Tag Archives: lean manufacturing

Management Webcast: Introduction to Lean Manufacturing

Webcast introduction to lean manufacturing by Ron Pereira. This is a great 9 minute introduction to the topic, for those not familiar with lean thinking. It sets the context for lean thinking and provides some history on how lean manufacturing has developed. Get videos on learning about lean from the Gemba Academy.

Related: Oranges, Pebbles, and Sand [the broken link has been removed] – Dr. Russell Ackoff Webcast on Systems ThinkingAn Introduction to Deming’s Management Ideas by Peter ScholtesEric Schmidt on Management at GoogleManagement WebcastsWorkplace Management by Taiichi Ohno

Don’t Hide Problems in Computers

Making things visible is a key to effective management. And data in computers can be easy to ignore. Don’t forget to make data visible. Paul Levy, CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston recently hosted Hideshi Yokoi, president of the Toyota Production System Support Center and wrote this blog post:

Together, we visited gemba and observed several hospital processes in action, looking for ways to reduce waste and reorganize work. It was fascinating to have such experts here and see things through their eyes. Mr. Yokoi’s thoughts and observations are very, very clear, notwithstanding a command of English that is still a work in progress.

The highlight? At one point, we pointed out a new information system that we were thinking of putting into place to monitor and control the flow of certain inventory. Mr. Yokoi’s wise response, suggesting otherwise, was:

“When you put problem in computer, box hide answer. Problem must be visible!”

The mission of the Toyota Production System Support Center to share Toyota Production System know-how with North American organizations that have a true desire to learn and adopt TPS.

Related: The Importance of Making Problems VisibleGreat Visual Instruction ExampleHealth Care the Toyota Way

NUMMI, and GM’s Failure to Manage Effectively

Gipsie Ranney recently sent me an article on her thoughts on NUMMI and the current problems with the Big Three car makers to post to the Curious Cat Management Improvement Library. NUMMI is the plant that Toyota and General Motors run together as a joint venture. The article is excellent.

The answer to a question asked by someone else on the tour was stunning to me. The person asked what kind of computerized inventory system they had at NUMMI. The leader of the tour at the time – a materials management person – responded, “we don’t have one; the Japanese say that computerized inventory systems lie.”

The most remarkable insight I gained at NUMMI came as an answer to a question from a member of the touring group. The person asked what had been learned about the reasons that management/labor conflict had been reduced so much. The tour guide answered, “The answer we get from members of the labor force is that the Japanese do what they say they will do.” This was the same labor force that had held the record for most grievances filed per year in an assembly plant in the U.S.

The Big Three are responsible for managing their organizations wisely. I think that will take more than money. It will take a different culture and a different mind.

I agree. The problem is that management fails to manage well and has been failing to do so for decades. They have improved over the last few decades but not nearly fast or consistently enough. Gipsie worked closely with Dr. Deming and serves on the W. Edwards Deming Institute Board of Trustees.

Related: Could Toyota Fix GM (2005)At Ford, Quality Was Our Motto in the 1980sBig Failed Three, Meet the Successful EightWhy Fix the Escalator?Invest in New Management Methods Not a Failing Company (AMC) by William Hunter, 1986 – Ford and Managing the Supplier RelationshipNo Excessive Senior Executive Pay at Toyota

Zara Thrives by Ignoring Conventional Wisdom

Zara Thrives by Breaking All the Rules

Many U.S. apparel retailers are choking on slow-moving inventories as consumers hold back on spending. But Spain’s Inditex, whose Zara chain pioneered cheap chic, is zipping ahead. The $13.8 billion company, which is closing in on Gap (GPS) for the title of world’s biggest clothing retailer, has nearly quadrupled sales, profits, and locations since 2000

Wages are higher at Inditex—its factory workers in Spain make an average of $1,650 a month, vs. $206 in China’s Guandong Province. But the company saves time and money on shipping. Also, Inditex’s plants use just-in-time systems developed in cooperation with logistics experts from Toyota Motor (TM), which gives the company a level of control that would be impossible if it were entirely dependent on outsiders.

In addition, Inditex supplies every market from warehouses in Spain. Even so, it manages to get new merchandise to European stores within 24 hours, and, by flying goods via commercial airliners, to stores in the Americas and Asia in 48 hours or less.

As a result, the chain doesn’t have to slash prices by 50%, as rivals often do, to move mass quantities of out-of-season stock. Since the chain is more attuned to the most current looks, it also can get away with charging more than, say, Gap. “If you produce what the street is already wearing, you minimize fashion risk,”

For rivals hoping to mimic Inditex’s results, analyst Luca Solca of Sanford C. Bernstein has a bit of advice: Don’t follow the Zara pattern halfheartedly. “The Inditex way is an all-or-nothing proposition that has to be fully embraced to yield results.”

Very true. Processes work well within a system. You can’t copy from one system to another. You can learn about what has been successful and figure out how you can adapt to take advantage of the ideas within your systems.

Related: Lean IT Systems – Not ERPSystemic ThinkingWhat Kind of Management Does This?Making Suits in the USACurious Cat Management on Lean Thinking

Online Management Resources

Since long before I started this blog I have maintained the Curious Cat Management Improvement web site. In fact, that web site has been online since 1996; the blog started in 2004. I feel the web site has tremendous resources for managers looking to improve the performance of their organization (or course I am a bit biased).

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India Lean Management

India’s Economic Times has an interview with James Womack, Now is the time for lean management, with an interesting quote:

When I last visited India in 2002, I looked carefully at several operations of the TVS group in the Chennai area. I found that they were the best examples of lean manufacturing I had ever seen outside of Toyota City. In my mind these facilities completely eliminated any questions as to whether “lean” would work in India. However, I have not visited India in six years and I have no data on the performance of Indian firms on average, so I can’t say what the trend is or how many success stories I might find if I had the time to visit at length. How-ever, I have high expectations for the potential of Indian firms to embrace the full range of lean principles and methods.

I have discussed TVS several times in the past; TVS has won several Deming Prizes.

Related: TVS Group Director on India – Manufacturing, Economy…Deming Prize 2007Indian Deming Prize Winner ExpandingToyota Chairman Comments on India and ThailandCurious Cat Lean Manufacturing

Mississippi Plans Manufacturing Management Center

Ole Miss plans manufacturing center

Ole Miss plans to build a center to teach manufacturing management skills. Gov. Haley Barbour, Ole Miss officials and Toyota executives announced the $22 million Center for Manufacturing Excellence on Monday in Jackson. Construction of the 47,000- square-foot center could start this fall.

“We in Mississippi continue to have a larger percentage of our population employed in manufacturing than the country as a whole,” Barbour said. “One way to help our businesses innovate and stay successful is to give them world-class people to employ, whether it’s engineers or business majors or people who work on the line.”

By teaching principles of lean manufacturing, total quality management and just-in-time inventory delivery, the center will produce workers for many sectors including aerospace, electronics, technology and polymer sciences.

The center’s funding comes from the state’s $323.9 million incentive package for Toyota. The automaker is building a $1.3 billion plant in Blue Springs, about 50 miles from Oxford. Toyota reset the opening of the plant from early 2010 to May 2010 for economic and model-changeover reasons.

The center will offer four bachelor’s degree programs, two business-related and two engineering-related, all with a manufacturing emphasis. Barbour and Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat will appoint a board to create a curriculum and oversee the center.

“We have completed the building drawings and expect to be receiving bids shortly. I would hope that construction would begin this fall,” Khayat said.

He said he expects 20 to 40 students the first year, with enrollment increasing dramatically in the following years. Most of the initial students likely will switch their majors from engineering or business. The interdisciplinary program will include cooperatives and externships.

“We’re going to see an interesting marriage between engineering and business. We think it will be a model for the future of manufacturing,” Khayat said.

Related: Engineering Innovation for Manufacturing and the EconomyManufacturing Employee Shortage in UtahGlobal Manufacturing Data by Country (Feb 2006 post)Trends in Manufacturing Jobs

Management Improvement Carnival #35

Kevin Meyer is hosting Management Improvement Carnival #35 on the Evolving Excellence blog, some of the highlights include

  • Hidden Problems from TPM Log.  "We must encourage people to speak up and identify problems. We must
    also develop avenues for people to do so in a comfortable manner."
  • It’s the People, Not Just the Tools from Shmula.  “what most folks forget is that ‘Kaizen’ was truly build upon the philosophy that ‘Toyota builds people and then cars’ – that is, Kaizen came from the notion that the collective intelligence of your line workers is valuable and that people, if given the training and the
    chance, can truly do amazing things.”
  • True Work, Apparent Work, and Busy Work from Gemba Panta Rei.  “True work is of course the small amount of work in any process which changes form, fit or function as the customer desires.”
  • Innovation on the Edge from Edge Perspectives.  “Why bother about the edge when everyone knows that all the profit is in the core?”
  • Why Do Employees Underperform? from the Lean Six Sigma Academy.  “Muri means to overburden equipment or operators.  In many cases, muri can be avoided by the implementation of some basic forms of standard work.”

Read past management carnivals.

Car Powered Using Compressed Air

car powered using compressed air

Jules Verne predicted cars would run on air. The Air Car is making that a reality. The car would be powered by compressed air. Certainly seem like an interesting idea. Air car ready for production:

Refueling is simple and will only take a few minutes. That is, if you live nearby a gas station with custom air compressor units. The cost of a fill up is approximately $2.00. If a driver doesn’t have access to a compressor station, they will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car’s built-in compressor to refill the tank in about 4 hours.

The car is said to have a driving range of 125 miles so by my calculation it would cost about 1.6 cents per mile. A car that gets 31 mpg would use 4 gallons to go 124 miles. At $3 a gallon for gas, the cost is $12 for fuel or about 9.7 cents per mile. I didn’t notice anything about maintenance costs. I don’t see any reason why the Air Car would cost more to maintain than a normal car. Five-seat concept car runs on air

An engineer has promised that within a year he will start selling a car that runs on compressed air, producing no emissions at all in town.

Tata is the only big firm he’ll license to sell the car – and they are limited to India. For the rest of the world he hopes to persuade hundreds of investors to set up their own factories, making the car from 80% locally-sourced materials.

“Imagine we will be able to save all those components traveling the world and all those transporters.” He wants each local factory to sell its own cars to cut out the middle man and he aims for 1% of global sales – about 680,000 per year. Terry Spall from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers says: “I really hope he succeeds. It is a really brave experiment in producing a sustainable car.”

Now does that sound like the Toyota Production System to you? It should. If I were an executive at Toyota I would sure examine this to see if it really is as promising as it looks. And if it is Toyota sure has plenty of cash and the management practice to make a very compelling case for allowing Toyota to produce this globally. The engineers desires closely match what Toyota has learned. Both seek to eliminate the waste of transportation (friction).

Related: Click Fraud = Friction for GoogleManufacturing Takes off in IndiaElectric Automobiles

Creating Jobs

Do Lean Companies Create Fewer Jobs?

No, they create more. If you assume the lean company grows sales at the same rate as some poorly management company then it may well be that the lean company creates fewer jobs. However that is not a valid assumption. Deming provided the reason in his presentations to Japan in the 1950’s with his chain reaction. From page 3 of Out of the Crisis

  • Improve Quality —>
  • Costs decrease because of less rework, fewer mistakes, fewer delays, snags, better use of machine-time and materials —>
  • Productivity Improves —>
  • Capture the market with better quality and lower price —>
  • Stay in Business —>
  • Provide jobs and more jobs

For an example of this process at work see GM, Ford and Toyota. Toyota defines lean (Toyota’s management system is what was called lean manufacturing by Jim Womack and Dan Jones). Toyota continues to add employees while Ford and GM have been shedding jobs.

It is true, for lean (and un-lean) companies alike, productivity is improving (it just improves more at lean companies) which means that fewer people are needed to produce the same amount as we have in the past. We have posted previously about the mistaken belief that jobs are moving overseas.
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