Many of today’s business leaders have heard about the Lean method of production, but few truly understand how to successfully adopt it. In Management Lessons from Taiichi Ohno, Takehiko Harada provides the tools, techniques, and knowledge that business managers will need to implement the Lean values of the Toyota Production System (TPS) in their organizations. He describes how the TPS was originally deployed by Taiichi Ohno, the role of the manager in a Lean organization, and a guide for introducing the TPS method into a foreign country. By utilizing the Lean methods of the TPS, managers can become the main drivers for creating vibrant, productive, and flowing Lean workplace environments.
THE LESSONS OF MR. TAIICHI OHNO
When Taiichi Ohno was promoted to manager of the Toyota Motors machine plant in 1945, he was faced with a crippled, war-torn, unproductive environment. To eliminate these challenges, Ohno developed a plan based around the concept of flow. His plan moved raw materials to finished goods in a one-piece flow that used fewer people and limited the waste of overproduction. The plan became known as the Toyota Production System (TPS), and to effectively deploy this Lean environment, Ohno developed the following 15 lessons for his top management team:
1.Let actions speak louder than words. Managers must be the ones to establish the foundational elements of TPS by taking the lead to cut waste, increase value, and make high-quality parts. If workers do not understand the mind-set or methods of Lean, managers must go to the shop floor and provide hands-on role modeling.
2.Get closer to the final process. Managers must encourage employees to find the reason for process variability and change the conditions so good products can be made in an environment that does not require a lot of effort. They must realize that the less inventory there is between processes, the closer they are getting to the end process.
3.Keep by the line only the parts for whatever is being assembled now. Making the work as simple as possible will equate to fewer mistakes. When managers help employees make the work simple, a method for having less inventory can emerge.
4.Stop stunting the growth of an operation. Managers must find ways to eliminate building in batches. Instead, they should consistently produce in the same sequence or pattern to make machine changeovers easier to do.
5.Find the 1 out of 10. Nine out of 10 managers can increase their productivity numbers when volumes are increasing, but only 1 out of 10 managers can increase their productivity numbers when volumes are going down. Managers who can increase productivity when volumes are decreasing make one continuous production line, therefore reducing the remainder time and accomplishing cost savings in terms of employees.
6.Break the standard. Managers must realize that the standard is there to be changed. Managers must let their supervisors develop the standard work and teach it to employees. The employees should then think of better ways to do the work and get permission to try out new methods.
7.Learn the next process. Multiskilling means teaching workers the next process so the flow of work does not stop. Managers must encourage employees to help out those who are delayed and prevent work from piling up.
8.Forget the numeric goal. Employees must learn not to fall into the trap of target figures. In organizations where numbers are very important, employees may be tempted to do whatever it takes to make the numbers better. If they do that, the real issues could just be delayed. Managers must not manage numbers; instead, they must understand the reality and fix it by going to the department that has not met its goals and eliminating any poor conditions.
9.Decide the standard work so anyone can do the work safely and correctly. Managers must establish standard work, teach employees how to do it, and ensure that they are doing it to standard. If the work is not being done to standard, then managers must retrain their employees.
10.Go there when needed. Defining the standard work for people outside the production line can be difficult. Managers must teach these employees to fix problems when and where they arise.
11.Check the standard work. To ensure high-quality production, managers should check to see whether work is being done according to plan and correct any mistakes. Managers who continually update the standard work will keep their facilities on the path toward quality, safety, and lower costs.
12.Determine a way for workers to push start while still moving. In many organizations, workers have to stop the production line because a lot of force is required to push the start button on a machine. Managers should find a way to get workers to start a machine while still working; this way, workers will tire a lot less and decrease their walking time on the line.
13.Stop expecting an expensive foreman to run an expensive machine. Organizations using machine-based layouts need special machinists to operate each machine. Managers must realize that when intelligence is added to the machines, specialists are not needed to run them. By eliminating specialists, managers can use any employee to run a machine and keep production running efficiently.
14.Make engineers in production develop a cohesive production system. Managers must have the engineers in production analyze the entire process flow and look at the elements that directly affect quality, safety, cost, and delivery. These engineers must be encouraged to grab all the different elements and push them to work together to quickly make good products at a lower cost.
15.Keep the quantity to five. Creating only five of something at a time is easy to remember and makes it harder to make mistakes. Managers must stress this simplicity, which takes a complicated assembly process and makes it simple, self-contained, and clear.
THE ROLE OF THE TOP
Taiichi Ohno’s 15 management lessons do not integrate well into the traditional management style of getting orders from people in higher positions and dealing with their various demands. For a successful Lean effort, the corporate culture and top management style will need to change. Top management must structure a Lean workplace in a way that allows for continual improvements.
An organization’s structure includes its functions, rules, and operations. The functions allow different departments to do what they are supposed to do. To ensure that different functions understand one another and carry out operations smoothly, there are rules. Functions and rules are decisions, but operations pull everything together. Top management is defined as the person who can change the company’s rules, functions, and operations based on its changing needs. For top management to understand the changing needs, there must be a communication pipeline between the assembly line and top management.
Top managers must be able to see improvement opportunities, which can be done by looking at material flow. Materials should be divided into the following four categories:
1.Waiting. In this stage, nothing is being done to the raw materials, work in process, or finished goods. Parts made to accommodate people who are on vacation or finished goods waiting to be transported are categorized as waiting.
2.Being inspected. In this stage, judgments are being made concerning whether the raw materials, work in process, or finished goods meet the specifications and requirements.
3.Being transported. In this stage, parts are in the process of being transported. Parts on a conveyor are categorized as being transported.
4.Being processed. In this stage, the shape or structure of materials or goods is being changed.
Through activities designed to decrease waiting, inspection, and transportation, labor and managerial costs decrease and products get closer to their finished stage. To eliminate waiting, inspection, and transportation and increase flow, top managers can take the following actions:
* Waiting: Managers can reduce finished goods inventory and reduce changeover times.
* Inspecting: Managers can try completing inspections within the process and make dedicated inspection jigs for each process or part.
* Transporting: Managers can move processes closer together and transport a fixed amount each time.
THE ROLE OF MANAGEMENT
The top manager of any operation is responsible for creating flow. This can only be successfully completed if the top manager develops a team of supervisors and managers. A structure that allows people to see and feel that they are successful and are working in a line that is connected to many parts is the key to developing good supervisors and managers.
The team of managers and supervisors should be taught to look at things from different perspectives. By using the following three management roles, managers can increase their effectiveness in solving issues:
1.Managers increases flow. Managers should understand that they are not there to check people’s work; they are there to spend time seeing how people can do their work faster, more easily, and more accurately.
2.Managers give authority. Managers must provide authority to supervisors, but this requires relentless standardization. Managers should have supervisors create detailed standards that will minimize the chances of abnormalities. Communicating with line workers also creates an environment where the managers can really understand what is going on in the workplace.
3.Managers motivate people and sustain the motivation. Managers are happiest when they have workers who are motivated to excel. The workplace should be structured so it is easy to see how much effort a person is putting into the job, everyone can see the results of the work, and everyone can see the results of changes and how they affect output.
THE TASKS OF MANAGERS IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES
Managers who head an operation in a foreign country will face specific challenges. When managers find out that they will be working in different countries, they should visit the people who were the previous heads of their operations. They should also talk to other people who have worked in the country before. Communicating with others will allow managers to obtain valuable information and learn about the local rules, structures, and laws.
Many things that managers may think are difficult can be accomplished quite easily, and many things that managers think seem simple can be very difficult to make happen. Managers should not think about those issues themselves; instead, they should talk to their local staff and determine the difficulty in making particular changes.
To successfully integrate Lean into an overseas organization, managers must also:
* Make an environment where it is acceptable to say, “I’m sorry.” Workers must be able to admit mistakes without being negatively affected. One option for managers is to focus on the root analysis of the real problem rather than the actual words of the apology.
* Choose a local manager to work with suppliers. The local manager will teach all the local suppliers the organization’s operational line, making sure that they all understand it in the same way. When selecting a local trainer, the top manager should find a current manager who has taken an interest in implementing TPS. The top manager must also remember that only one trainer should be used, because if multiples trainers are used, differences in the style and content of training could cause confusion.
* Make the supplier trainer be in charge of several companies and visit each of them once a week. During the visits, the trainer should listen to what the suppliers are having problems with or what they do not understand. The trainers should report it all to management, get instructions on how to deal with the issues, and deploy the solutions at the supplier sites accordingly. Every two months, top management should go with the trainer and do a joint training session to verify how things are progressing with the suppliers.
* Run the factory with local management. The fastest and most effective way to get people to experience Lean is to make all the factory managers locals. Localizing management encourages collaboration.