Time and TPS:


I am intrigued by the concept of time. I am a big Doctor Who fan, and I quite enjoy the time paradoxes presented in the Whovian universe. In today’s post, I am exploring the theme of time, and some quotations by Henry Ford, Shigeo Shingo and Taiichi Ohno.

Henry Ford:

Taiichi Ohno, the father of Toyota Production System, has said that if Henry Ford was still alive, he would have eventually created a production system similar to Toyota. Ford has written about the concept of time in his 1926 book, Today and Tomorrow.

“The easiest of all wastes, and the hardest to correct, is the waste of time.”

Ford’s point was that time waste is different from material waste. Material can usually be reworked. However time wasted cannot be salvaged. Ford thought of time as human energy.

Shigeo Shingo:

Shingo was probably one of the best Industrial Engineers in the world. He studied Frederick Taylor and the Gilbreths, and was heavily influenced by them. One of the most cryptic things I read from Shingo was the quotation below;

“Time is the shadow of motion”.

Shingo attributed this to the Gilbreths. Shingo explained this statement better in his 1988 book, “Non-Stock Production”. His point is that time can be explained in terms of motion, as in “it takes a long time to do this” or “it can be done faster”. He urges the lean leaders to understand the “structure” of motion, and understand the most efficient way to do motion. Shingo advises us to understand what it means when a task takes a long time and not complain about the duration. We should instead look at the motions that make the task take longer. As Shingo says;

“It may be necessary to restructure the task to which the motions are tailored”.

The translator may not have intended the pun behind “tailored”/”Taylored”. Toyota uses time and motion studies as the basis for creating standard work.

Taiichi Ohno:

The most common expression attributed to Taiichi Ohno regarding time is;

“All we are doing is looking at the time line, from the moment the customer gives us an order to the point when we collect the cash. And we are reducing the time line by reducing the non-value adding wastes.”

Ohno is often described as a mean and tough sensei. He is also said to have been hard on the supervisors asking to produce more with less people. Ohno has talked a lot about “Respect for Humanity” and the need for ensuring that the operator is engaged in only value added activities. I am going to look at another saying by Ohno.

“Valueless motions are equal to ‘shortening one’s life.’”

Ohno had a way with words and he could explain his ideas beautifully. Not engaging the operator in value added activities, and not allowing him to improve his process is not being respectful. Ohno has also said that motion does not equate to working. Ohno stated it the best.

Final Words:

One of the two pillars of TPS is Just-in-Time. The idea behind this is to produce the right parts in the right amount, and at the right time.  I will finish this off with a story about Just-in-Time from Masaaki Sato’s book, “The Toyota Leaders”. The term Just-in-Time was coined by Kiichiro Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Motor Corporation.

Kiichiro went on a trip to England with some relatives to visit several cotton production facilities and textile factories. He was going to the Platt plant by himself to receive training. He arrived at Saint Pancras station to catch the Manchester-bound train. Unfortunately, by the time he arrived, the train had already left the station. He had an out-of-date train schedule.

“If a train leaves on time, then you miss your train even if you are only a minute late. Now I have to wait for a few hours until the next train comes”, he said to himself.

Kiichiro was taken aback by this incident and he kept on thinking about it to find a way to apply this to plant operations. He then came up with the idea of Just-in-Time. He did not coin the phrase in Japanese, but in English (perhaps as a reminder to himself of the incident in England).

He explained Just-in-Time to his employees as follows;

“I will bet everyone here has missed a train before. If a train leaves on time, you will miss it even if you are just a second late, let alone an entire minute. ‘Just-in-Time’ does not refer only to being on time. It means ‘supplying the right parts at the right time and in the right amount’”.

Always keep on learning…

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more here.

In case you missed it, my last post was The Order for Kaizen.


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