If You Want to Pull, Don’t Deliver

We received a nugget of wisdom from Mr. Nojima of the Logistics group of Yazaki (makers of Creform and Japan’s largest privately held company) during our October study mission to Japan.
Mr. Nojima made a statement that “all work has waste in it”. In fact, he made the point that you might as well think of all work as waste since there is just so much waste and non value-added in what we do.
One of our study group wanted to know how Mr. Nojima’s students reacted to comments like that. He said “they become angry”. So how does Mr. Nojima explain this in a way that helps them see?
He gave an illustration of how he gets people to see, using the pull system. He said it is a simple comparison of ‘delivering’ versus ‘going to get’. As long as you are delivering something, you are pushing material rather than pulling. If you stop delivering and required the customer (downstream process) to go pick it up, that’s true downstream pull.
This is impractical if the customer process is located far away from the supplier process. The custome ends up walking too much to pull the material needed. This requires the processes to be brought closer together in order to save steps for the customer pulling, or ‘going to get’.
If you allow people to ‘deliver’ or push, you will never reduce the distance, since the person doing the delivery may not see their job of transportation as waste. By insisting on a downstream pull, it forces the situation to change, connecting the process and reducing transportation and motion waste. This results in kaizen.
It was a very simple explanation. It illustrated the pull system very elegantly. It also showed how you can motivate people to change when you require your organization to operate on Lean principles.