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.

1 comment:

Eric H said...

Hirano is a genius - I loved 5 Pillars. I'm glad to see he is still improving, but I'm not surprised ;~)

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