Dec 7 2020
Thanks to Jeffrey Liker for providing additional details on the transformation of this tool. Initially, Toyota used it occasionally with suppliers. The Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) turned it into the Value Stream Maps (VSM) that it has promoted as foundational to Lean.
From TSSC to Ford, Delphi, and the LEI
In comments on yet another discussion of Value Stream Mapping (VSM) on LinkedIn, Jeffrey Liker contributed the following details I wasn’t aware of when I wrote Where do “Value Stream Maps” come from?:
Originally it was developed by OMCD to use with suppliers, then brought by Hajime Ohba to the Toyota Supplier Support Center (TSSC) that taught it to Chuck Ward from the Toyota Kentucky plant. He then went to Ford as a consultant and taught it to Mike Rother. Mike and John Shook brought it to Delphi. It was the basis for Learning To See and they called it Value Stream Mapping. Toyota then called it the Material and Information Flow Diagram. It is sometimes but not often used inside Toyota.
The OMCD the Toyota’s Operations Management Consulting Division, a group started by Taiichi Ohno and in existence since at least 1975. Chuck Ward left Toyota in 1995 and therefore learned it before then. Learning to See, Version 1, came out in 1998.
How The OMCD Used The Tool
Jeffrey then provided additional details on the way OMCD used this tool:
The OMCD –elite corps of TPS experts that Ohno set up and its main focus was teaching TPS to suppliers through model line projects to bring one line of the supplier to a dramatically higher level of cost-quality-lead time.
The TPS experts would crudely draw the current state and future state as a guide but not show it to the suppliers. Ohno wanted them to discover their way step by step rather than try to copy his drawing. That is what Ohba taught at TSSC, which was modeled after OMCD.
Draw it but do not show it to the client. It helps the teacher to guide the student. I asked Chuck Ward what they called the current state map. He seemed surprised I would ask and said “a picture of the current state.” And then there was “a picture of the desired future state.”
It seemed to me that they named it Material and Information Flow Diagram because of the Learning to See book and others outside were now talking about it a lot so they thought they should have a name for the original version.
As explained by Jeffrey, the MIFA/MIFD was in the teacher’s book but not the student’s. It is odd for the OMCD to use a tool internally and not share it with the organizations they were trying to help. The only reason I can think of is that, while it was necessary for the OMCD members to do the analysis quickly — as they had other suppliers to attend to — the supplier side needed to understand, own, and act on the results, which went smoother if they worked through the issues with their own methods. Presumably, this might even be faster than learning the tool first and then applying it.
Purpose Of The Tool Within Jishuken
Jeffrey also elaborated on the purpose of the tool in the context of Jishuken, Toyota’s structure for improvement projects:
The MIFD has a very specific goal: envision the desired material and information flow at a very high level. It is intentionally an abstract 30,000 foot view to get a direction–not a set of solutions to implement.
The original jishuken were typically several month model line programs that were transformations of a product line. This was bastardized in the US into the one week kaizen event that they called jishuken. Within the week a theme is picked and it rarely is a complete transformation of the material and information flow. I witnessed one NUMMI jishuken that focused on reducing the setup time of a plastic injection molding machine. There was no reason to do a material and information flow diagram for that.
Once they have set up the overall material and information flow, there is usually no reason to use that tool. And in Toyota they usually have a well set up material and information flow. They focus on kaizen within that framework.
Jishuken (自主研) means “autonomous study,” and it started out as study groups in the 1970s. The study groups then grew bolder and. First, they proposed changes based on their learnings, and then they implemented these changes. The original name, however, remained. As Jeffrey points out the 5-day Kaizen Event is a bastardized, simplified version of a subset of Jishuken which, as Bob Emiliani pointed out, created when the convenience of a Japanese consulting firm met American managers’ quest for instant gratification.