The Routledge Companion to Lean Management is now available for pre-ordering. It is a compilation of contributions from multiple authors, edited by Torbjorn Netland, and Chapter 8 is my overview of Lean Logistics. The other co-authors include Dan Jones, Jim Womack, John Shook, Jeffrey Liker, Robert Hafey, John Bicheno, Glenn Ballard, Michael Ballé, Mary Poppendieck, and many others whose work I am not familiar with.
“The classic 5-day kaizen was likely created in the late 1980s by Shingijutsu kaizen consultants from Japan as they established their practice in the United States and beyond. Traveling the long distance from Japan to the east coast of the U.S. meant that kaizen consultants should obviously spend more than a day or two at their client’s location before they then return home to Japan. It made sense to stay for a period of time in which many abnormalities could be corrected by facilitating several kaizen teams at one time. Five days seemed about right…”
Sourced from: BobEmiliani.com
Michel Baudin‘s comments:
So the Kaizen Event craze started when the convenience of a Japanese consulting firm met American managers’ quest for instant gratification…
Can Lean do a do-over? Nearly 30 years after the start of the Lean movement, there is widespread agreement that things have not gone according to plan.
Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.bobemiliani.com
Michel Baudin‘s comments:
Bob’s title for the article is just “What Went Wrong?” which I feel needs to be set in context.
I agree with him that the most popular “Lean tools” are peripheral at best. None of the ones he mentions — 5S, visual controls, value stream maps A3 reports, or gemba walks — would make my list of what should be taught and applied first in a Lean manufacturing implementation. I would, on the other hand, include SMED, cell design, assembly line design based on takt time, etc.
Toyota’s Japanese documents and their English versions often mean different things. Recently, looking at the Japanese version of The Toyota Way 2001, I was surprised to find that what is translated into English as “Continuous Improvement” is “Chie to Kaizen” (知恵と改善), which means “Wisdom and Continuous Improvement.” In the English version, “Wisdom” was not only dropped from the main header, it appears nowhere. Continue reading
“[…]the Quality Director would ask the nursing supervisor to track the time of first incision in each theater every day and share the results with surgeons. This simple measure increased OR usage by 20% in the first month. It also led to heated discussions among surgeons (why were some late and others on time?) and paved the way for further kaizen. But then one of the crises hospitals are so accustomed to came, and the practice was abandoned. Theater usage went back to what it was before.[…]”
The author is missing an essential point: changes that add labor are unsustainable. They will be reversed at the first emergency and rarely if ever reinstated once the emergency is over. Asking a nursing supervisor to track the time of first incision in each operating room meant adding to his or her work, without reducing anybody else’s. It was a change all right, but not a Kaizen.
100 years ago, Frank Gilbreth improved the performance of operating rooms by, among other things, having nurses supply tools and instruments to surgeons rather than having the surgeons leave the patient to fetch them. Work previously done by the surgeon was offloaded to nurses for the benefit of the patient, without any net addition of labor. It was a genuine improvement and became standard practice.
The author quotes Ohno as saying “Why not make the work easier and more interesting so that people do not have to sweat?” Adding record-keeping tasks does not fit that bill.
This is a perennial topic in all groups related to Lean. In the TPS principles and practice discussion group on LinkedIn, Bertrand Olivar and Kris Hallan recently started new discussions on the sustainability of Kaizen event results and on the means of achieving them. Most contributors hold extreme positions, the majority saying that Kaizen events are a panacea, and a growing minority that they are worthless.
In this you-are-with-us-or-against-us atmosphere, it is a challenge to get a hearing for the nuanced position I hold, which I summarize as follows:
- Kaizen events are not part of TPS
- Kaizen events are a valuable tool
- Kaizen events are not a panacea.
- Content should dictate how projects are managed, not the other way around.
Because it is a recurring topic, I have already accumulated the a trail of posts about it, that are referenced at the end.
In an invitation to the Lean Enterprise Academy ‘s Lean Summit 2014, David Brunt included the following summary of Lean since 1990:
“Early implementations focused on empowered teams and continuous improvement (kaizen) or attempts to replicate a pre-defined box of tools such as 5S, SMED, SPC and kanban. For others lean became synonymous with kaizen events – that were actually kaikaku – radically reconfiguring individual operations. For some, this led to them developing their version of Toyota’s famed Production System (TPS) including their own schematic ‘house’ or ‘temple’ of lean along with departments of continuous improvement specialists.”
It is a pretty accurate account of what happened — the only major omission being the omnipresent VSMs — and it goes a long way towards explaining why the vast majority of these efforts failed. They were limited at best to superficial details of TPS, included elements that were not part of TPS, and misjudged implementation priorities. Let’s us go through the list:
- “Empowered teams.” As a manager you have a team to work with. What decisions should you allow this team to make on its own? This is best subjected to the sleep-at-night test. Knowing that you are responsible for the outcome, what can you delegate to the team and still sleep at night? It obviously depends on the team. If it is a team of production operators with 10 years of TPS practice behind it, the answer will not be the same as if they are beginners. Implementations that start with empowering teams put the cart before the horse.
- “Continuous improvement (kaizen).” Lean, or TPS, are often described as approaches to continuous improvement (CI), when CI is in fact only one component of the system. You cannot convert a plant from mass production to Lean manufacturing by continuous improvement, because it is not about tweaking details. For example, if you have implemented cells in machining or assembly, you can make them perform better with CI, but you have to have cells first, and that is beyond the scope of CI.
- “Replicate a pre-defined box of tools.” It can work, if your situation is sufficiently similar to the one you are copying, you really know what the tools are, and you master them.
- SMED and Kanban are tools of TPS but often misunderstood. For example, you often see SMED used to try to increase equipment utilization instead of flexibility, and Kanban is often confused with the two-bin system or even reorder-point.
- SPC is not part of TPS. This is so shocking to American and European professionals trained by the Quality establishment that they just inserted it back in, regardless of what Toyota actually did. The latest examples of SPC control charts at Toyota are from the 1950s.
- 5S is part of TPS, but is mistakenly assumed easy to implement because its technical content is trivial. In fact, the absence of technical content is what makes it difficult to implement and certainly unfit for an initial project.
- “Kaizen events” are an American invention and not part of TPS. As Brunt points out, the name is misleading, because what they do is not Kaizen. The popularity of this method over the past 25 years and the confusion created by the name have in effect prevented Lean implementation from including the real Kaizen.
- “Departments of continuous improvement specialists.” The creation of these departments has often made Lean implementation into a function alongside Production Control, Maintenance, or Quality Assurance, with the result of making it a professional specialty instead of part of everybody’s job. It works to make a good show for outside visitors, but not for much else. This department cannot be large enough to have the capacity to do all that needs to be done. Even if it did, it does not have the authority to make the changes take root in daily operations.
These efforts failed because the approach was simplistic. Both the technical and managerial content of TPS are deeper and take a while to learn. A successful implementation, particularly is a different industry, is not based on copying tools but on understanding underlying principles and deploying them as appropriate to the new context.
See on Scoop.it – lean manufacturing
“Learning Curves have traditionally been used for cost estimating and training purposes. However, they have a much wider applications, including Manufacturing and Marketing strategy. They underly the concept of Continuous Improvement. Like compound interest, they generate large benefits from seemingly small, incremental change.
The learning curve came into prominence during World War II when Army Air Force scientists noticed that the cost for a given aircraft model declined with increased production in accordance with a fairly predictable formula. Each time the cumulative production doubled, cost declined by a fixed percentage. In the aircraft industry, at that time, this reduction was about 20%. Learning curves underpin the concept of Continuous Improvement.”
It’s good to see a well-documented, informative article by Quarterman Lee on a topic that is often ignored in the Lean literature but that I think if fundamental to the economics of improvement.
The title mentions both Learning and Experience Curves, but the body of the article is only about Learning Curves. The difference between the two is that Learning Curves are only about labor, and were developed first, in World War II, as Quarterman points out. The Experience Curve is a generalization due to Bruce Henderson of the Boston Consulting Group in the 1960s, which applies the logic not just to labor but to all costs.
The Experience Curve theory is predicated on the notion that there is such a thing as a meaningful cost per piece, and asserts that it decreases with cumulative volume along an inverse power curve, the evidence for which is in the evolution of market prices with cumulative volume in a variety of industries.
The effect of this curve on pricing in an industry depends on its clockspeed. In electronics, with product lives of four years, it is dominant. In cars, where the experience accumulated for over a century is still relevant today, we are so far on the curve that it is not a major factor.
The justification for an inverse power law is in fact simple. It stands to reason that, the more you have already made of a product, the easier it is to make the next unit, and therefore that costs should decrease as a function of cumulative volume. Since we are talking about a broad trend, it should also be a smooth decline.
Could it be linear? No. It would mean a straight line in cartesian coordinates.and that would lead to negative costs, which makes no sense. If you toggled the y-axis to “logarithmic,” a straight line would represent an exponential decline. But it would not make sense either, because it would mean that you could produce an infinite volume for a finite cost. If, as in the above picture, you make both axes logarithmic, a straight line means an inverse power law. Costs never go negative, and it still takes an infinite amount of money to produce an infinite quantity. This is why, among the simple possible decline patterns, it is the only one that cannot be excluded based on its logic.
See on www.strategosinc.com
Ken McGuire: “My humble observation is that the degree of enthusiasm about all things Lean is in direct inverse correlation to how recently the enthusiast has discovered it.”
Enlightening account from participants in the invention of the Kaizen Blitz in the US in the 1990s.
See on sites.google.com
In a discussion of the economic justification of Kaizen in the TPS + 1 ENGINEERING discussion group on LinkedIn, Kenyon Denning asked what Kaizen is and is not, and pointed to the English dictionary definitions on the web. Why look up a Japanese technical term in a general-purpose English dictionary? We should focus instead on what Kaizen means as a technical term in Japan.
If we are using it to mean something else, we are misleading our audiences, because they assume that you are talking about the approach that has contributed to the success of companies like Toyota, Honda, Matsushita, Kawasaki, and others, and that is the only reason they are listening. And the problem is that we are indeed using the term differently. The most common usage is in “Kaizen Events,” a project management format developed in the US that does not actually implement Kaizen. The popularity of Kaizen Events crowds out the genuine Kaizen from practically all the Lean implementation programs in the US. To see it in the US, your best bet is to visit Japanese transplant auto factories.
Over the past 35 years, Kaizen has become an English word. Among other data, Google about gives you the following chart of the use of Kaizen in English over time. This chart based on a search of Google Books by ngram viewer. After rising steadily from 1978 to 2000, it has been holding steady through 2008, the latest point provided, at 0.33 words/million.
By comparison, for the same year, the following table gives Google’s occurrence rates for a few selected terms. I assume Google compares single words with other single words but I am not sure what it does with a 2-gram like “Lean manufacturing” that is used in speech like a single word.
The available on-line definitions for Kaizen in English dictionaries are as follows:
- Random House (2013):
- A business philosophy or system that is based on making positive changes on a regular basis, as to improve productivity.
- An approach to one’s personal or social life that focuses on continuous improvement.
- Origin: < Japanese: literally, ‘continuous improvement’
- Collins Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition (2009):
- A philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices that underlies total quality management and just-in-time business techniques
- Dictionary.com’s 21st Century Lexicon:
- Japanese for continuous and incremental improvement, a business philosophy about working practices and efficiency; improvement in productivity or performance.
- Etymology: Japanese ‘change for the better’
By contrast, following are a few Japanese views on the subject:
- The most common general language dictionary used in Japan is the Kojien (広辞苑). Its definition of Kaizen (改善) is “the act of making a bad place good again” (悪いところを改めてよくすること) and the example given is “improving the treatment” (待遇を改善する). The opposite is “changing for the worse” (改悪, Kaiaku).
- In a technical context, author Bunji Tozawa defines Kaizen as “changes in methods to make the work easier, conceived and implemented by those who do the work.”
- Another Japanese author to emphasize Kaizen is Masaaki Imai, who defines it as “ongoing improvement involving everybody, without spending much money.”
- In 1985, the Japanese Factory Management monthly (工場管理) issued a Dictionary of Shop Floor Kaizen (現場を改善する辞典), which managed not to contain a definition for “Kaizen,” but, like Tozawa and Imai, it emphasized that kaizen is something everybody does, to make the work easier to do, produce better quality output faster and cheaper, while making the workplace safer. The list covers every known dimension of manufacturing performance except morale, which improves as by-product.
To Tozawa, each discrete change is a Kaizen; to Imai, Kaizen is the process by which these improvements are made on a continuing basis. I have not seen an explicit emphasis in Tozawa’s writings about Kaizens being cheap, but it is implicit in the idea that the improvements are done by the people who do the work. Cheap, however, does not mean free, and Kaizen activities commonly involve giving individuals or teams license to spend a few hundred dollars at a hardware store for a project, but a $50K investment would be outside the scope of Kaizen.
None of the English dictionaries says anything about changes being made in work methods, by the people who do the work, and requiring little or no investment. In none of the Japanese descriptions of Kaizen does it rise to the level of a “business philosophy.” The nature of Kaizen is best shown through examples, and I would like to share one that struck me as a particularly vivid illustration.
About 15 years ago, Kojo Kanri focused an issue on Kaizen in the kind of dirty jobs that do not receive much management attention (泥臭い改善, dorokusai kaizen). There was in particular a story about a circle of high-speed train janitors who were tired of cleaning the same toilets 8 times a day. These trains were equipped with traditional, Japanese squat toilets that international passengers did not know how to use and messed up as a result.
One obvious solution was to replace these toilets with the worldwide standard. It would have been no hardship for the Japanese passengers, because this style is already used in 90% of homes and work places in Japan. But replacing these toilets in 100 16-carriage trains could not have been done quickly, and was an investment beyond the scope of Kaizen.
So the janitors took a number of simpler steps, and measured the results in terms of the number of required cleanings per toilet per day. This included posting some graphic explanations on how to use the equipment, painting outlines of where users should place their feet, and finally materializing the right locations with rubber pads to make it awkward to place your feet anywhere else. At the end of the project, the required cleanings were down to one toilet per day.
Earlier posts on Kaizen in this blog include the following:
- What is Karakuri Kaizen?
- Value-Stream Mapping, Kaizen Blitzes, and Jishuken
- Kaizen and small things – A recent example
- Kaizen and small things
- Two news stories highlight conflicting interpretations of Kaizen
- Kaizen events versus Continuous Improvement
- Factory life with and without Kaizen