Most of the work we do today involves interactions with machines. It is true not only in manufacturing but in many other business processes. The machinist works with machining centers, the pilot with an airplane, the surgeon with a laparoscopy robot, the engineer with a variety of computer systems,..., not to mention the automatic appliances that relieve us of household chores. In fact, I think that being good at working with machines is so essential that I wrote a book about it. For the short version, see the following A3/tabloid infographic. To enlarge it, click on the picture, and then on "View full size" in the bottom right-hand corner.
Even if the A3 report is sometimes paraded around like a sacred relic, it is in my view only a minor tool. The main work is still identifying and solving the problem. If I have the choice between a sloppy root cause analysis on an A3 report and a good one on the back of an used envelope, I would go with the envelope any time. Using an A3 report will offer no advantage at all if the content is garbage!
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Michel Baudin's comments:
This is the 3rd post by Christoph Roser about A3. I only wrote two, What is an A3? and Beyond A3s. I agree with him that it is a minor tool, but our perspectives differ on details. Christoph sees A3 as primarily for problem-solving; I see them as a communication tool with many more applications, in particular work instructions. And Pascal Dennis likes to use them in Hoshin Planning/Strategy Deployment.
I own two dishwashers in two homes, different models from the same brand, bought in the same store, and both on a service contract. For the first one, the model number is SHE55R56UC; for the second one, SHE65T55UC. Today, we needed help on the first one, but customer service shipped us parts for the second one, which the repair technician discovered when unpacking them.
The following reader question popped up in another blog:
"Does Lean apply to sales? We’re trying to introduce Lean thinking throughout the company and have found very little on how to lean the sales department."
The response was a set of tactical recommendations on the behavior of sales reps with customers. Strategically, however, you need to think about the role of Sales within the business. It is not just to provide a flow of orders every day. Marketing is often mentioned in the same breath as Sales, with good reason, because sales are the business's best source of market intelligence. Continue reading
There is a famous saying that there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit. Fittingly, we don't know who said it first, and Quote Investigator found it attributed in various forms to seven different authors. One of them, Harry Truman, had the idea of helping Europe rebuild after World War II but credited George C. Marshall with the plan, and it helped make it pass through congress. However, others who live by their wits as discoverers, inventors, or authors, cannot be so magnanimous, because their intellectual property is their livelihood.
In a blog post from yesterday, Bob Emiliani said "We owe a debt of gratitude to the MIT researchers who introduced the world to Lean, led in part by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones. Their work changed lives in important ways, ranging from developing a stronger, more insightful intellect, useful in all facets of life, to embarking on challenging new careers and improving processes in a wide range of industries."
It's a fact that The Machine That Changed The World introduced the word "Lean," but not the content it covered. I think we do owe a debt of gratitude to researchers like Robert E. Cole for Work, Mobility, and Participation (1979), Richard Schonberger for Japanese Manufacturing Techniques (1982), Robert Hall for Zero Inventories (1983), Kiyo Suzaki for The New Manufacturing Challenge (1987), and Norman Bodek for organizing the translation of many Japanese classics on the subject during that same period at Productivity Press, particularly from Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo.
"They are completely different indeed. They differ in their purpose, their practice and their outcomes. Lean is about self-reflection and seeking smarter, less wasteful dynamic solutions together. Taylorism is about static optimization of work imposed by 'those who know' on 'those who do.'"
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Michel Baudin's comments:
Yes, "Scientific Management" was just a marketing label for theories that weren't truly scientific but were instead based on a simplistic view of human nature. And Taylor's stopwatch time studies were just aimed at increasing production at every operation with no consideration of flow. I would, however, ask for a more accurate and complete story
Bodo Wiegand heads the Lean Management Institute, which is the German affiliate of the Lean Enterprise Institute. In his latest newsletter, on Wiegand’s Watch, he discusses the case of a company he recently visited that is rushing to invest €12.3M ($13.4M) in a new warehouse and new machines but "doesn't have the resources" to improve current operations.
"It is with this enigmatic sentence that one of my Japanese mentors introduced the growing difficulty with continuous improvement. What it means is that at the beginning of an improvement program or when starting in a new area, the first and usually the easiest actions bring big improvement, hence the “easy” 50%. This is also…"
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Michel Baudin's comments:
I have been using this method, but for the categorization of improvement ideas within a project rather than whole projects. For example, starting a SMED project on a machine with a 30-minute setup time, you find that you can get it down to 12 minutes in one week for $300 by organizing and prepositioning tool carts. This is your A idea.
Then you find that, by modifying a fixture on the machine, you can get it down to 4 minutes, in three months for $5,000. That's your B idea. Finally, you discover that an automation retrofit can get it down to 2 minutes, in a year for $50,000, and it is a C idea.
The one issue I have with applying this kind of thinking to whole projects is that the scope of "low-hanging fruits" changes over time with the skill level of the work force. Much of what appears inaccessible at the outset of your transformation becomes cheap and easy by its third year.
I also find that how long and how much money it will take to implement an idea is easier for teams to work with than a metric like ROI. The economic justification of improvement projects is a difficult and sensitive subject.
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Last week, Beau Keyte sent me a copy of Chapter 10 of his book The Complete Lean Enterprise, entitled Leading in the Future State, and we have been exchanging thoughts about it by email since. Many of my words below are already in my account of the Central Coast Lean Summit, where this conversation started; what is new here is the back-and-forth.
"It seems to be popular these last years and more recently to explicitly state that Lean is not (only) about cost reduction or cost cutting. See the recent posts by Mark Graban or Matt Hrivnak. So let me be somewhat controversial in this post (which I think is allowed to spark the discussion) and drop a bombshell: I think Lean is about cost reduction."
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Michel Baudin's comments:
I know that much of the TPS literature is about "reducing costs," but it never includes any discussion of money! Ohno is even quoted as saying "Costs are not there to be measured, but to be reduced." On the face of it, it makes no sense, because cost is an accounting term intended to represent the monetary value of all the resources spent to achieve a result.