'Gods' Make Comeback at Toyota as Humans Steal Jobs From Robots | Bloomberg

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"Inside Toyota Motor Corp.’s oldest plant, there’s a corner where humans have taken over from robots in thwacking glowing lumps of metal into crankshafts. This is Mitsuru Kawai’s vision of the future..."



Michel Baudin's Comments:

According to the article, Toyota's management feels that maintaining the know-how to make parts manually is essential to be able to improve automated processes.

See on www.bloomberg.com

More on Toyota's "Respect for Humanity"

Much has already been said on this topic, including an extensive discussion in this blog. So, when Frederick Stimson Harriman launched one in the TPS Principles and Practice group on LinkedIn, I was wondering whether I would learn anything. 62 comments later, I would say yes.

The contributors include Toyota alumni  Bob BennettDave CondinhoLuis Javier Sosa Gomez, and Christoph Roser, as well as many others who shared their personal experience outside of Toyota, including Jay Bitsack,  John Davis,  Kris HallanRachel InmanEmmanuel JallasRam ParthasarathyPaul QuesadaŁukasz RogatkaPatrick RossWilliam Ryan, and Stuart See.

Frederick's question was:

"How have you experienced the TPS Principle: 'Respect for the Person?'" in the context of "criticism [of Toyota] in Japan and in other countries, with complaints of unfair treatment of labor, and a domineering stance towards suppliers that limits their growth and attempts to deprive them of their right to negotiate prices."

In response, there is what has already been said but is worth restating, personal stories from the shop floor, and new perspectives on the topic. Below are  the excerpts from the discussion that I found most enlightening, as well as my own, edited inputs. I still recommend checking out the complete thread on LinkedIn.

Following are a few themes around which I felt this material could be organized:

gavelTestimonials of Toyota Alumni

Christoph Roser

During my five years at Toyota I was never blamed for anything, and rarely was anybody else. When I worked for other companies in Europe, not a week went by without someone trying to blame me (or anybody else but them) for something. But then, I also had a very good boss at Toyota, which probably also makes a big difference.

Two observations:

  1. During my last visit to Toyota (Motomachi Plant) I was told that there are very minor differences in the uniform according to employees position, e.g., a regular operator has a gold rim on his cap, whereas his team leader has not. But I don't know if this is for all Toyota plants or only Motomachi. In any case, the difference was minor. BTW I found it interesting that the "lower" position got the gold rim. In the Military it is usually the other way round ;) I guess that already tells something about the value of the shop floor operator at Toyota.
  2. According to literature, at Toyota it is quite possible for employees to convince their managers away from their preferred option A to another option/solution B. However, a contact close to Toyota told me that this is changing. If the manager opposes a project, the project leader now prefers to wait 2 or 3 years until a new boss comes around in order to start the project anyway. This is even worse at other Toyota Group companies. My source said that it seems that Toyota is hiring more "selfish" people. The exception seems to be Denso, which for that reason reduces its exchange of managers with other Toyota groups. But as I said, this is not a personal observation of mine, but of a contact close to Toyota.

Just remembered something else I read about Ohno: In my view Ohno is the main driver behind TPS. Regarding respect for humanity, however, according to Reingold (Toyota - A Corporate History, 1999, pg 41f) Ohno terrified his colleagues, gave impossible tasks, criticized, yelled at them, and kicked them. Many tried to avoid him as much as possible. Initially nobody wanted to cooperate with him, and he got lots of resistance. He caused people so much trouble so they could not sleep at night.

Maybe you could call it tough love.

If Ohno would have been a nice sweet guy, there would not be a TPS as we know it (or maybe not even a Toyota at all). In my view, respect can still be demanding, but this takes skill. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about Ohno to say if his approach was skilled and respectful or more towards abusive. In any case, he got results.

Bob Bennett

In my 29 year Toyota career we generally used the term "mutual respect." We respected people by giving them meaningful work that challenged them to work hard, creatively, and with a sincere dedication to the satisfaction of their external and internal customers. We expected them to be engaged in their own capability and career development by identifying and working with colleagues to solve problems that helped us strengthen our competitive advantage. We expected that people work during assigned working hours, adding value in return for the very competitive compensation and benefits we provided.

Mutual respect also requires mutual obligation. As a group vice president and officer, my strongest obligation was to ensure that our company continued to survive and prosper so that every employee had the opportunity to spend their career in Toyota, and their children and grandchildren could have the same opportunity. Therefore I have important leadership responsibilities to chart a clear path to our vision, to facilitate effective cross-organizational collaboration and cooperation to develop the process improvement action plans necessary to deliver superior business results, and to create a safe and nurturing environment that enables every person at every level to participate in effective problem-solving to both improve our business results and develop their full human potential.

If things do not happen as I expected my first responsibility is not to blame, but rather to humbly reflect (hansei) and ask questions such as, "How have I failed to help them understand?" or "What can we as management do to solve problems or make improvements so that it is easier for people to do the work the way that we desire?" or "What can I do better next time?" (This is how people and organizations learn and improve. Pointing a finger of blame provides no learning.)

If my company got into a period of financial difficulty, my compensation should be reduced first before we ask our subordinates to sacrifice, as management has the greatest influence on the performance of the company.

Yes, expectations are very, very high at Toyota. With a kaizen spirit, we often describe a "permanent state of dissatisfaction" always seeking a better way. This is our duty to our society, to our customers, and to our employees. Mutual trust and respect are mutual, with strong obligations on both sides of the relationship. And for me "leadership his heart" and the values and behaviors I describe above must come from the heart as well because the brain. And what a thrill it is for the entire team to build such a great legacy, and to have achieved it with the integrity, and humanness, and value to society that we can be proud of!

Luis Javier Sosa Gomez

I worked for Toyota from 1998 to 2008 , Toyota always manifested a personal interest in people and the protection of the environment and of course, to generate profits for its shareholders

Although times change and now, I'm not working with Toyota, I am working with Nissan - Renault Alliance , Toyota made ​​a legacy very difficult to forget , especially if we talk about human resources.

As for the relationship with suppliers, like any business , always looking to achieve profitability and a least we are talking about business , there will always be some degree of pressure from the bargaining unit , handle low prices, after all is a struggle to be more competitive , to sell a car in good quality, environmentally friendly and reasonably priced compared to those offered in the market.

So is that Toyota , surely ; will maintain its philosophy that has enabled it to position itself in such a high place, everyone wants to imitate , when you see things from the outside , perhaps, even could say something, but when you're in and work for Toyota, things look different.

"Respect for Humanity" versus "Respect for People"

Aretha Franklin about Respect

Aretha Franklin demanding Respect

My first reaction was that, as explained before, the TPS principle is not "respect for the person" or "respect for people" but "respect for humanity" (人間性尊重, ningenseisoncho). To me, this means paying due consideration to human nature when designing work in order to take full advantage of employees' brains as well as muscles, while protecting the output from operator fatigue, forgetfulness, or the power of habit. This is very different from being polite.

Frederick pointed out a 2008 article by Jon Miller on the subject, where he essentially makes the same point:

"The phrase 人間尊重 is not rare within the CSR (corporate social responsibility) statements of major Japanese corporations. The word 人間 means 'human', 'humans' or 'people' and 尊重 can be translated as 'respect.' But the phrase used at Toyota is a bit different. It is 人間尊重. The observant reader or student of Asian languages may recognize the extra character making 'human' or 'people' into 'humanity' or 'humanness.' [...] So our current understanding of "respect for people" must be broader than simply respecting the rights of every person within a free society or to honor and respect our elders or our peers. To be wordy, the literal meaning of Toyota's phrase 人間性尊重 is 'holding precious what it is to be human' and once could say 'valuing humanity' or even 'respect for humanity' but 'respect for people' in my view is pithy but does not convey the full weight of these words in the original language."

Kris Hallan took a stab at clarifying this distinction as follows:

"The difference between these two definitions/translations might boil down to this: I can be very respectful to an individual person and everyone can agree on the amount of respect I show...while I lay them off for a lack of work. In that situation I can show tremendous respect for the individual by listening, being honest, forthright, and sincere. At the same time I completely disrespect what makes that person human by ignoring all of the diverse capabilities and potential that person inherently possesses. By laying them off, I disregard the potential for that individual to earn their pay, while being oh so respectful about it."

The following was advice to factory managers: "to assure good feeling and good understanding, while guarding against too much lenity on the one hand, to be careful to avoid too much severity on the other, to be firm and decisive in all his measures, but not overbearing and tyrannical -- not too distant and haughty, but affable and easy of access, yet not too familiar." This exhortation to show respect for people is from James Montgomery's "The Carding and Spinning Masters" (Glasgow, 1832), quoted by Alfred Chandler in The Visible Hand.

The language is quaint, but the substance is not far from the kind of advice today's would-be managers receive on working with subordinates. You have to show them respect as people, but that is not what I understand Toyota's "respect for humanity" to be about.

Being human means being able to learn skills, sense your environment, apply logic to solve problems, and create. Showing respect for humanity means being aware of the unique capabilities of people and putting them to use. Courtesy may be a means to this end, but it is not the end.

Generic corporate philosohyCorporations and Philosophy

Mission statements and other expressions of corporate philosophy need to be taken with a grain of salt. Philosophy is best written by individuals with no commercial stake in the way their ideas are received.

What is really behind the emphasis on "respect for humanity"? Clearly, the practices of US car makers post World War II did not fully leverage the potential of the work force. They have been variously described as the "check your brains at the door," command-and-control, or "management knows best."

And what resources did tiny Toyota have to compete with these behemoths? The brainpower of its people is high on the list. Finding a way to leverage it was a key to competing with organizations that didn't value their own.

It's nothing philosophical; it's only business.

Respect for Humanity and Management Practices

A management style

As a manager or as a consultant, you don't implement or recommend policies labeled "respect for people" or "respect for humanity." Instead, you make changes to the way work is being done and organized that are aligned with these values and needed for your business.

It goes beyond the obvious realization that the effectiveness of the Stalin/Darth Vader model is limited. It also means taking a critical look at current fads, and, in particular, putting a stop to counterproductive, demoralizing practices like 360 evaluations, Rank-and-Yank, or Management-By-Objectives, and replacing them with others that are tailored to the business at hand, including, for example, policies that are part of TPS like career planning for permanent employees, a pay-for-ability component in the wage system, and Hoshin Planning. But the list is not limited to TPS. It can include, for example, the Balanced Scorecard developed in the US.

To be more specific, following are a few differences between management practices that I think are relevant to this topic, as discussion starters:

  • Supervision: I have seen many factories where one first-line manager is in charge to 90 to 100 operators, with 4 or 5 work leaders as intermediaries. In Toyota car plants, you have one first-line manager on the average for about 17 operators. The operators are further organized in teams of 4 to 6, with one member acting as team leader.
  • Career planning for operators: Major American companies used to offer career plans for their professional staff. Today, these plans are mostly gone, and are sometimes replaced by Rank-and-Yank. They never existed for production operators. I know Toyota has them for operators in the past, and I assume they still do.
  • Response to safety concerns: An operator complains about finger cuts caused by sharp edges on a fixture. Does the manager respond immediately, by adding rubber guards while organizing for the tooling department to smooth the edge on the fixture? Or does he ignore the issue?
  • Fashion: At Porsche, you can tell employees' positions from what they wear. At Toyota, you can't; when on the floor, the plant manager is dressed much like an operator. At Honda, everybody wears white uniforms. At Boeing, there are no uniforms. A dress code, or the absence of one, is a management statement on the way it views people.

Emmanuel JALLAS

As far as I concerned I never met respect for me when I was employed. I was fired 4 times. Not because I wasn't doing the right things, nor because I and my teams had no results. But because I didn't behave the way the King and his court wanted me to behave. I also raised some (a lot of?) jealousy. I have also no love for company politics which always end in a human disaster for the team members. Nor did I jostled for my position. So I also left when the job wasn't fulfilling. Simple respect for me, my values and beliefs.

On the other hand I can remember myself answering to one of my operators, shortly after being hired myself, 20 years ago. This operator, Jean-Pierre was his name, came to me with a dismantled welding mask. "Can we have this mask replaced sometime ?" did he ask. "Here are the keys of company's car. Go right now to this shop. Ask for Alain (vendor's name). Ask him to provide you the mask of the latest technology that fits your need, and to send me the bill. By the way, if you need some other tools, please buy them."
Jean-Pierre remark was "I've been here for four years, and never had a tool bought to help me do my job. I can't believe It."

My belief is that respect is shown in small details of working life. Your teamates are behaving the way they do, not because they want to annoy you, but because they are who they are. (just try to change yourself or your behaviors !). If you consider them smart enough to do the job, so you shall consider them smart enough to know what they need, to try what they want to try, to say what they think they need to tell you, and to know what's good for your company from their point of view. After all, aren't they making your living?

flagsIrrelevance of National Culture

We cannot over-stress the irrelevance of national culture to this issue. Japanese traditions, for example, are short on respect for people in many ways. Young people who married against their parents' wishes, for example, were not viewed as courageous but selfish, because they were shirking their duties to family. Sons of small business owners were shunned in recruitment by large companies, based on the assumption that they would eventually leave to take over the family business. And women's talents were simply ignored...

Conversely, the culture in which I have seen the greatest respect paid to people who do menial jobs is the US. I think the reason for it is that doing these jobs is considered a normal part of education. For all you know, your waiter tonight may be the teenage child of a high-level business executive. Later in life, this experience is the basis for claiming to have been "born in a log cabin he built with his own hands."

Yet the national cultures do not translate into consistent practices on manufacturing shop floors or in offices.

Ram Parthasarathy:

Michel, to take your very valid analysis a step further, the challenge is to turn this "negative" into a positive. These different people from diverse cultures have different strengths and weaknesses. It is important to understand these and leverage these strengths.

In a small town in India, we used girls just out of high school, with minimal English speaking knowledge, to manufacture engine valves which were accepted in Europe by Daimler, Audi, VW, Fiat, etc. These kids were like a blank slate, but the advantage of that was that you could mould them any way you wanted to. Results were simply amazing.

humanismFaith in People

What is necessary for managers to even attempt to put to use their people's ability to sense, learn, analyze, and create is a belief that these abilities exist. It is an act of faith. It is easy to have faith in people when living a comfortable life with many opportunities; it is much harder when you have been living in misery or subjected to injustice, discrimination, or persecution.

Having faith in the abilities of factory workers was also a challenge in the American Midwest of the early 20th-century, because communications were severely limited. Many were non-English speaking recent immigrants from farming economies and with limited education, like the heroes of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.

The management practices that we inherited from that era are based on not taking up this challenge, relying exclusively on managers and engineers to do the thinking, and simplifying jobs. In recent decades, however, the experience of TPS implementation in California has shown that you can compete in manufacturing by leveraging the brain power of a multi-cultural, immigrant work force.

The challenge can be overcome, but it requires faith in people, which I like to call humanism.



Lean Systems Program Turns 20 This Year | UKNow

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"It has been 20 years since the University of Kentucky took its first big step on the road to becoming a world-leading center for lean systems research and training.

The journey began in 1993, when representatives from the UK College of Engineering embarked on a series of discussions with Toyota leaders, regarding the possibility of collaboration in lean knowledge development and manufacturing research and development.[...]"

Michel Baudin's comments:


This story is about a Lean certification program at the University of Kentucky (UK),  not in the United Kingdom.

I have some reservations about Lean Certification in general and the following comments about the University of Kentucky program in particular, based on the online syllabus:

The University of Kentucky's program includes Core Courses -- a train-the-trainer program -- and Specialty Courses -- for professionals outside of production operations. Some but not all the specialty courses are targeted at functions within the organization but others are about tools. Just the core courses add up to three one-week training sessions, while each specialty course is typically a one- or two-day workshop.

From the University's web site, however, I cannot tell when, or if, participants ever learn how to design a machining cell, or an assembly line, or how to reduce setup times. In the core courses, it's great to talk about mindsets, culture, and transformational leadership, but where is the engineering red meat?

The specialty courses address planning, improvement methods, logistics, supplier development, and other unquestionably important topics, but offer nothing about manufacturing or industrial engineering.



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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.

See on prezi.com

About Frederick Taylor and "taylorism"

"What is "Taylorism" ? Why is it called 'Taylorism'?" asked Emmanuel Jallas in the TPS Principles and Practice discussion group on LinkedIn. To understand Taylor, I would recommend reading not only his own works, particularly Shop Management, but also Robert Kanigel's biography of him, The One Best Way.

Frederick Taylor was first an engineer and co-inventor of the Taylor-White High Speed Steel machining process. It is not what he is best known for today, but that he did this kind of work is revealing about the kind of man he was. While self-taught, he had enough depth as a young man to challenge established beliefs about metal cutting and conduct experiments that proved it could be done twice as fast. This work led to the development of a feed-and-speed calculation slide rule for lathes at Bethlehem Steel.

Another detail that struck me in the discussion of stopwatch time studies in Shop Management was the method he recommended to calculate times for production steps that are too short to be accurately measured individually. He proposes to measure them in groups, for example, from the 1st to the 5th, the 2nd to the 6th,  the 3rd to the 7th, etc. and  solve a system of linear equations to infer times for each step. Then he explained that this worked if and only if the number of steps in each group was relatively prime to the total number of steps. While true, it is beyond the level of arithmetic usually found in industrial engineering texts, particularly of that era.

Frederick Taylor quote

Frederick Taylor quote

Taylor's technical depth, however, was coupled with such a crude and dismal view of human nature that is could be called "contempt for people." His explicit goal in Shop Management is to prevent workers from colluding to curtail output, which he calls "soldiering." See Perpectives on Standard Work for a discussion of the differences between his approach and that of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth.

He is best known for his use of stopwatch time studies for this purpose, but the confrontational and adversarial way he did it set the stage for decades of conflict with labor and ultimate defeat. While stopwatch time studies are the skill most associated in the public mind with industrial engineers (IEs), most university IE programs don't even teach it anymore. Such studies are rarely conducted in manufacturing plants and, when they are, the results are so laden with allowances and fudge factors as to be meaningless.

The most commonly used alternative is predetermined time standards, mostly Maynard's MTM or MOST, and the most effective way to analyze operations is not to time them directly with a stopwatch but to make video recordings and analyze them off line together with the operators involved. See Using Videos to Improve Operations, Parts 1 to 7. When doing this kind of work today, Taylor's legacy is one of fear that must be overcome before starting.

A more enduring and positive Taylor legacy is his work on functional foremanship. While I have never seen a manufacturing organization follow his recommendations exactly, he defined a number of support functions for production that closely map the ones you do find today. What Taylor called a "Gang Boss" is now a Production Supervisor or an Area Coordinator; his "Speed Boss," a process or manufacturing engineer; his "Routing Clerk," the technical data manager; his "Shop Disciplinarian," the Human Resource manager, etc. Taylor saw each production worker as having eight such functional foremen, which was obviously impractical and no one implemented. What remains is that, through the existing support departments, we can still see the categories he specified.

Taylor's name is also often mistakenly associated with the invention of the assembly line. It was done at Ford, shortly before Taylor's death in 1915, and he had nothing to do with it. His work is about individual operations, not end-to-end flow.

Taylor was also the first consultant. As a corporate executive, he was not successful, and found that he could make a living as an independent, selling advice instead. The profession he thus created has been a haven for corporate misfits ever since.

It is usually opponents of an approach who reduce it to an "-ism." Taylor and his supporters talked about "Scientific Management," which is an overstatement; labor unions that fought it called it "taylorism," which makes it sound like an opinion or a movement and denies it has any objective basis. You don't ever hear of "newtonism" or "einsteinism," but evolution deniers talk about "darwinism." Likewise, today, people who oppose the implementation of Lean or TPS call it "toyotism," which, to them, has the added advantage of sounding ominously like "taylorism."



When Toyota met e-commerce: Lean at Amazon | Marc Onetto

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"The spirit of lean management was already at Amazon when I arrived in 2007. Since the day he created Amazon, Jeff Bezos has been totally customer-centric. He knew that customers would not pay for waste—and that focus on waste prevention is a fundamental concept of lean. The company’s information technology was always very good at understanding what the customer wanted and passing the right signal down. "

Michel Baudin's comments:

Read this article for a personal account from Amazon's vice president of worldwide operations and customer service through 2013.

The title is misleading, in that the article is not about any assessment of Amazon by Toyota, and the connection between the Amazon practices Onetto describes and TPS or Lean are tenuous.

For example, a service agent taking a product off the website based on repetitive customer complaints on quality is described as "pulling the Andon cord," which is a far-fetched metaphor.

An Andon cord, or stop rope, is supposed to be pulled whenever an operator notices anything wrong during the production process. It is not a response to repeated customer complaints and it does not result in pulling the product off the line.

Linking Amazon's approach to Toyota is unnecessary. Amazon has been doing a great job; it is leading the world in e-commerce, an activity that is outside Toyota's expertise. It is Amazon's own approach, and they might as well call it the "Amazon Production System."

See on www.mckinsey.com

The Limits of Imitating Toyota | Bill Waddell

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From Lisa Abellera's blog, 6/21/2011

"I recently received an email from a guy challenging the legitimacy of organizing into value streams and lean accounting.  The linchpin of his argument:  'I can’t find anything saying Toyota has done any of that.'

[...] Seems to me if we want to get all Toyota-y about things we have to take Shingo’s words to heart when he wrote, 'We have to grasp not only the Know-How but also Know-Why.'

[...]Using Toyota as the acid test for whether something is lean or not is rather naive and intellectually lazy. In most companies and most plants, asking ‘what would Toyota do?’ is the appropriate question – not ‘what did Toyota do?’"



Michel Baudin's Comments:


Learning by imitation

Imitation is effective for learning. We condemn outright plagiarism, despise imitation, and value creativity. Yet even an original and unique artist like Pablo Picasso learned as a child by copying paintings. In Karate, you learn a new kata by following others. As you memorize the sequence of moves, you learn to perform them with speed and power. Then, as Jim Mather teaches,  you learn the underlying self-defense principles embedded in the kata.

Until the 1970s, many Americans and Europeans dismissed "the Japanese" as imitators who copied what they saw and then competed with the original creators through low wages. But I have not heard this in decades. A principle behind the way Japanese traditional arts are taught is that know-how precedes and leads to know-why. Once you have assimilated techniques to the point that they are second-nature to you, your mind suddenly understands how they fit together as a whole and why they are necessary.

While this approach works not just for Karate, but also for sumi-e, sushi, flower arrangement, and even machining, it can be abused. I would not recommend it, for example, to teach math. Sometimes, what you ultimately achieve as a result of going through motions is only an illusion of understanding that rationalizes the years you have invested in training.

For Lean or TPS, there is no alternative to learning by doing. There is no way to gain an understanding of cells or the Kanban system without living through implementation on an actual shop floor. As a consequence, the first time you do it, you are following along and imitating. Once you understand what you are doing, however, it behooves you to add your own twist and adapt the concepts to your needs.

When brute force imitation works

On the scale of an entire company, we should also not forget that brute-force imitation sometimes works. Once I had in one of my Lean classes a student who was a former plant manager in a large, European auto parts company known for its successful implementation of Lean. "Everything you taught," he told me,"I used in the plant, but I never knew why, until today." As he explained to me, the company's top management  issued "guidelines" to plant managers that were specific on which tools to use, regularly audited the plants,  and routinely fired the managers who did not comply, regardless of results.

It sounds wrong, but how do you argue with success? In retrospect, it worked for that company because it was in the industry for which TPS had been developed and, at least initially, creativity was not necessary to improve on the existing system. Where brute force imitation fails is in new and different industries.

How do you know "what Toyota would do"?

Either you are steeped in Toyota's ways as a result of being an employee of the company for 10 years, and you have an idea of what its management might do outside of its core business --  including the ways it might misunderstand it -- or you have studied Toyota's system from the outside, and you don't really know what it would do.

On the other hand, you may have a deeper understanding of the challenge at hand than any Toyota manager. Rather than trying to figure out what Toyota would do, I would rather follow Soichiro Honda's advice to his engineers: "Solve your own problems." Learn everything relevant that you can, then use your own judgement. You will be responsible for the outcome anyway.

Divergence and accurate representation

The whole Lean movement started from people learning about the Toyota Production System (TPS). That Lean should diverge from TPS was inevitable, but the Toyota connection remains the key reason business professionals pay any attention to Lean.  Given that the vocabulary itself has changed, making the connection on specifics is not always obvious. "Value Stream" or "Lean Accounting," for example, are not Toyota  terms, which does not make it easy to gauge the extent to which Toyota uses the concepts.

There is nothing wrong with Lean professionals inventing approaches beyond TPS, but it must be clear and the tools must stand on their own merits. Business executives assume that what they are being sold as "Lean" is what Toyota does. Where it is not the case, they must be told upfront.

See on www.idatix.com

The NUMMI Story (Minus the Ending) | Matthew May

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"At the risk of being repetitive, allow me to retell one of my favorite stories. First, imagine the worst place you've ever worked. The darkest, most depressing, soul-sucking work environment you've ever had the misfortune to inhabit.

Got it in your mind's eye? Now, multiply it by oh, say, 100. That's how bad the place I'm about to describe was. I know, because I spoke to people who were there.

The year was 1982. It was the year of Jordaache Jeans. The year of Wendy's "Where The Beef?" commercial. And the It was 1982, the first full year of Reaganomics.

The place was the General Motors Fremont, California plant..."

Michel Baudin's comments:

The NUMMI joint venture between GM and Toyota is a great story of thorough transformation. It is how a car plant from worst to best. Unfortunately, it ended in 2010, when GM when bankrupt and Toyota declined to take over the entire venture.

Now Toyota is part owner of Tesla,  the facility is the Tesla plant, and it has been getting renewed attention as such. This is a new lease on life but Tesla's 10,000 cars/year do not compare with the 250,000 NUMMI used to make.

See on matthewemay.com

Lean and Management Processes

An online sparring partner of 15 years, Bill Waddell, concluded our latest exchange with the following:

"Lean is comprised of three elements: Culture, management processes and tools. While you obviously have a keen awareness of the culture and tools, you continually under-appreciate the management processes, Michael."

It is a 3-step progression: first, Bill makes a general statement of what Lean is, then he points out a serious shortcoming in my thinking, and finally he misspells my name.

As I am not trying to go global cosmic with Lean but instead remain focused on Manufacturing, rather than Bill's three elements, I see Lean as having the four dimensions identified by Crispin Vincenti-Brown. Whatever you do has some content in each of the following:

  • Engineering, in the design, implementation, and troubleshooting of production lines.
  • Logistics and Production Control, covering both physical distribution and the processing of all information related to types and quantities of materials and good.
  • Organization and People, covering the structure, sizing, responsibilities and modes of interaction of departments in production and support, to run daily operations, respond to emergencies, and improve.
  • Metrics and Accountability. How results are measured and how these measurements are used.

Attention must be appropriately balanced in all of these dimensions and, if one is under-appreciated in the US, it is Engineering, not Management. Metrics and organization issues hog the attention; what little is left over goes towards Logistics and Production Control, and Engineering is taken for granted. The tail is wagging the dog, and reality bites back in the form of implementation failures.

What is a management process, and how does it differ from a tool? The term sounds like standard management speak, but, if you google it, the only unqualified reference to it that comes up is in Wikipedia, where it is defined as "a process of planning and controlling the organizing and leading execution of any type of activity."

Since Henri Fayol, however, we have all been taught that the job of all managers is to plan, organize, control, and lead. In those terms, there doesn't seem to be any difference between a "management process" and just "management." All other Google responses are for the processes of managing different functions, like the "Project Management Process," "Performance Management Process," "Change Management Process," or the "A3 Management Process." The corresponding images are a variety of box-and-arrow diagrams, pyramids, wheel charts, dish charts, and waterfalls/swim lanes, as in the following examples:

A manufacturing process is the network of tasks to make a product from materials -- with routes that merge, branch, and sometimes even loop. A business process, likewise, is a network of tasks to turn inputs into outputs, like the order fulfillment process that turns customer orders into deliveries. A political process  is also a network of tasks leading to a particular result, like the election of a president or the approval of a budget. So, what about a management process? And what is the level of appreciation that it deserves?

Bill is the one who should really explain it, but, if I were to use this term, at the most basic level it would be for what I have been calling protocols, by which I mean the part of management work that is done by applying sets of rules or procedures rather than making judgement calls. They are pre-planned responses to events that might occur but are not part of routine operations. It can be the arrival of a new member into a team, the failure of a truck to show up, or a quality emergency.

This is the spirit of Toyota's Change Point Management (CPM), in which the pre-planned responses are prepared by the teams that are potentially affected by the events and posted in the team's work place. When the event occurs. all you have to do is retrieve the plan and you know what to do. And it is usually a better plan than what you would have improvised in the heat of the moment.

At a higher level, I would call process a protocol used to organize the way you make judgement calls. You can't set the strategy of a company by applying rules, but you can use Hoshin Planning to organize the way you do it. A process like Hoshin Planning is akin to the rules of a game; it doesn't determine how well the managers play. If they just comply with a mandate and go through the motions, they will produce a certain result. If, on the other hand, they understand what they are doing, connect it to their own work, and see the value in  it, then they will produce a different result.

A good process does not guarantee a good outcome, and great teams have been able to coax performance out of dysfunctional processes. What is the proper level of appreciation for these management processes? Clearly, there is more to management than processes, and the best managers are those who excel at endeavors for which there is no script.

I learned to appreciate the relationship between management and engineering in Manufacturing from working with my mentor, Kei Abe. When he took me on as a junior partner in 1987, one of the first things I learned from him was to approach problems in a holistic manner, simultaneously at the technical and and the managerial levels. I saw him coach a shop floor team on the details of SMED in the morning, and the board of directors on company strategy in the afternoon. It's not a common mix of skills, but I believe it is what a manufacturing consultant should have.

Internal Threat to TPS due to new Hiring Practices | Christoph Roser

See on Scoop.it - lean manufacturing

"Toyota with its Toyota Production System is the archetype of lean manufacturing, which also makes it to one of the most successful companies on earth. This success is due to outstanding management at Toyota; however, recent changes in hiring practices threaten the Toyota Production System at its core."

Michel Baudin's comments:

Now a professor at Karlsruhe University, Christoph Roser is an alumnus of Toyota Research in Japan, so he has first-hand knowledge of the topic.

Toyota's response to the Aisin Seiki fire of 1997 is certainly a shining example of its supply chain management practices at work, but its relevance to employee hiring practices is not clear to me.

Also, one should not confuse dominating a meeting with getting decisions to go your way, and learning to say "No" rather than "It would be a little difficult" is just being culturally sensitive.

Having this ability carries no implication on a person's character.  Being articulate and assertive does not mean being selfish. Being selfish means only looking after yourself. Making sure that what you mean comes across clearly to the other side in a negotiation is perfectly compatible with seeking win-win solutions.

See on www.allaboutlean.com