Jidoka isn’t just about “stop and fix”

Jidoka (自働化)  isn’t just “stop and fix” or “stop and call.”  It is a complete approach to automation that includes building in the ability of a machine to stop when it malfunctions but also includes many other things. Sakichi Toyoda’s Type-G loom didn’t just stop when the yarn broke, it also had automatic shuttle change, which reduced the need for human intervention in its normal operations, and was a breakthrough that had eluded everybody else.

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Does Historical Accuracy Matter?

Cuckoo clock from the Black Forest

The most famous line in The Third Man is Orson Welles’s addition to the script:

“In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

65 years later, Paul Krugman opened his editorial in today’s New York Times with:

“Ah, Switzerland, famed for cuckoo clocks…”

With all due respect to Paul Krugman, I believe this fame came from the movie, because cuckoo clocks are not from Switzerland but from the Black Forest region of Germany.

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When Finance Runs the Factory | William Levinson | Industry Week

“Henry Ford achieved world-class results with three key performance indicators (KPIs), none of which were financial. His successors’ changeover to financial metrics, on the other hand, caused the company to forget what we now call the Toyota production system.”

Source: www.industryweek.com

Michel Baudin‘s comments:

Yes, giving power over manufacturing companies to accountants, as American industry massively did in the 1950s yielded disastrous results. The summary given in this article’s lead paragraph, however, does not match the historical record from other sources.
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The Discovery of Lean | Narrated Prezi by Mark Warren

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Brief description on the origins of lean. Lean is an outcome of implementing Flow Principles + the TWI program

 

 

 

 

Michel Baudin‘s  comments:

This is a short version of a one-hour presentation I heard live a few months ago. Mark’s take is the result of more than 30 years of practical experience in all sorts of plants around the world and more than a decade of intensive research of original documents in numerous archives in several countries.

To understand where concepts and techniques are useful in manufacturing today, we need to know who invented them and for what purpose. The historical perspective is not a luxury, and the explanations of this history must be accurate if it is to enlighten us.

At historical research, Mark is a pro; I am an amateur. John Hunter thinks I have a “library full of dusty tomes.” In truth, I only have a few old books on manufacturing, half of them recommended by Mark.

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Ford and Mass Production

In the TPS Principles and Practice group on LinkedIn asked about what mass production is and is not. With the loose talk of “Henry Ford’s Lean vision” going around, the confusion is understandable. In fact, the term “mass production” was coined specifically to describe Ford’s production system in an Encyclopedia Britannica article in 1926, and defined as follows:

“Mass production is the focusing upon a manufacturing project of the principles of power, accuracy, economy, system, continuity and speed.”

The article insists that “Mass production is not merely quantity production, for this may be had with none of the requisites of mass production. Nor is it merely machine production, which may exist without any resemblance to mass production.”

The encyclopedia article does not imply that the system was inflexible, but Ford’s system of that era was designed to build Model Ts and nothing else. Even though the following picture is from 1937, a decade after the end of the Model T era, the dense packing of presses makes you wonder how you were supposed to change dies:

Pressed steel building at the Rouge in 1937

Modern automotive press shops have machines arranged in lines, with space on the side for dies. In this shop, a die change had to be a rare event.

In essence, the term “mass production” is to Ford as “lean manufacturing” is to Toyota, a generic term applied to give broader appeal and generalize an approach developed in a specific company. It is not a derogatory term, and many elements of mass production found their way into TPS, along with parts of the “Taktsystem” from the German aircraft industry of the 1930s. To these external inputs, the Toyota people have been adding their own twists since the 1930s.

220px-William_S_Knudsen

William S. Knudsen in World War II

Ford’s system itself evolved as it was adopted by competitors. As Peter Winton pointed out in the LinkedIn discussion, the original mass production was the production of large quantities of the same thing. As early as the 1920s, all the high-speed machines and lines dedicated to making the aging Model T at the River Rouge plant were both the strength and the Achilles heel of the system, giving GM the opportunity to grab market share away from Ford by, as Alfred P. Sloan put it “introducing the laws of Paris dressmakers in the car industry.” Ford alumnus William Knudsen’s “Flexible Mass Production” at Chevrolet made it possible through yearly model changes that could be completed in a few weeks. When Ford finally had to change from the Model T to the Model A in 1927, it required a thorough retooling of the Rouge plant, which took 9 months.

Ford’s system itself changed over the decades, and, at least as Lee Iacocca described its practices,  the financially minded leadership that emerged in the 1950s no longer focussed on improving production. In my review of Deming’s Point 5 of 14 on that topic, I had included the following pictures of the same operation performed the same way 30 years later:

In the 1988 paper in which he introduced the term “Lean production,” John Krafcik makes a distinction between “Pure Fordism” and “Recent Fordism,” the main difference being that “Recent Fordism” involves large inventories, buffers, and repair areas. This, of course, implies nothing about what the Ford people have done since 1988.

The concept of a dedicated production line — effective at making one product and incapable of making anything else — is in fact not obsolete. If you have a product with long-term, stable demand, it is a better solution than a flexible line whose flexibility you don’t need. This is why you do a runner/repeater/stranger analysis of the demand for your products, and then investigate trends and seasonal variations. In the Lean approach, you use a dedicated where it fits and other approaches where it doesn’t; most plants, instead, have a one-size-fits-all approach.

Stop ropes and Andons at Ford’s River Rouge Plant in 1931

Mark Warren pointed out to me the description of a stop rope with and Andon board in a book called Ford Men and Methods, by Edwin P. Norwood, with illustrations by Charles Sheeler, including his famous crossing conveyors.

First, on p. 1:

“Placed on one of many balconies to be found in the Rouge Plant Motors Building is a room, glassed on three sides and so located as to command a comparatively clear view of all that surrounds it. Along the back wall of this room stands an instrument board, studded with signal lights.

Aside from their visitor, two men are present. One, seated on a stool, is drawn close to a shallow desk which extends from the board. The other, a trouble mechanic, is intent upon that constant motion to be seen through the windows.

As you watch there comes the whir of a bell fixed to the top of the panel. The man at the desk moves a switch. The bell is silenced but in the same instant a green light glows in the face of the board. The operator waits-one eye on a clock that is near the bell, the other on the emerald light.

Five seconds, ten seconds, twenty seconds–then the light goes dark. Already the man’s finger is on a convenient button. He presses it twice and to your ears come the drawn-out wails of a distant siren. He touches a second button and somewhere a conveyor, temporarily “down,” goes into action again. You have had a fleeting glimpse of one of the control centers of that huge System of power-driven carriers that move throughout seemingly every nook and corner of the Dearborn shops.”

Following is a picture of an Andon board from Toyota Georgetown today:

Andon board at Toyota Georgetown

Unlike the example described above, it is not located in a control room but on the shop floor for production supervisors to see, and green lights are not used for alarms anymore. Perhaps, in 1931, the green-yellow-red color code had not yet become a cultural constraint.

Then on p. 10:

“The operator is provided with the means of protecting himself against accident or the chance of becoming swamped by a too rapid flow of work. If materials are coming too
fast, as at some point where there is a transfer from one line to another, or if an unlooked-for hitch tangles the smoothness of movement, any Workman is at liberty to bring that line at which he is engaged to a halt. Indeed, he is expected to do so. He does this by throwing a switch, or by reaching upward and pulling a  cord which operates similarly to that used for signaling the driver in a motor bus.

To make clearer this provision it may be well to return to the control booth touched upon at the beginning of the present chapter. The glowing of the green light noted at that time simply meant that somewhere some operator or foreman had pulled a stop switch. The trouble determining this action may have been a minor difficulty, or it may have been of serious import — possibly an actual breakdown of machinery. In such instances the probability is judged by the booth operator in accordance with the space of time that the signal light burns. If more than two minutes pass, then the trouble mechanic serving the affected section investigates the cause. And he knows where to go because of the number and position of the light on the instrument board. But if the light is extinguished within the permitted two minutes, this is because an electrical impulse meaning ‘All’s well’ has been sent in from the point of temporary trouble. It is then that the siren is sounded –a warning to all interested that the line is once more to move — while the pushing of the second button sends the conveyor into action again. But whatever the space of time may have been, the control operator tabulates both it and the point of trouble.”

Operator pulling a stop rope at Toyota Georgetown

Operator pulling a stop rope at Toyota Georgetown

The description of the stop rope matches exactly this picture from Toyota Georgetown, and it still resembles the cord on a city bus that you pull to tell the driver to let you off at the next stop.

How Ford Eliminated Tickets on Flow Lines | Charles Sorensen | Bill Waddell

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“I am revisiting a great book – “My Forty Years With Ford” – written by Charles Sorensen.  Sorensen was as close to being in charge of production at Ford during the Model T, genesis of the assembly line, $5 day era.  The following is an excerpt […]

 

‘…a part such as a piston entered production bearing a ticket which covered every operation. If ten operations were involved, an entry was made on the ticket after each stage before proceeding to the next one. If one piston was lost in the move, all progress stopped until the missing piece could be found and accounted for. The time consumed in each operation was computed in lots of 100 or more, and results were tabulated on a card file which ultimately found its way back to the foreman so that he might check timing at each stage. Not only did the process mean delay from one operation to another, but when a motor assembler couldn’t get pistons, all car production was held up.’ “

Michel Baudin‘s insight:

It’s a great story. What Hawkins was implementing is now known as a traveller and, while not usually found in auto parts manufacturing, it lives on in other activities, where it is needed. I saw it in operation last week in small and mid-size plants in Germany that produce paints in thousands of shades in batches from 100Kg to 2,000Kg. Each batch has a traveller attached to it as a way to keep track of where it is in its process and which materials or pigments are needed for it.

In semiconductor manufacturing, you also have travellers, albeit electronic, to keep track of where a batch of wafers is in its 500+ operations process that involves multiple visits to the same equipment, and where the state of a wafer is not visually obvious.

The principle is not intrinsically wrong. The mistake Sorensen reports was applying it in the wrong place.

See on www.idatix.com

The top ten lean manufacturers | Manufacturing Digital

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From the automotive philosophers of Toyota to the makers of Kleenex tissues, Lean manufacturing principles have been exemplified by some of the world’s top companies. Here is a list of some of the best practitioners in the …

Michel Baudin‘s insight:

Top ten by what criteria? What is the measure of leanness on which these companies outperform everybody else? The article doesn’t say. Most “top ten” lists don’t either, but you want to see who is on them anyway. If you know the inner workings of some of these companies, you may be surprised to find them there. You may also wonder what the actions described in the paragraph about Nike have to do with Lean.

See on www.manufacturingdigital.com

Canada, a Model for Australia’s Automotive industry? | Business Spectator

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Work station at Dortec

Work station at Dortec

“Ford Australia’s move to close its two Australian plants from 2016 and transition to import-only brands only reinforces the sense of a looming death knell. But that isn’t the case with every developed-world auto sector struggling to compete with high domestic production costs and cheaper, mostly-Asian-built imports. Canada’s auto sector has also struggled with factors that would sound familiar to an Australian onlooker, such as its own high dollar, volatile domestic demand, offshore competition and wavering government subsidies.

But as much as those conditions in Canada instigated uncertainty, cuts and job losses, that struggle, which gained pace as the global financial crisis took hold, has also produced a level of productivity-focused innovation worth noting for any manufacturer or policymaker wondering if Australia’s auto sector has crossed its rubicon.”

Michel Baudin‘s insight:

Ford is closing its plants in Australia, which threatens the entire local automotive industry. The author looks to Canada for a model Australia could follow for this industry to survive and thrive. The article is mostly about Canada, and specificially about the Magna Dortec door latch plant Northeast of Toronto.

See on www.businessspectator.com.au