Taiichi Ohno

Taiichi Ohno Quote of the Day: My First Move

By Jon Miller Published on April 29th, 2009

My first move as the manager of the machine shop was to introduce standardized work.
How many people can say that the first thing they did when taking on a management position was to introduce standardized work? I certainly can’t. Many people think of standardized work as an advanced application of lean principles, only attainable after establishing a stable process, work balanced to takt time, a semblance of one piece flow, and the removal of various barriers. In some ways it is true that a process with uncontrolled variation cannot be easily standardized. On the other hand Taiichi Ohno would say:
Standardized work at Toyota is a framework for kaizen improvements. We start by adopting some kind – any kind – of work standards for a job.Then we tackle one improvement after another, trial and error.
These quotes and many other gems can be found in The Birth of Lean by Koichi Shimokawa and Takahiro Fujimoto, published by Lean Enterprise Institute. I am only halfway though it, but I recommend you pick up a copy.

  1. Robert Strout

    May 25, 2009 - 2:07 am

    The company I worked for needed to increase production and quality. The President, of my company, called a consultant to come in for an “In House Assessment”. He received the report and called me into his office only to say, “I think we can do these ourselves.”
    This scenario happens all the time, because in part, to the fact that Lean has a roadmap. I went for an interview with an employer and the Plant Manager pulled out a copy of The Toyota Production System and asked me, ”What parts were my focal points?” It was a road map and things were done by the book. Anyone can read the book. After some attempts are made to follow the plan and they don’t work or the results are not what was expected Lean falls off the “flavor of the month” and is relegated to a buzz word that is brought out when visitors enter the plant for a tour.
    I agree that there are things that have to be done well before any thought of Lean is introduced but these items are cultural and should be in place before Lean.
    I was working for a Japanese company in 2004, when they called in a Sensei for Hino Motors. He was retired but was instrumental in implementing TPS at Hino and did consulting. Never before was I aware of the cultural differences that from which TPS developed, nor the degree of commitment that was needed to put the system in place.
    Several hours were spent visiting the shop floor reviewing the product lines and notes with discussion happened right on the scene, most observations came from the Sensei. The core group included maintenance, engineering, production and the Director of Operations. This group then retired to a conference room for about 1 hour while the notes were transferred onto white board. During this time additional information was requested, OEE, production schedule, prior Kaizen events and their results. The group was given 2 hours to correct the problems and report back. These were not small items, cutting and fabricating, record review and reporting, procedural changes and operator working methods. The results were, to say the least, dismal. Most of the additional information was available but working methods needed to be changed in the work instructions then routed and signed, fabrication required disassembly and reworking and in a few instances, parts being ordered and prior Kaizen events were documented but not updated.
    Kaizen means change, now. If you see an opportunity to change you have the obligation to change it. It is the immediate action that starts to correct the problem only to be revised to completely correct the waste. This would include ISO and TS and all the regulations that involve Safety, Quality, Engineering changes and all that documentation. It all filters down to two items, Discipline and Detail. If these two items are neglected there can be no Lean.
    The Best
    The Sensei challenged us to tell him what US company we thought was the best. We offered many choices and were surprised with the answer he selected. McDonalds. He chose it because where ever you go you will get what you expect. French fries cooked the same time, hamburgers with the same fixings; you get exactly the same meal whether you are in Maine or Nevada. This means that the detail, or work instructions are followed and enforced, there is no room for individuality. That strong trait that is prized by Americans is subjugated for the good of the company.
    This means that the 1st shift operator who runs the tolerance a little high must learn to run the machine at a lower tolerance closer to optimal. This eliminates random non conformances where parts within tolerance do not run in the down line processes well. Operators struggle and seldom if ever find out why the product runs badly.
    I was given the opportunity to visit our competitor in Japan in late 2005. It was very unusual to have this relationship but it only goes to bolster the cultural differences.
    During this visit one incident sticks out to support this fact. We had experienced a slower shift whenever we did a change over. Not only did we lose the change over time but the minor adjustments that occurred kept the production less then optimal. When our competitor did a change over the Production Line held a 30 minute meeting at the beginning of the shift. They reviewed the last change over, the problems, support if needed, the time it would occur, who would do what and when. The change over went flawlessly.
    That night we were the guests of the Plant Manager. During the dinner many questions were asked but one was totally unexpected. He asked me, “Are you a Japanese company or an American company?” I told him that I thought we were a Japanese company who was trying to be American. He said that we were an American company trying to be Japanese.
    My Experience
    I have worked for 3 major world wide corporations in the United States in 38 years. During this time, discipline and details were not the under lying drivers except in the area of paperwork. Because they are not stressed there is no firm ground work to build Lean. This is a failure that can impact the issue of cultural changes. The “Low Hanging Fruit” that is emblazoned on corporate officer eyes must be fertilized with ground work.
    Most orientations are 1 or 2 days in which the new employee is shown the different areas in the plant and given a general idea of who is responsible for what and how to get things done, correct procedures, paperwork and a general framework of the companies structure. Although this maybe fine for salary employees it is seldom, if ever applied to the hourly production workers, whose needs are different.
    Production workers are then turned over to Cell Leaders or Team Leaders where the time is still not invested to train them in details. I have reviewed several hundred work instruction in two companies. One company did not write detailed instruction on purpose because if audited the employee would have to follow them exactly or there would be a non conformance. Can you imagine going into a fast food restaurant and getting soggy fries because someone determined that the lines were long and they didn’t have time to allow them to cook the full time?
    Companies often choose quick hitters to get their program started. One of the favorites is 5S. I wish I had a $1 for every piece of 5S equipment purchased that wound up in the Red Tag Area. Discipline and details were not in place and although the plant maybe cleaner it is not 5S. People love a clean plant; it is safer, more organized and a plus when visitors come through, but trying to get them to keep the tools organized or a shadow board filled is another topic. Tell me how much money you have saved by implementing 5S? 5S only impacts when there is a reduction in searching for tools, cutting set up time and reducing the lost time that is never accounted for. 5S, as I was told by the Sensei, should only be attempted when the variation in standard work is less then 10%!

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