May 29, 2006

"JIT is Flow" is the next book you should read


Once again, Norman Bodek draws on his unmatched relationships with Japan’s best thinkers and brings us “JIT is Flow,” by Hiroyuki Hirano and Makoto Furiya. I must confess that I have not read it in its entirety yet – in fact, I would advise any reader to read it very slowly, and reread and think about each section of each chapter for a long time.

The authors have shed light on many subtleties of the effectively-managed factory. One in particular is the idea that the factory floor tells the truth about a company and its management. You could spend months considering that one alone.

In another example of subtlety, for each of the 5Ss, the authors reveal why it is necessary, going beyond simple event-type cleanup. 5S, of course, is the familiar Seiri (sorting), Seiton (settling or setting), Seiso (sweeping), Seiketsu (sustenance or sustaining), and Shitsuke (self-discipline). The 3Tei are Teii (target location), Teihin (target item), and Teiryo (target quantity) – the right thing in the right number in the right place.

5S, say Hirano and Furiya, are directed at the tools, machines, supplies and means of production, while 3Tei are directed at the flow of parts into the work area.

Figure 5-2, “5S and 3Tei,” is in itself an agenda for years of improvement. It shows a base of the 5Ss reaching up to the goals of product, quality, cost, delivery, safety and operational availability. Progress toward the goals weaves through and intertwines with elimination of error, zero changeover, proper storage, elimination of excess stock and machinery and all the familiar sub-goals of the Toyota Production System. This one diagram ties everything together, reveals all the relationships and answers the question, “Why are we doing this?”

Subtleties emerge. The authors draw attention to confusion between “process” and “operation.” Traditional industrial engineering calls an operation a process, whereas an operation is a point in a multipoint connected process, what we call a value stream. Our training focuses us on improvement of operations, whereas a focus on the process gives us the ability to think about flow. If we misuse the TPS principles by applying them to individual processes, we’ll be celebrating things that have little effect on – or may even worsen the process.

That’s only one of the deep ideas you’ll find, along with more guidelines for improving operations at a level of detail rarely found. The authors have a clear progression of concepts and practices in mind, having taught them over and over, I suspect. The readers who will get the most out of the book are those who believe they have grasped lean and have been applying it. They will get a dose of thinking that goes beyond rules and tools.

If I mentioned every important insight in the book, this post would be much longer than any reader’s attention span. Get the book. Read it. Think. Read it again. Use it.

May 15, 2006

Ideas are free, but easily prevented

An employee suggested five improvements to processes, as described below:

On air operated grease machine for XXX (Bay B73). One each right and left for injecting required amount of grease to front hubs. Sketches are attached showing detailed method of shortening the unnecessarily long stroke of the ram for grease seal pressing. For some unknown reason the present stroke is 18 inches when half of that would suffice as in the case of the Plymouth and Dodge front hub operations. To retain the long cylinders and precise cycling and metering (automatic by pressures) the ram must operate at the top and the table should be raised accordingly.

Solve present excessive wear on cup-leathers due to inside to outside bearing action and more accurately position ram over hub.

Remove present safety hazard (some operators actually placing bearing in hubs after sending ram on non-stoppable down stroke.)

Offer a stand-up schedule operation at 49 inch height instead of 19 inch sitting down. Make operation cycle mechanically four times as fast. Save approximately 1,000 cu. Inches of 105 PSI compressed air per operation.

Require only two additional cup leathers (1 each machine), 2 pcs 8 in dia CRs; 1 pc 4 in OD tubing 7 ¾ inches long; 1 ½ x 10 pipe nipple; a weldment platform 9 inches high. The removal of the top and bottom heads of the cylinder; drilling in the bottom one 7/8 dia hole and the shifting of only one hose connection.

J.R. McWhorter



The following is the reply:

XXXX CORPORATION - Suggestion System
L O S A N G E L E S P L A N T

Suggestion No, LA-XXXX

Date: 12-28-XXXX

Mr. John R. McWhorter
6526 E. Olympic
Los Angeles 33, California

Dear Suggester:

We are happy to report that your suggestion has been received by our Suggestion Committee. Thank you very much for submitting it. Ideas are so essential if we ar to continue to make progress and improve our American Way of Life. It is impossible as yet to determine whether your proposal will prove successful, however, be assured that you r idea will be thoroughly investigated by representatives of each of the several departments capable of passing sound judgment as to the merits of your idea. As soon as possible you will be advised of the results of our investigation.

Should your idea be usable, it must then be approved by the Suggestion Committee. Following this, our Accounting Department will study the results of its usage to determine the amount of a fair and equitable award as provided for by the rules of the Chrysler Corporation Employee Suggestion Plan.

In the event that your idea must be declined, you will be notified by letter at to the reasons for it being declined.

You will readily recognize that this process will take some time, however, please feel free to write or ‘phone us concerning your Suggestion and in such event, kindly refer to the Suggestion Number shown on your suggestion stub.

Best wishes for many award-winning ideas!

Your Plant Suggestion Committee

Phone: XXXX

[Sig.] by H. H. Brown

If you’ve read or heard Norman Bodek, Chuck Yorke, Alan Robinson or many others describe successful idea programs, you cringed at reading the response. I’d hardly feel it was worth the effort to save the company a few bucks after reading that. The “suggester” apparently hasn’t yet received a reply. He’s a notorious pack rat, so I’d expect to find it in his file, but it’s not there.

This exchange of letters took place at a Chrysler assembly plant in 1961. (Jeez- I hope those operators were stopped before they lost their hands.) They were submitted by my granddad, a toolmaker, and proud member of ASTE, the original name of SME. But he was no more clever than toolmakers, line operators and other plant-floor employees now. Today someone is thinking of improvements exactly like my grandfather’s. Companies like Chrysler – let’s hope they’ve changed since then – are either profiting by that kind of creativity, or throwing it away.

Q. for Larry Christiansen: What was your idea-program experience on the line at Chrysler? (and when?)

May 7, 2006

Lean Directions en Espanol

Five of the ten Shingo Prizes went to companies in Mexico. Several of the people they sent to receive the prize were not fluent in English. It was a wake-up call for me. "Lean Directions" has to include Spanish-language articles. I've e-mailed a few folks I found by Googling Spanish-language websites about lean and using the "translate this page" tool.

Machine translation of "lean manufacturing" is at first baffling, and then hilarious. Mostly it appears as "he reads." The correct term seems to be manufactura ajustado. I kinda like that - adjusted manufacturing.

On Piquer0's advice, I thought about people whose first language was Spanish who would write in Spanish. Ordinarily, I'd be conditioned to find something in English and get it translated.

My limitation is not speaking or reading Spanish. Like most Americans, I am appallingly monolingual. That means I need a subject matter expert to tell me if an article is worth publishing and an editor to make it read well. I've got a couple of people who've said they would help. The people I've asked have said that even one article in Spanish would be helpful. It would allow the bilingual readers to give their folks stuff to read.

Enrique Mora, a bilingual TPM guy now working for the California Manufacturing Technology Center (or something like that adding up to CMTC), has offered to submit articles in both English and Spanish. He'll let me edit in English and then edit the Spanish himself, which might work out pretty well.

If any of my blog-readers are interested, let me know. I can imagine a "Direcciones a Manufactura Ajustado" in the future. Guess I'd better get some of those quick CD courses on Spanish if I'm going to be able to be its editor.

"Lean Directions" is a labor of love. It's my baby and I don't want to ever give it up to anyone. I kept at it through years of obscurity and am so deeply gratified that it has achieved some level of recognition in the lean world. Now I want it to live up to ever-higher expectations. If I can't be an accomplished practitioner, I want to be a good onlooker. Someday I'll even be a good observer. Anytime you want to tell me what you need as a reader, I'll listen.

May 2, 2006

My tax dollars -- saved?

As I drove to work the other day, I found myself being passed by a massive orange Wayne County truck with a double-length flat bed trailer behind it, transporting some kind of little excavator. Wasn’t dangerous – traffic was only making about 30 mph, if that. Then I noticed something a little odd – a fluorescent orange plastic rod, about 4 ft. long, extending vertically from its right front bumper. As I passed the truck to get a better look, I could see that the stick was really attached to a huge bracket on the front, something you could probably attach a snow plow to.

It dawned on me that this was an error-proofing device. It let the driver know when the right side of the bracket – which he couldn’t see from the cab – cleared an obstacle. It helped keep the County from paying claims to owners of damaged buildings and vehicles, and helped keep insurance costs from rising faster than they needed to.

I wonder about the driver psychology, though. If a driver thought of it, the boss might have thought it was stupid, but just let the driver do what he wanted to. If the boss got it from some sort of boondoggle conference, the drivers might have thought it was stupid – and an insult to their pride as magnificent drivers. Whatever the source, I like it. It probably cost less than a buck, and a mistake by the driver could cost a whole lot in damages.

So thanks, Wayne County truck drivers!
Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm