10.29.2007

PDCA’s Halloween Costume This Year? TWI, of course!

Given that Halloween is in only two days away, I thought we could dress up TWI a bit. Many people look at TWI as an OJT training program only, as described through the most successful and universal program Job Instruction Training. This however is only one-quarter of the story from a practical view. There are four distinct programs under the TWI clothing and all programs work to a specific pattern of thinking:

Job Instruction: how to instruct best methods, or as the TWI directors described it: “a concept of training as a way used by the plant management to solve specific production problems which involves people.”

Job Methods: how to improve methods, “a plan to help produce greater quantities of quality products in less time by making the best use of the people, machines and materials that are now available.”

Job Relations: how to lead people, “a plan to help get results through people by maintaining good relations, treating people as individuals and preventing and solving the problems that affect their work.”

Program Development: how to meet a problem through training, “a means by which management tackles their own production problems with a training plan.”
Within each program is a four step method for purposes of standardization and ease of knowledge transfer. It was highly desirable during the war production period to have as many people as possible using these four programs:

TWI’s four step methods are not unlike the PDCA method we are used to seeing today: Plan, Do, Check, Act. This elicits thoughts about the scientific method itself. When brought to light in management discussions, the PDCA analogy is often met with some indifference, as PDCA has a somewhat haughty air about it. PDCA, I’m told, cannot solve all of our problems, nor can everyone think like a scientist, so why should we expect them to do so? The basic resistance to this program is summarized in this response: “We just want good quality, on-time delivery and low cost. Let’s not pretend TWI is the answer, after all, it is far too easy today to assign a biased weight to Lean tools in this age of management fads. We don’t want to go through that again like we did with Lean, do we? Plus, it is a sixty year old program! Aren’t we a bit more sophisticated than that?”

Will TWI suffer the same fate in the information age? Will people see TWI for what it really is: PDCA built into simple skills for every industrial person? I suspect some will, but far too many will not. One thing to consider in this discussion is how the directors of the program saw the TWI program as a grand industrial experiment, and the future they desired for the program as it moved beyond the realm of the government:

“Much technical advance has been made as the result of research in the laboratory. There, scientific problems are isolated and tackled, and solutions are sought. New knowledge and new methods evolve.

In the field of human relations, the workplace is the laboratory. When people work together, the inter-relationships of job and supervisor and worker introduce many variables. The environment and atmosphere of the working conditions cannot be transplanted for experimental purposes. Change one condition and a whole situation is affected. This means then that future progress will depend upon the willingness of industry to carry on development work under its own auspices, and also to share the results with other plants. The experimenting must be done right where the work is done.

There must be, within industry, people interested in and competent to carry on such development work to meet new needs of workers, of management, and of industry. These people inevitably can do much to increase the effectiveness of industry in making its maximum contribution as a vital social institution in our Democracy.”

The TWI Report 1945, Work Ahead



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10.26.2007

Lack of Basic Stability affects Stock Price

Sturm Ruger stock price dropped dramatically after stellar performance in the past year, as reported by Will Swarts of Smartmoney:

“In April (2006), the company outlined an eight-point turnaround plan that started with a major inventory reduction in the second half of 2006. Ruger cut inventory by $28.3 million in the second half of 2006 and $26.6 million in the first half of 2007.

Trying to fix all the problems of a troubled company can easily lead to misfires, and the strength of Ruger's brand and robust performance of its stock made it harder to spot its looming earnings miss.

Most of Ruger's robust first-half performance was driven by "last in, first out" accounting benefits, which were boosted by the company's intensive inventory reductions.

..once inventory was cut, Ruger was able to look at its operations, and what it found was troubling:

The sharp reversal was caused by management too quickly moving to introduce lean manufacturing. Once the implementation was underway, management realized it had inadequate machinery, its machine changeover times were too long and it had vendor supply issues. As a result, production problems returned and Sturm Ruger once again faced difficulty getting product out the door"


Sturm Ruger management now has a dilemma on their hands, go back to the old way of doing things, i.e. use buffer inventory to protect the instability in the basic process, or dig in and start solving problems.

Unfortunately, the majority of companies that “go Lean” in America start their Lean journey by drastically reducing inventory, forgetting about the basics until it is too late. The simple, plain truth is that we don’t question why we have inventory in the first place. The answer lies in the fact that our process is not stable at the individual work level. Take a look at this problem sheet used in Job Instruction and ask yourself if these problems are not related to “inadequate machines, long changeovers and supply issues.” These examples come from a 65 year old manual. Not much has changed in 65 years. If this isn’t evidence that “each and every person” in the organization can affect the stock price, I don’t know what is.

Links:

http://www.smartmoney.com/cfscripts/Director.cfm

http://www.ruger.com/corporate/PDF/2007-Q3ShareholderLetter.pdf

URL for Smartmoney article:

http://www.smartmoney.com/onedaywonder/index.cfm?story=20071025

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10.25.2007

Job Instruction Wire Source

Here is an online source for twisted lamp cord when doing the fire underwriter’s knot:

www.sundialwire.com. I think they are in New England. They make all kinds of wire that looks like cloth wire used on old appliances like fans and lamps. The website has some nice pictures of items people have restored using sundial wire.

For the fire underwriter's knot demonstration, I use 16 gage wire, priced at roughly $1.25 per foot. Some people like slightly thinner wire, like 18 or 20 gage, because it’s easier on the fingers when straightening the wire in Important Step 1, but I find the 16 ga doesn’t flop around as much; participants can follow along a bit better. I purchased about 20 feet of it two years ago and am still going strong with it. I can't remember if I paid a cut charge, but you certainly don't need a reel of this wire for JI sessions. You only need about 10-12 lengths, about a foot long each, so 20-25 feet is a good buy. Since it is a cotton braid, you will have to trim the ends occasionally as the fibers fray. This happens after you tie and retie underwriter knots hundreds of times! I've tried applying a little glue to the cut ends of cotton, dipping in wax, and even sintering the ends. None of these techniques really work well. The best approach is to trim them after three or four sessions if needed. One of the nice things about the JI program is the extremely low cost associated with the props and materials, the payoff is quick for this training.

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10.24.2007

Safety is ALWAYS a Key Point

In Job Instruction, key points are defined as how to do the job. There are three broadly classified key points:
  1. Things that make or break the job (quality)

  2. Tricks or knacks that make the job easier (productivity/efficiency)

  3. Things that can injure the worker. (safety)


Case in point: soldering. Many know what to do when soldering, but often don’t know how to do it safely, efficiently and correctly. Once an operator burned herself with a soldering iron. When asked how it happened, she said that she was “pushing too hard” on the soldering iron and her fingers slipped. The operator was applying pressure to the solder joint, a major step in the process, but the key point is how much pressure to apply. If trained properly, the operator would have applied the correct pressure to the solder joint and her fingers would not have slipped and been burned. Now, rather than train her properly in soldering, the managers will find a device that will shield her fingers from the solder tip. This is not corrective action, since the wrong pressure will still be applied to the solder joint, causing other problems in efficiency and quality. Safety is ALWAYS a key point and is closely tied to productivity and quality.

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10.19.2007

Unconscious Experimentation - The Current State of Training

I'm currently reading Managing Minds, by Charles Allen and Henry Tiemann. Allan wrote the TWI inspiring book, The Instructor, the Man and the Job in the mid-20's. Managing Minds is called a "practical" psychology book and deals not with the direct control of minds, as the title leads one to believe, but rather the indirect control of the mind. Allan and Tiemann argue this is achieved by not knowing "why the mind works in certain ways", but rather by being concerned with "the fact that minds do work in certain ways under certain conditions."

There is much discussion in the book about different forms of instruction. One of the reasons TWI-Job Instruction is so important to many of us in Lean is that we practitioners understand that basic stability comes from standard work, and standard work is borne out of good instruction. One of the questions in JI training is about learning by "trial and error", which good JM trainers want to encourage in controlled environments, but JI trainers abhor since mistakes can develop into bad habits. Allan and Tiemann touch briefly on the problem of allowing trial and error during instruction:

"The experimental method is given the highest educational value because it involves learning by trial and error. It requires initiative, resourcefulness and the use of all the other [instructional] methods. Its high cost practically prevents its frequent use."

What really struck me about this is that lack of good training promotes the experimental methods described. Often, a new hire enters the company, is briefly trained if at all, and then left to their own abilities and resourcefulness. Allan and Tiemann are speaking of controlled, experimental instruction; not unbridled, poorly defined, left unchecked and conducted by trainees on their own. The fact that experimentation is of high cost makes sense: new hires left on their own naturally have more scrap, less production and exhibit a higher potential for injury. Worse, their bad habits developed through unconscious experimentation may or may not be passed onto other new hires. It is no wonder we can't Kaizen on a daily basis in U.S. plants....we have no stability!

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10.18.2007

Seasonal Strikes

Check out this link on the transportation stikes happening in France.

The French are apparently used to this sort of thing, some citizens even buying shoes for the annual event. It's like a national holiday, "Hey everyone, its 'Walk Seven Miles to Work Month!'"

I've heard of seasonality affecting business cycles, but the sneaker companies have to love this market.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the face of this strike. Will the French unions bend under the financial stress of legacy pension and benefit burdens? Or will they stare down the French rookie conservative President?

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10.17.2007

Safety is built into U.S. Standards…what is in China's?

“Taming the Dragon” an article in the recent issue of Industry Week surprises us, in which the author begins by summarizing the ripple effects caused by recent toy product safety blunders in Chinese owned manufacturing plants. However, an attempt is made to clarify the misunderstanding over the toy recalls in the following excerpt:


“As more was learned about the recalled toys, however, it became obvious the vast majority of the recalls had nothing to do with the Chinese and everything to do with Mattel -- namely, a product design flaw that caused magnets on some toys to come loose. When Mattel CEO Robert Eckert issued a public mea culpa to China for damage done to the country's reputation – ‘Mattel does not hold Chinese manufacturers responsible for the design in relation to the recalled magnet toys’ -- it was a clear sign of exactly how important China's factories are to the U.S. toy industry, as roughly 80% of all toys sold in the U.S. are made in China. And it's an even clearer sign that Mattel has no plans to pull its manufacturing out of China any time soon. Nor, in all likelihood, do any other U.S. companies who rely on Chinese manufacturers to produce the vast majority of their goods.”


Blanchard does such a good job of blurring the line on which recall is which, now I was nearly convinced that the only recalls out there were due to Mattel’s product design flaws regarding magnet retention devices and the Chinese were really not responsible for the nearly 20 million toys recalled. Blanchard is entirely correct in the magnet recall making up the “vast” majority of recalls (nearly 90% of total recalls) but the he implies that Chinese manufacturers had little impact on the Mattel recalls. He states that U.S. consumers were “outraged” over the recalls but seems to miss the point entirely by confusing poor magnet retention design with unauthorized lead-paint use and the subsequent parties responsible for them. The fact remains: Chinese manufacturers are responsible for nearly 2.2 million recalled toys due to impermissible lead paint levels: demonstrating a profound disregard for consumer safety in this case. Unfortunately, Blanchard fails to expand on this point, and extols the Chinese ambitions for world class manufacturing excellence as illustrated in the IW survey. He concludes by stating that it is only inevitable that we engage China in competition and cooperation:


“While China is often pointed to as emblematic of everything that's gone wrong with U.S. manufacturing, there's no escaping the reality that the sheer size of the Chinese market makes it an almost irresistible opportunity for growth. In fact, China bought more than $55 billion worth of U.S. goods in 2006. Product quality issues and intellectual property protection are two very real concerns for U.S. manufacturers, but by closely studying both China's culture and its manufacturing initiatives, U.S. companies are finding that the rewards can be worth the risks.”


Blanchard makes a true statement regarding our long term engagement with China, but a partnership by definition is reciprocal; the burden of product safety rests with everyone who touches that product during manufacture. The fact remains: Chinese manufacturers used lead-based paint, while blatantly disregarding Mattel’s safety standards, designed to protect children. The economic consequences for Chinese manufacturers are largely unknown to U.S. consumers, but what we do know is ominous if regarded at a personal level: one Chinese owner committed suicide, several are under criminal investigation by the Chinese government and a former food and drug administrator was executed for fraud.


Is corporal punishment part of the new World Class Manufacturing Standard?

Why do we expect China to take product consumer safety seriously when a death sentence is the chosen method of problem solving? In a Lean company, the fear of failure is abhorred, through the constant challengeing and subsequent improvement of product and work standards. If China is serious about TQM, Lean and other "fear-free" world class mfg initiatives as suggested by the IW survey, then we have little to fear in terms of true competitiveness and can certainly expect more low-cost labor outsourcing along with the sub-standard safety.
Check out the following 1 minute video that really says it all: is there any doubt that safety is at the forefront of Chinese industry’s concerns?

video



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10.03.2007

I think he missed a few key points!

This is a funny video illustrating either one of two things: 1) no conscientiousness was built into the training, or 2) key points weren't communicated. Either way, very little value is added here! Both beg for a training opportunity! Enjoy!

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