Friday, June 25, 2010

Standard Procedures Do Not Have To Be Regimented

Sometimes standardization smacks of regimentation. Workers say, “We each have our favorite way of doing things.”  Implicit in this is, We like it the way it is.  Don’t try to shoehorn us into a one-size-fits-all mold.
Standard work is essential to mass production, even to fairly small-scale mass production.  It is at the core of a quality process that provides a quality product.   A defect is essentially something that deviates from what it should be. The best way to get consistent results is by having a consistent--that is standardized--process.
Standardized work can be regimented, but in the best cases it is organic.  Standards are developed based on our experience of what needs to be controlled in the process.  The standards are implemented.  Their effectiveness is studied and adjustments are made to improve them.  New standards emerge on the basis of our experience of what needs to be controlled in the process.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stretch SMED Consulting

I arrived in Spain not knowing who the client was or what was expected of me.  I was to help conduct a workshop with the European branch of the Kaizen Institute. My fluency in Spanish along with some experience in kaizen consulting got me the job.
In the opening lecture, I was introduced to 50 to 60 people as a leading expert in SMED (single minute exchange of dies).  I have facilitated five or six workshops to reduce the time to changeover equipment from one product to another.  I seem to have a knack to help a workshop team cut changeover time in half, starting from an hour and an half to two hours. I have a process that has always worked so far. I did not feel like an expert.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Leadership in the Workplace

I have mentioned that leadership places a crucial role in bringing out the best in people and the organization at the workplace.  We will explore the nature and role of leadership.
I have explored leadership with clients by contrasting it to management.  Management focuses on maintaining the states quo. This is important.  Organizations need to have consistency.  There need to be standard procedures.  Value-adding processes cannot accomplish their purpose without support around people, machines, methods, materials and measurement. These support systems need to be managed.
Leadership is focused on change.  If we want to move the organization to a new way of operating that is lean, world class, and brings out the best in people and systems, we often need to change the way we do things.  Many of my posts so far have been about things that need to change and how they need to be changed.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Go to Gemba

I was facilitating a workshop in a large automobile assembly plant in Great Britain. The factory was a part of a large, western, multinational auto manufacturer. In my group, one of three or four, there were participants from several other parts of Europe and the United States.  This was to be a big learning experience for the entire corporation.
Everyone had gone through a day of lecture and discussion about the principles, concepts and some of the methodologies used in kaizen. Finally, on day two, all of the participants were sent out to the factory to find ways to improve parts of the assembly line. 
Each of the workshop groups was facilitatied by a consultant.  My group was to focus on the installation of the headliners in cars that came down the line.
Every group was given a meeting room.  Our group had about ten people. We gathered in our assigned meeting room and sat around a round table on which were piled a number of drawings of the shop floor and the section in which we would be working, as well as several stacks of printouts with data on throughput time, defect rates, line down-time, and probably several other trends which I do not remember.
Getting these managers out of the meeting room proved to be difficult.  They wanted to “study the data.”  I had to become more and more insistent that we go out to the section of the line we had been assigned to us. We needed to go to gemba (gemba means the “real place,” used in kaizen to refer to the place where value is added) to  Identify waste, which we had learned about the day before. I told the team that after that, we could get away from the noise for a bit, back in the conference room and discuss possible improvements.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What Else Gets in the Way?

Sometimes managers who are very enthusiastic about their kaizen experiences can be the obstacle to improvement in the kaizen way. At one factory the plant manager was one of the most enthusiastic people whom I had ever met.  After a couple of successful workshops with gratifying results he was ready to have “a kaizen event a week.”
This became a problem for one of the reasons I have already mentioned. The support systems for the new, lean, one-piece-flow, work to takt time approach were not in place.  The maintenance system could not respond when equipment went down.  There was not a system of supplying materials in small amounts.  Water-spiders from the early workshops would get drafted to do production work to cover for absenteeism.  Many of the products were fairly low volume, but suppliers brought in huge amounts of components.