Nov 8 2011
Nov 8 2011
In Kaizen, Masaaki Imai describes Japanese executives returning in the 1970s to American plants they had visited thirty years before and being struck by the absence of change: they saw the same production lines with the same equipment operated the same way. This started me looking for photographic evidence. Overall, pickings were slim, but I did find the above pictures of the same coke oven at the Ford River Rouge plant shot in 1946 and 1976.
If there is Kaizen activity in a factory, how does it change the work life of employees at all levels? The following chart compares the breakdowns of their use of time, with and without Kaizen:
In a plant without Kaizen, operators and supervisors are fully occupied with routine daily tasks: production for the operators, expediting parts, enforcing discipline, and record keeping for supervisors. Only middle managers and executives spend a fraction of their time on projects involving capacity changes, new production lines or new technology. Nobody works on incremental improvements to the way the work is done today.
By contrast, Kaizen involves employees at all levels in such improvement activities to different degrees. Between improvement and daily routine, the boundary is sharp; between improvement and innovation, fuzzy. Over time, the cumulative effect of incremental improvement is radical change by itself. In addition, the skills acquired and the lessons learned from incremental improvements are incorporated into new line or plant design projects. In some Japanese auto parts plants, I remember seeing automatic lines side-by-side, where one used old machines that had been gradually retrofitted with devices that reduced the need for human intervention, while the other one had been built from scratch with new machines to be automatic. The Kaizen work done to implement the former was essential to the success of the latter.
Nov 7 2011
Problems are opportunities… A cliche made in the USA for a positive spin. I remember slides in the UK on which “Opportunities” had been switched back to “Problems” so that the audience would understand. But 2009 IW Best Plant winner Greatbatch has earned the right to use it.
Nov 4 2011
On LinkedIn, Patrick Courtney asked the following question: “In your experience, with a Lean transformation program when can the program become a waste? Is there a tipping point? Please share your experiences and wins.”
Let us assume we are talking about a successful Lean transformation with a program office, headed by a lean champion and including a small group of project facilitators. The question then is whether there is a point beyond which this organization is unnecessary.
That a Lean transformation is successful means that practices from daily operations on the shop floor to strategic planning in the board room are more effective and efficient as a result of Lean, as evidence in business performance. At that point, people in the organization no longer refer to “Lean tools,” but simply to “the way we do things.” What was a change requiring adaptation is the new normal.
In principle, once Lean practices are assimilated into the company’s standard mode of operations, a program office is no longer necessary. In reality, there are some functions for which continued, organized support is necessary, such as the following:
- Continuous improvement. If continuous improvement is carried out through a system of circles or individual suggestions, then a structure will be needed to manage it and organize periodic conferences and award ceremonies.
- External certification. If the company is a part supplier, it may need to maintain its status as a “certified Lean” with some OEMs, and resources are needed to host audits and make sure that actions are taken as needed to ensure compliance.
- Supplier support. Companies that are successful at Lean commonly endeavor to pass their skills on to suppliers in exchange for price breaks, which requires a team of engineers.
Some people will remain involved with Lean, but in other roles than during the initial implementation, and often elsewhere on the organization chart. More generally, a successful change program should eventually fade away. For example, the pursuit of Total Quality Control (TQC) was a program in major Japanese manufacturing companies until the mid 1970’s, when all of them had received a Deming Prize. Then it gradually lost visibility, as everything they had learned from this program was integrated in normal operations and its principles had become part of the culture.
Nov 4 2011
Nov 3 2011
Via Scoop.it – lean manufacturing
It is a curious fact that in industry after industry there is at least one company that appears to succeed not by doing the same thing better than everyone else but by playing a completely different game.