Dec 20, 2006

A Visit from Sensei Nicholas

With thanks to Kris Beauchamp, Rob Cushard, Sue Kozlowski, and whoever came before them:

'Twas the night before Report-Out, and all through the House of Quality,
Not a creature was stirring, (no Six Sigma frivolity!);
The Standard Work Combination Forms were hung in the gemba with care,
In hopes that some measurements soon would be there;
The team members were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of continuous flow danced in their heads;
And the Process Owner in her sari, and I in my TPS cap,
Had just settled down with our Value Stream Map,
When out on the gemba there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the vertical blinds and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to the work cell below,
When, to my wondering eyes appearing like jewels,
Came a miniature Toyota, and eight tiny Lean Tools,
And that white-robed figure, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Sensei Nick.
More rapid than point kaizens his Lean Tools they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Seiri! now, Seiton! now, Seiso and Seiketsu!
On, Shetsuke! on, Kanban! on, Jidoka and Kaikaku!
To the top of the work cell! to the top of the wall!
Drive waste away! waste away! Waste away all!”
As muda and mura and muri all fly,
When tackled by process teams, to make quality high;
So up to the ceiling the Lean Tools they flew,
With the sleigh full of Value, and Sensei Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard in the shop
The Lean Tools at work as they made the waste stop.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Sensei Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in white, from his head to his foot,
But his gi wasn’t tarnished with ashes or soot;
A Value-packed process he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a JIT vendor just opening his pack.
His Kanban cards—how they sparkled! His cycle time – how fine!
His andons were green, and his Production Control Board did shine!
His work sequence was beautifully charted,
And it was clear that line balancing soon would be started;
The S. M. E. D. plan he held tight in his grip,
And it was clear that while he was there, quality wouldn’t slip;
He had a set-up reduction down to a fine science,
And no problem at all with SOP compliance.
He was lean but not mean, a right jolly little creature,
And I laughed when I saw his distinctive feature;
A black belt with multiple bands on the end,
Soon gave me to know I had found a new friend;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fulfilled the customer demand; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his Toyota, to his Tools gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Value-added steps to all, and to all a good-night.”

(With apologies to Clement Clark Moore, who wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas" in 1822 as a Christmas gift for his children.)

Dec 19, 2006

Unscientific thinking at Scientific American

The January issue of "Scientific American" carries a small item with this headline, "High IQs may help thwart post-traumatic stress." The magazine's editors and the researcher at Michigan State must have slept through statistics and lost their common sense. The study's author says she started with the premise that PTSD could cause lower IQs, but changed her mind.

Let's remember that high IQ means that you performed well on an IQ test, not necessarily that you are more intelligent - again, the author tends to disagree with me. But a traumatized child is likely to have more trouble sitting still for a long period of time, concentrating, thinking of right answers, and completing them under time pressure.

Oh- she also tried to identify kids with PTSD by questioning parents about anxiety-related behavior in their children. In homes with varying degrees of abuse, hidden alcohol- or drug-dependence, etc., parents are more likely to be in denial about their childrens' emotional state, or more likely to hide the situation. So kids with high IQs who happen to be from such homes are not going to be counted among those with PTSD.

The researcher's assertion that high IQ may help people stay out of trouble just gives us "smarter" suburbanites another reason to write off people who live in trauma-producing parts of our communities. After all, if they're too dumb to do anything about what goes on there, why should smart people try to do anything about it?

Intelligence is about much more than performance on an IQ test. It is awareness of the feelings of others, ability to recognize relationships between people, alertness to danger (which is exactly what PTSD is all about), ability to negotiate social hierarchies, and much more. Why is the state of Michigan wasting money on this sort of research?

Dec 2, 2006


In the last few months, I've noticed that some items of clothing at Target have been tagged by means of printing rather than by attaching a separate piece of material. On some fabrics, it seems that all the information you'd expect to find on that irritating tag can be printed right onto the fabric. The printing is on the inside of the garment and doesn't show through to the outside.

Printing the tag information requires an additional piece of equipment in a sewing line, adding complexity. It's also necessary to supply and inventory the ink. The tradeoff is one less sewing operation, ordering and inventorying separate tag material for each brand produced in the factory, and ordering, inventorying and matching separate size tags for each garment variation. A printer can be designed for quick changeover from brand to brand, and size to size.

Seems to me that printing is leaner than applying tags. I doubt that Gucci or Armani will get rid of their tags anytime soon, but for lower-end brands where low cost and low price are imperative, the printing option looks like a good choice.
Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm