“One of the misconceptions about lean thinking is that it automatically leads to flattening the organization. Many people think that layers of management are always a bad thing and start removing layers as a way to empower employees, speed up decision-making, and improve innovation. While there is no shortage of organizations that suffer from too many layers, it should be noted that flattening does not necessarily lead to improved performance. Many organizations that flattened their structures have experienced little more than burned out managers, frustrated employees, and high turnover.”
Michel Baudin‘s comments: For the second time in a week, I am clipping a post from Gregg’s blog but I can’t help it if I find his writings worth sharing. In my experience, “flattening the organization” is particularly harmful on the shop floor. I have heard managers brag about their structure being “lean” because they had only 1 supervisor for 100 operators. This isn’t what Toyota does in car assembly, where operators work in teams of 4 to 6 and you have a first-line manager for 4 to 6 teams. This means that the number of operators for a first-line manager ranges from 16 to 36, with a mean that is actually around 17. This low number is designed to allow the first-line managers to help operators in their professional development and to lead improvement projects. A supervisor with 100 direct reports can do neither.
Following are a few recommendations on the art of taking shop floor videos:
Special requirements on shop floor videos. We have already seen that the requirements for shop floor videos differ from those of other uses of this technology. If you shoot a family or sports event, you will naturally want the highest resolution you can get, which would be counterproductive here. Likewise, shooting a video for the purpose of data collection is different from doing it for art or entertainment.For example, the Youtube video of a NASCAR pit stop looks somewhat like a shop floor video but isn’t one. It is entertaining and dramatically shot, but not usable for analysis. In fact, a shop floor video that captures everything that is needed for analysis is likely to bore anyone who is not directly involved with the target process.
This needs to be considered when deciding who will be holding the camera. You will naturally prefer someone who is already handy with it, and that is likely to be from experience capturing family occasions, sports, or from making movies as an amateur. The ability to keep a camera steady and pay attention to lighting, composition and focus is valuable, but the camera operator will have to be coached on the specific objectives of shop floor videos.
Applications to setup time reduction or to the improvement of a work station. the camera needs to be looking down at the operator’s hands. In short operations, it can be done by holding the camera with a raised arm, and using the swiveling LCD screen for control. This gets tiring quickly and requires standing in such close proximity to the operator as to possibly interfere with his or her movements.
Many plants have mezzanines or catwalks that provide a view from above. Being observed from such a place, however, may be uncomfortable for the operators, as well as too far to zoom in on the hands and capture any voice comments. The middle ground is to shoot from the top of a stepladder located within zooming and hearing range of the operator station, just far enough to avoid any kind of interference
Shooting a video from a stepladder.
This works, until the operator leaves the station to walk beyond the reach of the zoom, at which point getting down off the stepladder to follow the operator while recording causes a few seconds of the action to be lots. A better solution is to hand over the camera to another team member on the ground, or even to involve more than one camera. In any case, this needs to be planned. Image stability is not an issue on the stepladder, but it is when following an operator’s movement across the floor, and you do not want a video that will make participants sea-sick during review. While professional tracking shots require equipment that is not available in a factory, some amateurs have supplemented the camera’s own image stabilization by shooting from a wheelchair.
Fixed position on a tripod for time-lapse videos. Setting the camera on a tripod in a fixed position is not appropriate for this kind of analysis, but is when taking time-lapse videos of a large area for purposes of work sampling.
Recording the position and orientation of the camera. It is also necessary to record on a layout of the shop floor the position and orientation from which the video is shot. The point is to return to the same location to shoot another video to document the improvements once implemented.
Number of repetitions. Traditional time studies involve taking measurements on the same operation 6 to 10 times, for the purpose of improving precision when setting standards of operator performance. But our purpose in recording operations is not to set standards but to change processes to make the work simultaneously easier, safer, less error-prone, and faster.
All we need for this purpose is one representative execution, and the operator can tell us if there is anything special or abnormal about it. If possible, we just take it into account during the analysis; otherwise, we make another recording. To make sure we have one complete execution, we start recording a few seconds before the operation starts and stop a few seconds after it ends.
Scale. The presence of people in the videos gives us at least a rough sense of scale, but sometimes we would like more precision, for example to know how far an operator has to reach for a part, or how fast a cart is rolling. The following shots show the extreme measures the Gilbreths took for this purpose, with a gridded background. The picture also shows a large and precise timer, which was necessary because they used imprecise hand-cranked cameras.
No editing. We do not edit the shop floor video, except possibly to add a title and administrative data at the beginning, Otherwise, we use it in the analysis exactly as shot. It is raw data, and we want to keep it that way.
Whether on the shop floor or elsewhere, starring in a video makes people nervous, particularly when they don’t know how it will be used and when it is done by strangers. On the shop floor, particularly when unions are present, operators fear that the videos recordings will simply be used against them and to justify layoffs. Unless these fears are put to rest before the shoot, it will be tense and, if it happens at all, the quality of the data will be affected.
Following are key steps to follow:
Have a clear objective. Videos can be used for many purposes:
Setup time reduction. This is the most common current use in Lean implementation.
Work Sampling. A time-lapse video of a work area can be used as a series of snapshots on which to count the people and machines by category of activity, providing rough estimates of proportions of time spent walking, waiting, carrying parts, processing work pieces, etc.
Analysis of team coordination. You record from a distance the movements and state changes of multiple people and machines. You don’t see the details of what each one does, but you identify situations where they:
Walk long distances, empty-handed or carrying heavy parts,
Cause others to wait,
Deadlock each other,
Fix the work done by others,
Details of work done at an individual station. You focus on the hands of one operator through a sequence of steps at a work station, with the goal improving both individual steps and their sequencing.
This is necessary not only to plan the shoot so that the video supports the objective, but also to identify the people who will be recorded and the ways in which the analysis may affect them.
Secure the consent of the participants. The people recorded in the video are not the object of a project but participants in it. It should only be done if they and their management agree. This entails the following:
Review the project with the direct supervisor of the area first, and proceed only if he or she supports it. The supervisor needs to agree to let operators participate in video analysis sessions, during work hours if they can be temporarily replaced in production, and in overtime otherwise.
If the plant is unionized, review the project with the union leadership. Unless prevented from doing so be constraints external to the plant, unions support the project once they are reassured that:
The purpose is not to make people work harder.
It is no threat to job security.
It usually improves safety.
Review the project with the operators, in the presence of their supervisor and a union representative if applicable.
There must be a clear policy on the handling and dissemination of videos after the analysis. The principle to follow is that what happens on the shop floor stays on the shop floor. The videos are not to be shared with any outsider to the project. VHS cassettes were easy to safeguard; MPEG files on hard disks are a different challenge. They need to be organized in a video database with proper indexing and safeguards, which is a whole other subject.
“‘…Toyota Motor’s group leaders were complaining about the systems IT was delivering. They wouldn’t let them focus on being out on the production line. So IT’s focus became providing tools to allow group leaders to be more efficient…”
Michel Baudin‘s insight:
The article’s author is challenged about getting to the point but, when he eventually does, it is worth reading. What I found most original is IT focusing on the needs of group leaders, Toyota’s name for first-line managers, who oversee four to six teams of four to six operatiors each. It is a constituency is definitely underserved by IT in most manufacturing organizations and whose potential is underestimated.
Most companies expect little from first-line managers beyond expediting parts, tracking time and attendance, and disciplining workers to make their numbers. In fact, being both part of management and in direct contact with production operators on the shop floor puts them in a unique position as agents of change.
This is why TPS puts them in charge of smaller groups, with the expectation that they will spend time leading improvement projects and supporting the professional growth of their teams. Most IT groups pay more attention to the executive suite than to the shop floor, where, in particular, you are not just interacting with people through screens but also with machines through their controllers. This requires a different set of IT skills, and the article says that Toyota partnered with Rockwell Automation for this purpose.