Toyota, the Green Tomato:


Toyota is referred to as the #1 car manufacturer in the world today. Toyota sold 10.15 million vehicles worldwide in 2015 and remained the world’s top selling carmaker for the fourth straight year. I recently came across an interesting metaphor depicting Toyota that I have not heard used before. The book “Extreme Toyota” documented an interview with Jim Press, former President of Toyota Motor North America, in which he said that Toyota wants to be a green tomato. His point was as follows;

“Green tomatoes know their futures are still ahead of them, while red tomatoes quit growing”.

One of the authors of the book, Hirotaka Takeuchi, explained this further by saying that Toyota sees itself as always growing, and always incomplete. This way, Toyota accepts that there is room for improvement, and that “tomorrow will be better than today”.  Hirotaka used the working title of the book as “The Incomplete Company”.

The metaphor of a “green tomato” is beautifully deep and underlines the idea that being complacent is bad. Toyota has become the number one car company in the world. However, seeing itself as the top company is akin to being like the red ripe tomato which would soon fall off and rot. This same idea is repeated by the former President, Katsuaki Watanabe;

“At the very instant we become satisfied, at the very moment we think that the status quo is good enough, that’s when we start to decline.” He continued, “We’re still not there. There are a lot of things we need to do.”

Final Words:

Being complacent is being ignorant and being in denial. Being complacent urges you to remain in your comfort zone. Any new information that indicates that something is wrong does not get registered. As one of my wise friends once told me, once you are complacent, you get busy trying to put up the outward appearance that everything is fine. You create a picture in your mind that everything is great and you hold on to it. The more things that go wrong, the stronger you hold on to your ideal image and continue to be in denial. Be the green tomato, and think of yourself as “still a little more to go”.

I will finish this post with a great Zen Koan by the 1st century Zen master Linji Yixuan. He said;

“When you meet Buddha on the road, kill him”.

There is a little shock factor to this koan. But once you go deeper, there is a beautiful and profound lesson in this. The road is interpreted as your journey in search of enlightenment. The Buddha in the koan is our own idea of perfection and enlightenment. And if you think that you have attained enlightenment, you surely have not attained enlightenment. You have to “kill” that thought, and stay incomplete. Be like a green tomato.

Always keep on learning…

In case you missed it, my last post was Information at the Gemba.

Challenge and Kaizen:

Comfort Zone/ Challenge Sign Concept

Toyota describes the two pillars of the Toyota Way as “Continuous Improvement” and “Respect for People”. Of this, the continuous improvement pillar is comprised of;

  1. Challenge
  2. Kaizen (change for the better), and
  3. Genchi Genbutsu (Go to the source and grasp the actual facts)

In this post, I will be looking at the “Challenge” aspect of the Continuous Improvement pillar.

Challenge – Why?

The secret to Toyota’s success is its ability to maintain itself as a learning organization. In 1967 P. M. Fitts and I. M. Posner identified three progressive phases of learning a new skill;

  • The cognitive stage – we understand the skill, but we make plenty of mistakes in the process. We are identifying strategies to do better.
  • The associative stage – we are getting better and making less mistakes.
  • The autonomous stage – we are pretty good at this point and can do the task on autopilot

The danger of the autonomous stage is that one starts to create a comfort zone for himself and stops “learning”. Thus, he reaches a plateau and his performance begins to degrade. He begins becoming complacent and accepting his performance saying that “this is good enough”. Unfortunately he is in a blind spot at this point and does not realize what is going on. This atmosphere is detrimental to kaizen.

“Challenge” thus becomes an important factor to sustain kaizen. The “challenge” is not necessarily personal as in challenging the employee to work harder. The “challenge” is in asking the employee to do his best and change the status quo – to be outside his comfort zone. The employee is allowed to make mistakes and in turn is expected to learn from mistakes. The employee continues improving through continuous learning.

Final Words:

Yoshio Ishizaka, a Toyota veteran explained challenge as follows;

Challenge guides us to setting higher objectives for achieving an ideal condition and continuously realizing such goals with courage and creativity.

I will finish off with a funny Zen story about learning;

The son of a master thief asked his father to teach him the secrets of the trade. The old thief agreed and that night took his son to burglarize a large house. While the family was asleep, he silently led his young apprentice into a room that contained a clothes closet. The father told his son to go into the closet to pick out some clothes. When he did, his father quickly shut the door and locked him in. Then he went back outside, knocked loudly on the front door, thereby waking the family, and quickly slipped away before anyone saw him. Hours later, his son returned home, bedraggled and exhausted. “Father,” he cried angrily, “Why did you lock me in that closet? If I hadn’t been made desperate by my fear of getting caught, I never would have escaped. It took all my ingenuity to get out!” The old thief smiled. “Son, you have had your first lesson in the art of burglary.”

Always keep on learning…

In case you missed it, my last post was Monument, Dynamo and Suitcase.

Dr. Deming and Value Stream Mapping:


Value Stream Mapping (VSM) has become an essential part of Lean. There have been several books written specifically on this topic. VSMs are not widely spread at Toyota. VSM is a creation of Mike Rothers and John Shook. This was based on the “Material and Information Flow Maps” at Toyota. The VSM was created as a means to systematically roll out lean implementation, and looked at current and ideal states from a system standpoint. The intent was to give the “big picture view” that was missing from lean implementations. The Material and Information Flow maps were used by a few specialists at Toyota as part of line conversions, and these later were used to help suppliers view the production system as an end to end pull system ultimately ending with material delivery to Toyota.

Dr. Deming’s Flow Diagram:

Dr. Deming was invited to Japan by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) on July 15, 1950 to teach them about Quality Control. His teachings paved the way for a great change in regards to Quality in Japan. Dr. Deming taught the Japanese that production should be viewed as a system. The diagram below was taught first in August 1950 at a conference with top management at the Hotel de Yama on Mount Hakone in Japan.


Dr. Deming felt that his flow diagram was the spark in 1950 and onward that turned Japan around. It displayed production as a system to top management and engineers. He also viewed this as a type of diagram that showed the flow of materials and information. In his words;

To the make the flow diagram work, the flow of material and information from any part of the system must match the input requirements of the next stages. Thus, the aim in the flow diagram is for the material to come in at the front, and to emerge at the end as usable product or service. The flow diagram describes not only the flow of material, but also the flow of information needed to manage the system.

Source – “The New Economics For Industry, Government, Education” by Dr. Deming.

Dr. Deming described the diagram as a map for viewing the production system. He identified a feedback loop for continual improvement of products, services and continual learning, by keeping the consumer a part of the system.

Final Words:

It may be argued that Dr. Deming’s flow diagram is not similar to a Value Stream Map. However, I am positing that his lesson of seeing the system as a whole (end to end) laid the framework for the Material and Information Flow Maps. The first step of any implementation activity is to have a model of the system so that the cause and effect links in the system can be understood, first by theory and then by experiments. I will finish off with a funny Dr. Deming story;

One of Dr. Deming’s clients called him and said that he was having too many fires at his plant. Dr. Deming plotted the occurrences of fires on a control chart and determined that it was indeed a stable process.

“No, you are having just the right amount of fires,” he said, and then proceeded to explain the control chart to the client.

Source: Deming’s Profound Knowledge and Leadership, Carder and Monda.

Always keep on learning…

In case you missed it, my last post was Eight Lessons from Programming – At the Gemba.

Take Pride in Your Work – Ji Kotei Kanketsu:


As a Quality professional, I am always interested in how “Quality” is handled in the Toyota Production System. A “Quality model” that Toyota uses is “Ji Kotei Kanketsu” or JKK. “Ji” in Japanese means “self”, “kotei” means “process” and “kanketsu” means “completion”. Putting all the words together, JKK means “Completion of your own work”. JKK has also been translated as “taking pride in what you are doing”, “not passing defects along to the next process”, or “next process is your customer”. The idea that the next process is your customer was something that Kaoru Ishikawa, the Japanese Quality Master, talked about a lot as part of the Total Quality Control movement.

Customer First:

JKK was initiated by Toyota as a means to increase employee awareness about quality. Every process after your process depends on your level of quality. They are all your customers. The concept of JKK is present in all facets of Toyota. JKK starts with the Engineering group through the product design and specifications – the best possible design. This is followed by Purchasing – ensuring quality components from suppliers. This is then followed by Production – maintaining and controlling the standardized work. Finally, Sales and Marketing – early detection and resolution of any potential problems. The model below is taken from the Toyota website.


Toyota describes the EDER (Early Detection, Early Resolution) program as follows;

EDER is a communication system for quickly detecting quality issues, immediately resolving issues, and swiftly providing results of rectification and kaizen feedback to customers.

Toyota teaches JKK as part of kaizen, continuous improvement. By focusing on your process and looking at the weak points in the process, you are identifying areas for improvement. JKK is practiced by the following four steps;

  1. First, clarify target and objective of task
  2. Clarify detailed procedure of task
  3. Clarify Ryohin jyoken (quality points)
  4. Immediately contact your supervisor, if a problem and/or delay may occur (pull Andon) and repeat Kaizen.

The Big Picture:

There is a counterintuitive aspect to JKK. By focusing on your own operation, you are required to focus on the next process – to ensure that the next process is successful. Thus, JKK is instilling a big picture mindset – a system approach in the employees.

Final Words:

The concept of Jidoka, is embedded in JKK. The ability to stop the line to fix the problem is the basis of building in quality. JKK is ensuring Quality Assurance in everybody’s work. Quality is defined as meeting customer’s requirements. Thus, customer satisfaction is the outcome of quality. In this regard, every Quality professional can be viewed as a customer service personnel.

I will finish off with an anecdote from the late founder of Matsushita Electric Industries, Konosuke Matsushita.

Matsushita was having a conversation with a western executive, and the discussion led to customers and treating customers like kings.

“No, that is wrong”, Matsushita said. “The customer is a god. Because, a king is a human, and thus capable of making mistakes. But a god does not make mistakes!”

Source: The Shift to JIT, Ichiro Majima.

Always keep on learning…

In case you missed it, my last post was Giving Time for Kaizen to Work.

Giving Time for Kaizen to Work:

time for kaizen

In today’s post I will look at kaizen and the need to allow time for an improvement to work. I am sometimes at fault about needing things to work immediately. This is a form of instant gratification – the desire to experience the results immediately. There are mainly two forms of kaizen discussed in lean literature – kaizen (small improvements) and innovation (drastic change usually involving equipment or technology). There are also medium sized improvements, and most of the time these do not result in an improvement in productivity immediately.

Shigeo Shingo and Lillian Gilbreth:

Shigeo Shingo was a consultant trainer at Toyota, and he specialized in Industrial Engineering. Shingo has written several books regarding TPS. In his book, “Key Strategies for Plant Improvement” he talked about the importance of allowing time for improvement activities to work. He referenced the “tabletop experiments” by Lillian Gilbreth as part of this. Alan Robinson along with his wife Margaret, wrote a great paper on the tabletop experiments called “On the Tabletop Improvement Experiments of Japan”. This paper talked about the contributions of Lillian Gilbreth and how her training materials were extensively used by the Japanese, and eventually by Shingo as part of his training at Toyota.

Shingo’s thinking was that the operators need to be familiar with the operation to truly feel that they are easy to do. If the steps are not familiar they have to exert their mind to think of what to do next, and this leads to mental fatigue, and thus may not result in an improvement in productivity.

Shingo discussed two experiments (Lillian had created more experiments) in his book. In the first experiment, the operator was required to write “production engineering” on 15 cards. This was a familiar phrase for the operator, and the productivity remained stable – all the cards took about the same time. The second experiment required the operator to skip every other letter, thus he was to write “poutoegneig”. The only stipulation was that he could not look at his previous work. From a work load standpoint, the number of letters were now about halved, thus it should had been a lot easier. However, the operator took a lot more time than the first experiment initially since he had to exert more time to think. After seven trials, he was able to write the word faster since he grew familiar with the phrase. The fifteenth card took about half the time as the first experiment.

Final Words:

The more I learn about Lillian Gilbreth, the more admiration I have for her. I have written about her before. The improvements may not immediately result in an increase in productivity. It is important that you understand that as part of kaizen, a certain amount of time is needed for practice to truly result in the improvement. The challenge here is – the old ways appear easier since the operator is familiar with it. Thus he may oppose the change even if it might actually reduce the work content and reduces the non-value added activities. It might be beneficial to have a standard amount of time for “sticking with the kaizen” to try it out. Rely on your data collected at the Gemba.

I will finish off with a Zen story I like a lot. This story is about how we perceive our experiences;

A student went to see his meditation teacher and said, “My situation is horrible! I feel so distracted most of the time, or my legs ache, or I’m repeatedly falling asleep. It’s terrible.” Said the teacher matter-of-factly, “It will pass.”

A week later, the student returned to his teacher. “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so ecstatically joyous and alive!” The teacher told him, “It will pass.”

Always keep on learning…

In case you missed it, my last post was PDCA and the Roads to Rome.

If the Learner Has Not Learned, Point at the Moon:

point at the moon

In today’s post I will be looking at the role of teaching in lean and I will try to look at the role of the student in learning. “If the learner has not learned, then the teacher has not taught.” This has come to be a common expression in Lean. This saying was introduced as part of Training Within Industry’s Job Instruction (JI) program. The original expression in the JI Program manual was “If the worker hasn’t learned, the instructor hasn’t taught.” The JI card carried the statement “If the learner hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.”

My favorite record of this statement is from the 1942 November issue of “The Rotarian” magazine. The Albert E Wiggam’s article was titled “Foremen in 10 hours” and it talked about the Job Instruction Training program (JIT). According to the article, The purpose of the JI program was to enable the foremen to have the “show’em how” – the ability to pass the “know-how” to the new-comers in ten hours.


The implication in the statement “If the learner hasn’t learned…” is that the responsibility of the student’s learning rests solely with the instructor. It is my view that the student has the responsibility to be willing as well. My favorite quote regarding this comes from the most famous Japanese Samurai Miyamoto Musashi (1584 – 1645).

“Let the teacher be as a needle, the student as a thread.”

The student has to follow the teacher like a thread that follows the needle. This is a beautiful expression. The focus of the JI program is to show how to prepare the student and how to explain “the why” and “the how” of each step. It also focused on having the student repeat the operation, and to ensure that the instructor follows-up and provides the required feedback creating a closed learning loop.

 “The Ackoff Model”:

My favorite model of Knowledge Management is the DIKUW model made popular by the famous Management Science professor Russell Ackoff. This is shown below:


The five components in the order of importance are;

  1. Data – discrete packets or values. An example for this is just a set of numbers and nouns.
  2. Information – data with context. Answers to questions such as Who, What, When, How many etc.
  3. Knowledge – answer to the question How?
  4. Understanding – answer to the question Why in a global level?
  5. Wisdom – ability to understand the situation to know what to do and execution with results

I will be using this model to further explain my thoughts. Data, information and knowledge can be imparted, and are external to the student. However, understanding and wisdom cannot be imparted and are internal to the student. The teacher can only guide the student and it is the student’s responsibility to practice and learn on his own to achieve understanding and wisdom. Perhaps, the intent of the JI is to impart knowledge to the worker on how to properly perform the operation. But the understanding and wisdom to improve one’s work (kaizen thinking) should come from the operator.

The teacher has to ensure that the student has achieved knowledge, and the student has to ensure that he achieves understanding and wisdom.

My favorite expression describing the difference between knowledge and wisdom (inspired by Peter Drucker) is;

Knowledge is doing things right and wisdom is doing the right things.

The above expression indicates that knowledge has to do with being efficient, and wisdom has to do with being effective.

The Role of the Sensei:

“Sensei” is a Japanese word that has roots in Chinese and the literal meaning in Japanese is “lives (born) before”. Sensei has come to mean “Teacher”. The term is connected with martial arts training. There are four criteria that a sensei should possess;

  1. Technical ability – understanding of the technical aspects of the subject and ability to keep on polishing/learning
  2. Taking Responsibility – ensuring that the sensei passes along his knowledge so that the “chain” does not get broken
  3. Ability to communicate – the sensei must be able to communicate his mastery to his students of all levels of aptitude
  4. Understanding – the sensei should be understanding of his students

The Role of the Student:

There is a notion in Zen that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. The implication here is that the student has to be ready first and pursuing learning, only then will the teacher appear. The student can learn from everything around him only if he is receptive to learning. The student has the responsibility to present himself with humility and determination to understand and practice the skill. The student must be eager to learn and willing to “forget” what he has learned before.  My favorite account for this is an anecdote I have heard before:

A student went to a teacher and asked him “can you teach me how to meditate” and the teacher said “No. I might let you learn under me.”

 My Final Words:

It is the responsibility of the teacher to help the student attain knowledge, and it is the responsibility of the student to reach wisdom from there. Both the teacher and student have to be willing to give and receive learning. The student has to surpass the teacher. The student cannot do this simply by copying the teacher. The student has to build upon the teacher’s teachings and find wisdom on his own, leapfrogging the teacher.

teacher - student

I will finish this off with a Zen story about pointing at the moon – don’t mistake the finger for the moon.

The Buddha says “my teaching is not a dogma or a doctrine, but no doubt some people will take it as such.” The Buddha goes on to say “I must state clearly that my teaching is a method to experience reality and not reality itself, just as a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon itself. A thinking person makes use of the finger to see the moon. A person who only looks at the finger and mistakes it for the moon will never see the real moon.”

To see the moon you have to look beyond the finger.

Always keep on learning…

You may like my newer post on the cybernetic aspects of teaching and learning. If the teacher hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.

In case you missed it, my last post was The Many Flavors of Kaizen.

The Goal of Lean:


I was talking to my friend at work, who I consider to be very knowledgeable and wise. He told me something that I have not heard before.

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better, and your better is best.”

I looked this up, and I saw that this quote is attributed to St. Jerome (347-420 A.D). This succinctly summarizes the idea of kaizen. Kaizen is Japanese for “change for the better”. It is not asking you to change from good to best, overnight. It is asking you to change from good to better, and then from better to best. The advice of “never let it rest” indicates that it is an ongoing process. The best is always yet to come.

It is a Journey:

I have often heard about lean being a journey and not a destination. This means that you are not to look at lean as an end goal. It is about improving little by little and is never ending. It is an ongoing journey where your goal is to simply improve from the day before. Counter-intuitively the goal of lean is not to set a goal that is attained and to stop doing lean. The goal of lean is to just do lean.

In this regard, lean does not talk about setting goals. It focuses on creating a self-sustaining system – a never-stopping engine that keeps moving towards the ideal state. Lean is based on long term thinking, and in reality it never reaches the ideal state. However, the ideal state (true north) gives lean a direction to move towards.

I have written about “continuous improvement = kaizen + wisdom”. Instead of setting goals, we should focus on developing our people so that they are engaged in the continuous improvement philosophy. We should focus on setting up processes to ensure kaizen – working smarter and not harder. Develop your people to be aware of waste, and challenge them to improve their processes from where it was yesterday. This single system ensures that your organization keeps on moving towards the ideal state, referred to as True North by Toyota.

It is your job to lay the framework to make them good. Then it becomes their job to make it better. Finally it is both of your jobs to make it the best.

The Story of the Boy and the Jelly Beans:

I will finish this post with a modified version of a story I read a while back:

Once a boy went to a grocery store with his mother. The boy was very well behaved. The shopkeeper was very impressed with his gentle nature. He looked at the boy and pointed towards the glass jar of jelly beans and said.

“Dear child, you can take a handful of jelly beans out of this jar.”

The boy was very fond of jelly beans. He was very happy. He reached in the jar and grabbed a handful. He thanked the shopkeeper politely.

The next week, the boy again returned with his mother. He was again very well behaved. This time too, the shopkeeper invited the boy to take a handful of jelly beans. This time the boy hesitated and looked at his mother. His mother also said, “Take the sweets dear.” The young boy still did not do anything. He simply pointed at his mother. His mother thought that he was being shy and grabbed a handful for the child, and gave the handful to him. The child started smiling again, and thanked the shopkeeper.

Another week went by, and the boy returned to the shop with his mother again. The shopkeeper saw him and offered the jelly beans again. This time too, the boy did nothing. His mother offered to grab a handful. The boy stood still and then shook his head. Seeing this, the shopkeeper offered to grab a handful, and the boy slowly put out both his hands. The shopkeeper gave him a handful of jelly beans. The boy was again smiling and thanked the shopkeeper.

His mother was very curious about the boy’s behavior since she knew how much he loved jelly beans. When they got home, his mother asked him to explain his behavior over the weeks.

“The first time I grabbed a handful, and held your hand I realized that your hand is much larger than mine. I knew I would get more if you grabbed a handful.”

“This time, I saw that the shopkeeper had a larger hand than yours. So I waited until, he would give me a handful. See how much more jelly beans I got?”

Always keep on learning…

In case you missed it, my last post was The Mother of Modern Management.

Visibilization: Crime Fighting, Magic and Mieruka:


Mieruka” is one of the concepts that Toyota coined as part of the Toyota Production System. Mieruka has been translated as “Visualization” or “Visual Controls”. “Miru” or “Mieru” in Japanese is a verb associated with “to see”. The “-ka” suffix is explained as “-ization” in Ryoji Ihara’s book “Toyota’s Assembly Line”. My understanding is that the “-ka” stands for “kanri” which means “control” or “management”. Thus, Mieruka means “Visual Management” or “Visual Control”. In the book “Toyota’s Assembly Line”, the translator Hugh Clarke puts up a strong case that Mieruka should mean “Visibilization”. His logical point is that the concept of Mieruka is all about making problems/waste visible. This idea is explained below in the graphic.


In the “Toyota’s Assembly Line” book, there is an anecdote about the machinery used on the production floor. It was typical to have steel guards in place for safety purposes. Toyota replaced these guards with clear plastic shields. The steel covers hid the machine so that any small problem with the machine was not immediately visible. The new clear covers on the machine allowed the workers to see the internal structure of the machine as part of Mieruka.

The term “visualization” can be misleading as it is a common theme in any self-help book. The term visualization does not transcribe well. However, the term “visibilization” indicates that you are making something visible.

Mieruka is the process of translating live information into visible information so that both problems and kaizen opportunities are identified immediately. The first thing that might come into mind about Mieruka is 5S. 5S is the lean tool for workplace organization so that everything has a place and everything is identified. This increases efficiency since the operator does not have to search for tools and he knows where everything belongs. However, the main intent of 5S is not workplace organization. The main intent is to make problems visible immediately.

Other examples of Mieruka include kanban, daily production boards and the andon cord. Mieruka can create a pull system where resources are applied as the problem arises.

Mieruka and Magic:

I have a strong interest in magic. As I was thinking about Mieruka I came to the realization that Mieruka is the opposite of magic. In magic, the magician is trying to hide something through misdirection. He pretends to transfer a coin to the other hand and pretends that he is holding a coin when he is not holding a coin.

In Mieruka, the lean leader is trying to make problems obvious through visibilization. He wants to make the problem visible to everyone as it happens. A really good example is the andon cord. The andon cord is on the assembly line, and the operator pulls on the andon cord when he faces a problem that he cannot fix in the allotted amount of time. The andon cord lights up with a buzzer sound sometimes, bringing the problem to everybody’s attention. The supervisor or the lead sees the problem and comes to the aid of the operator.


The Crime Fighting Orange Balls:


I recently read about “bohan yo kara boru”, translated from Japanese as “anticrime color balls”. These are plastic clear balls filled with bright orange paint. The trend in Japan is to keep these at banks and convenience stores. In case of a robbery, the store clerk can throw the ball on the floor causing the paint to splash all over the floor to a 10 meter radius. This paint would get on the clothes and “mark” the robber, aiding the police in identifying the perpetrator when he is on the run. In one case, the robber left a trail of paint foot prints! They can also throw the ball at the getaway vehicle to mark it for the police. Apparently, the idea came about when tollbooth attendants were resorting to throwing raw eggs at vehicles that did not pay the toll. The idea of using paint caught on and led to the invention of bohan yo kara boru. The “kara boru” part stands for “color ball”. The balls are kept in plain sight and behind the counter for everybody to see. It is also publicized that the store carries the color balls. This Mieruka aids in fighting crime.

Always keep on learning…

In case you missed it, my last post was The Best Kind of Kaizen.

Karaboru Image Source:

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.

The Order for Kaizen:

kaizen order

In today’s post, I will be talking about Kaizen and specifically the order for kaizen. Kaizen has come to mean “continuous improvement” today. Kaizen originally translates from Japanese as “change for better”. I will be presenting three different views on approaching kaizen. These are;

  • Taiichi Ohno’s view,
  • Shigeo Shingo’s view, and
  • Hiroyuki Hirano’s view

Taiichi Ohno’s View (Semi-Strategic in nature):

Taiichi Ohno is the father of Toyota Production System (TPS). He has stated that there is a proper order for kaizen. These are;

  • Sagyo kaizen (Operations improvement),
  • Setsubi kaizen (Equipment improvement), and
  • Kotei kaizen (Process improvement)

I believe that Ohno wanted to focus on developing the abilities of people first since this is the lowest level where kaizen is possible. As Hirano says, “The starting point of manufacturing is always people.” Any production system should be people oriented. The first step of all kaizen is to raise the awareness of the people. This allows them to view the waste as a lean leader would. This is achieved only through operations kaizen. The operators involved are finding ways to make their work easier with what they have. This has minimal cost impact of all the kaizen. Ohno has also said;

“People with no capacity for improving operations are a problem because they like to buy new machines all the time.”

Ohno has also said;

“First improve operations. If you start out by bringing in the latest machines people with no capacity for improvement simply end up being slaves to the machines.”

The next in line is Equipment kaizen. Ohno challenges us to find new and creative ways of using the current equipment. Ohno advises us;

“You must have the ability to tinker with and improve the machines you already have.”

Ohno recommends buying new equipment when you have made the maximum use of current equipment and when it is no longer possible to increase effectiveness without new equipment. Purchasing new equipment should result in an improvement of quality. Ohno cautions against purchasing costly specialized equipment and advises going for flexible and low cost equipment. Equipment kaizen alone without operation kaizen results in extreme waste. Now the organization can make waste much better, and lot more of it. Machines cannot see waste, and machines cannot improve anything on their own. Machine kaizen alone foster status quo and invites complacency.

The last in line is Process Kaizen. His view was;

“Making things extremely well by turning the process upside down is Process Improvement.”

With process kaizen, you are looking at rearranging equipment or operations, changing layout, or improving the flow by linking processes.

Shigeo Shingo’s View (Tactical in nature):

Shigeo Shingo has provided us four targets for improvement. They are, in the order of priority;

  • Easier,
  • Better,
  • Faster, and
  • Cheaper

I was watching a Paul Akers (FastCap) video on YouTube and I made a connection to what Shingo said. “Easier” is an improvement from the point of the operator. This also means that it is safer for the operator to do. Any improvement activity should be first focused on Safety. “Better” is an improvement activity resulting in an improvement in quality of the operation/product. “Faster” is an improvement activity that increases efficiency. The final level is “cheaper”, and this should be the last target of all improvement activities. The goal of kaizen is not necessarily to first make the process cheaper.

Hiroyuki Hirano’s view (Strategic in Nature):

Hirano has pointed out the following as the normal progression of kaizen;

  • Point kaizen,
  • Line kaizen,
  • Plane kaizen, and
  • Cubic kaizen

“Point kaizen” is very similar to the operations improvement. This is the basic small improvement activity at the operations level. The next level is “line kaizen”. This is where a lot of the point kaizens merge together to result in flow manufacturing, as in an assembly line. Hirano calls this a vertical development. This is akin to selecting a model line and transforming it to make the process flow better. Once we have line kaizen, the next progression is through “plane kaizen”. This is the idea of “yokoten” or horizontal deployment. This is where the ideas and learning from the model line is used to create more model lines across the plant.  Thus this results in horizontal development. The final level is “cubic kaizen” where the development is made across multiple departments and even the supply chain of the enterprise.

My thoughts:

As with any other buzzword, kaizen has come to mean many things. My goal has been to provide a little more structure to the wonderful idea of kaizen. I would encourage the reader to also read my previous post on this topic here (A brief look at kaizen in the light of the Toyota Way). I will finish this off with a great story on Equipment kaizen from Hitoshi Yamada, a student of Ohno from the book Forging a Kaizen Culture (Japanese version 2009):

Yamada was at a large component manufacturer, Stanley Electric’s Tsuruoka plant. They were looking at a machine that assembled extremely small light bulbs. The cost of the machine was $150,000. The machine had two turn tables, and several robot arms. Due to the high cost of the machine, the factory manager felt that he should rely on mass production to make the maximum use of the machine.

Yamada told the manager to study the machine and find areas of wasted movement. And even better- to build a smaller and better machine.

This improvement activity took several weeks of trial and error. The final machine was $5,000 and 1/27th the size of the old machine. Since the machine was much smaller in size, it was also more efficient.

Always keep on learning…

In case you missed it, my last post was Ohno and the Gemba Walk.