrial refrigeration parts that Monomoy bought in 2010 from Carrier. (“I raise my hands in triumph,” he reports.) There’s been a net job loss of 75 at HTPG since it was acquired by Monomoy, but sales are up, as are on-time deliveries, thanks to kaizen. “To survive, you cut people,” Greeley writes.
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