Toyota’s Way Changed the World’s Factories. Now the Retool | K. Buckland & N. Sano | Bloomberg

Shigeki Tomoyama

“The automaker last month created a single group, staffed with 200 employees, to manage the Toyota Production System, centralizing a function that was spread out through the organization. Their task is to evaluate how core concepts like kaizen, or continuous improvement, can be applied to new businesses that include car sharing and consumer robots. The person in charge is 59-year-old Shigeki Tomoyama, a career Toyota executive who wields a tablet computer during events, making him look more like a Silicon Valley software engineer than a car guy. […] Akio Toyoda says the automaker his grandfather founded eight decades ago needs to move faster to keep up with the likes of Google and Uber Technologies Inc. […] In the last two years, Toyota has opened a Silicon Valley research center

Source: Bloomberg Technology

Michel Baudin‘s comments: The article includes a group photo of the original Gazoo group from 1997 that includes both Tomoyama and current Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda:

Gazoo is an internet portal created by Toyota that is in sharp contrast with the brochureware websites of other automakers, featuring, among other things, articles about classic cars, used cars, road trips in Japan, and entertainment devices for kids during drives. This article is the first reference to Gazoo that I have seen in the American press. It’s unfortunate because Gazoo has been online since 2000 and is an approach to car marketing that deserves attention.

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Countries Don’t Have Production Systems, Companies Do

Kobe Steel CEO apologizing (10/2017)

“Companies Everywhere Copied Japanese Manufacturing. Now the Model Is Cracking. Concepts celebrated in business publications worldwide have been tarnished by a string of scandals.

Japan’s reputation for flawless manufacturing quality and efficiency transformed the country’s postwar economy, changed business practices worldwide and spawned a library’s worth of management manuals and business advice books. Now, the model is cracking.

Kobe Steel Ltd., Mitsubishi Materials Corp., and Subaru Corp. have all admitted in recent months to manipulating quality inspections, though all say no safety problems emerged. Takata Corp. declared bankruptcy last year after admitting to supplying more than 50 million defective vehicle airbags in the U.S. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has admitted covering up vehicle faults and falsifying fuel-economy data.”

Sourced from The Wall Street Journal

Michel Baudin‘s comments: What does the Volkswagen diesel emission scandal say about eyeglass lenses and telescopes made by Zeiss or A320s assembled by Airbus in Hamburg? Nothing. Factories for these companies are all located in the same country but a lapse by one is just that, and the Wall Street Journal did not publish articles suggesting that it made a statement about German industry as a whole. When it comes to Japan, however, this is exactly what they are doing with this article, assuming there is such a thing as “Japanese manufacturing,” which is blemished by the misbehavior of any Japanese company.

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Why It Makes Sense (Sometimes) to Start With Hoshin Kanri | Dan Markovitz | IndustryWeek

“Strategy deployment is a powerful way to get the leadership team involved in the lean journey.For a long time, I’ve been dismissive of organizations that want to start their lean journeys with hoshin kanri, (also known as strategy deployment). When you’ve got a company where people are not engaged (at best) or suspicious of management (at worst), it seems to me that getting people involved in everyday improvement to make their jobs easier is a better place to start.[…] Until now. Recently, my colleague and friend Katie Anderson pointed out something I’ve completely missed: that strategy deployment is a powerful way to get the leadership team involved in the lean journey.”

Sourced through IndustryWeek

Michel Baudin‘s comments: As I have great respect for both Dan Markovitz and Katie Anderson, I have to paraphrase Judge Haller from My Cousin Vinny, “That is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out argument… Overruled.”

The flaw I see in Dan’s argument is that it only addresses employee engagement, which isn’t the only reason to start with local, tactical shop-floor projects with both technical and managerial content. In an organization that is just starting on its journey, the successful initial projects are most commonly setup time reduction or cell conversion of a process segment. Besides engaging employees, they also produce tangible improvements, develop technical and managerial skills, and let leaders emerge.

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Now It’s Humans Assisting Robots | Sheelah Kolhatkar | The New Yorker

Steelcase ology

“[…]As a zone leader, Stinson is responsible for about fifteen employees on a section of the production line that makes parts for Steelcase’s Ology series—height-adjustable tables built for the standing-desk craze. Until last year, the plant workers had to consult a long list of steps, taking pains to remove the correct parts out of a cart filled with variously sized bolts and screws and pins and to insert each one in the correct hole and in the correct order. Now computerized workstations, called ‘vision tables,’ dictate, step by step, how workers are to assemble a piece of furniture. The process is virtually mistake-proof: the system won’t let the workers proceed if a step isn’t completed correctly. We stood behind a young woman wearing a polo shirt and Lycra shorts, with a long blond ponytail. When a step was completed, a light turned on above the next required part, accompanied by a beep-beep-whoosh sound. A scanner overhead tracked everything as it was happening, beaming the data it collected to unseen engineers with iPads.[…] ”

Sourced through The New Yorker

Michel Baudin‘s comments: This is excerpted from a long article entitled Welcoming Our New Robot Overlords, from the 10/23/2017 issue of The New Yorker that caught my attention because it’s not about robots and it seems to be in the same spirit as Omron’s Digital Yatai back in 2002: using technology to eliminate hesitation and to mistake-proof operations that are too long or have too many variants to allow operators to go “on automatic” while performing them.

When repeating the same 60 seconds of work 400 times in a shift, operators quickly develop the ability to execute rapidly and accurately with their minds elsewhere. If on the other hand, the takt time is 20 minutes or the work is customized for every unit, the work requires the operators’ undivided, conscious attention and their productivity is increased by systems like the vision tables described in the article, that prompt them for every step and validate its completion.

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More Sophisticated Graphics In Today’s New York Times

Mass shootings versus number of guns by country

Mass shootings versus guns per capita by country

“When the world looks at the United States, it sees a land of exceptions […] But why, they ask, does it experience so many mass shootings?[…] Perhaps, some speculate, it is because American society is unusually violent. Or its racial divisions have frayed the bonds of society. Or its citizens lack proper mental care under a health care system that draws frequent derision abroad. These explanations share one thing in common: Though seemingly sensible, all have been debunked by research on shootings elsewhere in the world. Instead, an ever-growing body of research consistently reaches the same conclusion. The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.”

The source for both charts is Adam Lankford from the University of Alabama. The charts Include countries with more than 10 million people and at least one mass public shooting with four or more victims.

Sourced from The New York Times

Michel Baudin‘s comments: Six months ago, I was bemoaning the absence of scatterplots in business analytics and more recently complimenting the New York Times for the sophistication of its graphics. Manufacturing professionals should not be shy about using scatterplots, as they have learned to do in Middle School. Here, they are used to highlight outliers, which isn’t the most common application. What this article — and these charts — show is how the tool can be used not just to solve technical problems but to inform a political debate as well.-

Don’t Get Too Comfortable at That Desk | Steve Lohr | The New York Times

New office layout at Microsoft

“First there were individual offices. Then cubicles and open floor plans. Now, there is a ‘palette of places.’ New office designs are coming to a workplace near you, with layouts meant to cater to the variety of tasks required of modern white-collar workers. Put another way, it means people don’t sit in just one place. […]The new model eschews the common dogmas of work life: Everybody gets an office, or everyone gets a cubicle, or everybody gets a seat on a workbench. A diversity of spaces, experts say, is more productive, and the new concept is called “activity-based workplace design,” tailoring spaces for the kind of work done.”

Sourced through The New York Times

Michel Baudin‘s comments: Management at companies like GE, IBM, or Microsoft has just made a stunning discovery: office spaces should be designed around the work. Duh! While engineers need to concentrate undisturbed for hours, customer service reps are on the phone all day and human resources needs privacy. Product development teams need collaboration and immediate, face-to-face communication, along with confidentiality, while traders thrive in the noisy, competitive atmosphere of the trading room.

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Boeing borrows a tech tradition to build airplanes more efficiently | Todd Bishop | GeekWire

Speaking at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Kevin McAllister described the company’s use of hackathons to find efficiencies in the process of building airplanes: “We’ve launched some new things that are a little different to our normal Boeing culture, like hackathons, which we borrowed from Microsoft and many others,” McAllister said, explaining that the hackathons “take data scientists and partner them with mechanics on the floor, to find great ideas that we can solve in days, in small investments that help make the workforce and the workflow better.”

Sourced through GeekWire

Michel Baudin‘s comments: Thanks to my colleague Kevin Hop for drawing my attention to this story. From the description, these “hackathons” look like Kaizen Events with data scientists in the team. On the one hand, it seems like a way to make IT a participant in the improvement process instead of the obstacle it has been in the past; on the other hand, it also appears to retain the critical short-termism of Kaizen Events. I assume this is not the last we hear of this.

#Hackathon, “KaizenEvent, #KaizenBlitz, #Kaizen, #Boeing

Sophisticated Graphics In The New York Times

“Even after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago, according to a New York Times analysis. The share of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans, as the chart below shows.”

Sourced through the New York Times

Michel Baudin‘s comments: This morning’s New York Times contains an article with data visualizations at varying levels of detail that are far more sophisticated than the usual pie charts and stacked bar charts commonly found in the American press as well as in business presentations and shop floor performance dashboards.

The exact meaning of the above chart between the title and the lead of the article is not immediately obvious. After looking at it for a minute or two, you realize that it has a high data-to-ink ratio: it makes a non-trivial point in a flourish-free format that I think Edward Tufte would approve.

The article is about the relative representation of different groups in the student population of 101 institutions,  including the Ivy League, University of California campuses, “top liberal arts colleges,” “other top universities,” and “public flagship universities.” The study compares the proportion of freshmen enrolled from each group to their proportion in the college-age population as a whole.

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The Only Capability That Matters: The Willingness And Ability To Learn | Becky Morgan | Industry Week

“Research shows that over a million manufacturing jobs sit unfilled right now. That number is expected to increase to over 3 million by the end of this decade. A skills shortage is to blame, say most. ‘We need CNC operators, robot operators, and mechatronics skills’ say all too many manufacturing companies. […] How does a manufacturing company leader solve that problem? By emphasizing the only capability that truly matters: The willingness and ability to learn.”

Sourced through Industry Week

Michel Baudin‘s comments: As usual, I tend to agree with Becky Morgan. In the article’s featured image, I also noticed the learner’s gray hair and his obvious willingness to take instruction from a younger man. It reinforces Becky’s points. When you desperately need a CNC programmer, you are tempted to seek someone with just this skill to fill just this pigeonhole. What Becky says is that, not only are you unlikely to find this rare pearl but, even if you did, it wouldn’t serve you well because the skill in question would be obsolete in 5 years. Instead, she argues, you should recruit team members to learn and grow with the company.

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Not statistically significant does NOT mean insignificant | Rebecca A. Morgan | AME Target

“My fully-loaded 2012 Audi A6 had an intermittent frustrating problem since the day I bought it. No diagnostic codes indicated a problem. Escalation to German engineering had me ready to move back to Lexus. Their response was ‘it must not really be happening. Our codes would indicate if it were.’ That obnoxious response was based on the assumption they had thought of every cause of failure in developing the diagnostic codes. FMEA is not 100% and never will be. Do you have customer data that you’re not actively using to improve your product Four years after I first reported the issue, Audi issued an urgent safety recall for the problem that I had been experiencing. Why the delay?”

Sourced through AME Target

Michel Baudin‘s comments: I am sure many have had similar experiences to Becky’s with customer service in many companies. They tell you their product is used by millions and it’s the first time anyone reports this problem. You are probably using it wrong, or misreading its output,… This being said, it’s not really related to the concept of statistical significance.

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