Taiichi Ohno is one of the founders of TPS along with Shigeo Shingo and members of the Toyoda family.
Three of Mr. Ohno’s major works on the Toyota Production System and kaizen have been translated into English. They are ‘The Toyota Production System’, ‘Just In Time for Today and Tomorrow’, and ‘Workplace Management’ (Gemba Keiei in Japanese). The first is still in print and available and on the reading list of many Lean Managers.
On our last kaizen study mission to Japan I was fortunate enough to pick up a recently reissued copy of Gemba Keiei from JMAM, the publishing arm of JMA. It is an excellent book for anyone interested in kaizen, Toyota Production System, and the original Lean thinking of Mr. Ohno.
This book and Taiichi Ohno’s thoughts on kaizen and TPS have previously been capably translated by Andrew Dillon and published by Productivity Press. Unfortunately Gemba Keiei has been out of print for many years and is exceedingly difficult to obtain today. The following series of blog entries on Taiichi Ohno’s book Gemba Keiei is not an authorized translation. As I re-read this book in the original Japanese, I will summarize the nuggets of wisdom from each chapter in Mr. Ohno’s book.
A few words about the title of the book. Gemba means “actual place” or “workplace” and in Ohno’s case this is the factory. The second part “Keiei” (pronounced K-A) means ‘managing’ as in ‘managing a business’ or ‘running a business’. As opposed to the word ‘kanri’ which is used for managing or controlling people or processes. So the word ‘keiei’ means to manage or run a business or an enterprise. A person who does “keiei” is a business owner or a senior executive, while a person who does “kanri” is a manager or supervisor. It is an important distinction’ that I feel is lost in the English title “Workplace Management”. I believe that this book was written not only for the Lean Manager or Kaizen facilitator but for the business owner, the person who does “keiei” of their business.
Ohno comments in the foreword that he was asked to write about “gemba no keiei” or “running a manufacturing company” as I understand it. Mr. Ohno’s experience is based on manufacturing, but his insights on kaizen and effective management practices at the gemba transcend the factory floor. ‘Gemba Keiei’ is Ohno’s essential philosophy on how to run a business through focusing on kaizen in the workplace.
Gemba Keiei is written in a very disarming style, in the original Japanese it is almost conversational. Mr. Ohno does not use the formal or ‘polite’ language that would be the norm, but rather writes as he speaks firmly and directly, as if he is speaking to the reader as one of his students.
My goal is to summarize one chapter per week and post it in this weblog. There are 37 short chapters in this book so I hope to share as much of Ohno’s wisdom on TPS and kaizen as I am able to receive from this book in the next 37 weeks, and complete this project before the September 2005.