“The automaker last month created a single group, staffed with 200 employees, to manage the Toyota Production System, centralizing a function that was spread out through the organization. Their task is to evaluate how core concepts like kaizen, or continuous improvement, can be applied to new businesses that include car sharing and consumer robots. The person in charge is 59-year-old Shigeki Tomoyama, a career Toyota executive who wields a tablet computer during events, making him look more like a Silicon Valley software engineer than a car guy. […] Akio Toyoda says the automaker his grandfather founded eight decades ago needs to move faster to keep up with the likes of Google and Uber Technologies Inc. […] In the last two years, Toyota has opened a Silicon Valley research center”
Source: Bloomberg Technology
Michel Baudin‘s comments: The article includes a group photo of the original Gazoo group from 1997 that includes both Tomoyama and current Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda:
Gazoo is an internet portal created by Toyota that is in sharp contrast with the brochureware websites of other automakers, featuring, among other things, articles about classic cars, used cars, road trips in Japan, and entertainment devices for kids during drives. This article is the first reference to Gazoo that I have seen in the American press. It’s unfortunate because Gazoo has been online since 2000 and is an approach to car marketing that deserves attention.
Kobe Steel CEO apologizing (10/2017)
“Companies Everywhere Copied Japanese Manufacturing. Now the Model Is Cracking. Concepts celebrated in business publications worldwide have been tarnished by a string of scandals.
Japan’s reputation for flawless manufacturing quality and efficiency transformed the country’s postwar economy, changed business practices worldwide and spawned a library’s worth of management manuals and business advice books. Now, the model is cracking.
Kobe Steel Ltd., Mitsubishi Materials Corp., and Subaru Corp. have all admitted in recent months to manipulating quality inspections, though all say no safety problems emerged. Takata Corp. declared bankruptcy last year after admitting to supplying more than 50 million defective vehicle airbags in the U.S. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has admitted covering up vehicle faults and falsifying fuel-economy data.”
Sourced from The Wall Street Journal
Michel Baudin‘s comments: What does the Volkswagen diesel emission scandal say about eyeglass lenses and telescopes made by Zeiss or A320s assembled by Airbus in Hamburg? Nothing. Factories for these companies are all located in the same country but a lapse by one is just that, and the Wall Street Journal did not publish articles suggesting that it made a statement about German industry as a whole. When it comes to Japan, however, this is exactly what they are doing with this article, assuming there is such a thing as “Japanese manufacturing,” which is blemished by the misbehavior of any Japanese company.
Michael Ballé opens his 1/29/2018 Gemba Coach column with “all methodologies are about making a better use of our minds.” Are they? Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister disagree. In Peopleware, they describe methodologies as follows:
“A Methodology is a general systems theory of how a whole class of thought-intensive work ought to be conducted. It comes in the form of a fat book that specifies in detail exactly what steps to take at any time, regardless of who is doing the work, regardless of where or when. The people who write the Methodology are smart. The people who carry is out can be dumb. They never have to turn their brains to the ON position. All they do is start on page one and follow the Yellow Brick Road, like happy little Munchkins, all the way from the start of the job to its successful completion. The Methodology makes all the decisions, the people make none.”
“Strategy deployment is a powerful way to get the leadership team involved in the lean journey.For a long time, I’ve been dismissive of organizations that want to start their lean journeys with hoshin kanri, (also known as strategy deployment). When you’ve got a company where people are not engaged (at best) or suspicious of management (at worst), it seems to me that getting people involved in everyday improvement to make their jobs easier is a better place to start.[…] Until now. Recently, my colleague and friend Katie Anderson pointed out something I’ve completely missed: that strategy deployment is a powerful way to get the leadership team involved in the lean journey.”
Sourced through IndustryWeek
Michel Baudin‘s comments: As I have great respect for both Dan Markovitz and Katie Anderson, I have to paraphrase Judge Haller from My Cousin Vinny, “That is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out argument… Overruled.”
The flaw I see in Dan’s argument is that it only addresses employee engagement, which isn’t the only reason to start with local, tactical shop-floor projects with both technical and managerial content. In an organization that is just starting on its journey, the successful initial projects are most commonly setup time reduction or cell conversion of a process segment. Besides engaging employees, they also produce tangible improvements, develop technical and managerial skills, and let leaders emerge.
Amonth ago, a reader asked Michael Ballé “If lean really is about innovation, why does so much of it seem to be about logistics, with truck preparation areas, leveling boxes, small trains, kanbans and so on?” His short answer “because logistics is the way into innovation” is a head scratcher and I fail to see any support for this assertion in the rest of his response.
While TPS and, more generally, the Toyota Way are innovative in the management and technology of operations, discussions of innovation are usually about products. Even in the car industry, which companies come to mind today about product innovation? Which ones would you want to learn from? Most likely not Toyota but Tesla for its electric cars and Alphabet/Google’s subsidiary Waymo for self-driving cars, both based in Silicon Valley.
Bodo Wiegand heads Germany’s Lean Management Institute. In his latest newsletter, on Wiegand’s Watch, he explains his concerns about the future competitiveness of German companies. Here is my full translation of his article, followed by my comments:
Bodo Wiegand: “A huge potential is not realized and simply left fallow – can we really afford that?
I think we cannot afford it.
In China and India, more engineers are trained each year than we have in Germany in total, and then we fail to exploit the huge potential of the engineers we have. Why? Because we do not want to give up our fiefdoms, our functional thinking and our single-minded concern for our turf.
Six years ago, one of the first posts in this blog — Is SPC Obsolete? — started a spirited discussion with 122 comments. Reflecting on it, however, I find that the participants, including myself, missed the mark in many ways:
- My own post and comments were too long on what is wrong with SPC, as taught to this day, and too short on alternatives. Here, I am attempting to remedy this by presenting two techniques, induction trees and naive Bayes, that I think should be taught as part of anything reasonably called statistical process control. I conclude with what I think are the cultural reasons why they are ignored.
- The discussions were too narrowly focused on control charts. While the Wikipedia article on SPC is only about control charts, other authors, like Douglas Montgomery or Jack B. Revelle, see it as including other tools, such scatterplots, Pareto charts, and histograms, topics that none of the discussion participants said anything about. Even among control charts, there was undue emphasis on just one kind, the XmR chart, that Don Wheeler thinks is all you need to understand variation.
- Many of the contributors resorted to the argument of authority, saying that an approach must be right because of who said so, as opposed to what it says. With all due respect to Shewhart, Deming, and Juran, we are not going to solve today’s quality problems by parsing their words. If they were still around, perhaps they would chime in and exhort quality professionals to apply their own judgment instead.
“[…]As a zone leader, Stinson is responsible for about fifteen employees on a section of the production line that makes parts for Steelcase’s Ology series—height-adjustable tables built for the standing-desk craze. Until last year, the plant workers had to consult a long list of steps, taking pains to remove the correct parts out of a cart filled with variously sized bolts and screws and pins and to insert each one in the correct hole and in the correct order. Now computerized workstations, called ‘vision tables,’ dictate, step by step, how workers are to assemble a piece of furniture. The process is virtually mistake-proof: the system won’t let the workers proceed if a step isn’t completed correctly. We stood behind a young woman wearing a polo shirt and Lycra shorts, with a long blond ponytail. When a step was completed, a light turned on above the next required part, accompanied by a beep-beep-whoosh sound. A scanner overhead tracked everything as it was happening, beaming the data it collected to unseen engineers with iPads.[…] ”
Sourced through The New Yorker
Michel Baudin‘s comments: This is excerpted from a long article entitled Welcoming Our New Robot Overlords, from the 10/23/2017 issue of The New Yorker that caught my attention because it’s not about robots and it seems to be in the same spirit as Omron’s Digital Yatai back in 2002: using technology to eliminate hesitation and to mistake-proof operations that are too long or have too many variants to allow operators to go “on automatic” while performing them.
When repeating the same 60 seconds of work 400 times in a shift, operators quickly develop the ability to execute rapidly and accurately with their minds elsewhere. If on the other hand, the takt time is 20 minutes or the work is customized for every unit, the work requires the operators’ undivided, conscious attention and their productivity is increased by systems like the vision tables described in the article, that prompt them for every step and validate its completion.