Early Vermont Industrialists and Lean Thoughts

Mark Warren at Tesla2.com and I have been chatting about early Henry Ford works. Mark brought up the name Walter Flanders and this got me to do some more digging. Apparently W. Flanders was one of the heavy hitters behind Ford's machine innovation and plant layouts. Walter Flanders was from Vermont, which peaked my interest even more, since Republican Vermont Senator Ralph Flanders was mentioned in Alan Mogensen's autobiography. Senator Flanders was credited in Mogy's book for killing the legislation that would have banned time and motion study. Can you imagine? Thank you Senator Flanders, for us Leansters would likely not exist today!

Anyway, I haven't made a connection between Walter Flanders and the Senator yet, although I'm pretty sure they are related. Can anybody out there confirm this? Ralph and his brother, Ernest were both known for their pioneering work in setting screw thread standards and creating many innovation in the screw machine industry as they worked for Jones and Lamson in Springfield, VT.

Through my internet research the past couple of nights, I stumbled across a book written by Governor James Hartness, father-in-law to Senator Ralph Flanders and father of Helen Hartness Flanders.

Here is the link to the book, Industrial Progress and Human Economics. It is digitized through the Gutenberg project. You may find it a bit dated. But there are little gems in here that are still relevant today. Given the many references in this book to the concept of specialization and the facts behind how Hartness turned around the ailing Jones and Lamson company through the application of specialization of the flat turret lathe, it is not a stretch to imagine that Hartness was a fan of scientific mangement. However, reading through this book, you get the impression that he saw beyond the narrow focus of scientific management that we know of today - the specialization of tasks and rigid work defined by time and motion study. Hartness clearly was advocating such concepts, but also tried to stretch Vermont industrialists imagination and creativity of what Vermont industry should look like by embracing human economic principles. Some examples that may sound familiar to Leansters:
"There should be no absentee management. The men who manage must be in close touch with the work and the workers—not merely through written or oral reports, but by actual observation."
Sounds like genba management to me!

In order to "Protect the Industrial Spirit," Hartness declared:
"Industries and the workers should be protected from incompetent managers, investigators and impractical theorists.

Industries and the workers go forward by actual work, not on manipulation of stocks, bonds, laws and schemes to wreck or boost for temporary gain of some one interest."

Hartness challenged Vermonters to some simple questions which, in my opinion, require a genba commitment to answer:

"How the individual ability and skill, as well as the group ability and skill is only to be acquired by repetition that establishes habit-action."

"Why repetition of operation is essential to acquisition of skill and special ability."

"Why a plant may be growing in size and paying dividends and may still be dead so far as the spirit of enterprise is concerned."
My favorite part of this book though, is in the "Habit Action, Basis of Skill and Proficiency," section:
"We have many text books on the subject of industrial finance, of engineering, of invention, of industrial management, and all these books are written on the assumption that the human being knows his own kind. A study of our failures seems to reveal, however, that we have misunderstood the human being.

Our fundamental error in understanding our own kind seems to lie in the fact that we fail to recognize that man is a creature of habit to an extent not quite equal to that of the lower animals, but nevertheless to a degree that positively stands in the way of any man who tries to create or manage an industry without giving due value to this one element.

The effect of this characteristic of habit action is so profound that any disturbance in a plant due to changing the position of benches or machinery or changing the character of the work sorely interferes with man's efficiency.

If it is as simple as this, why the need of saying it? The need is brought about by the painful fact that one of the characteristics of habit action is to continue on without change even after the mind has apparently recognized that a change should be made."

"Success comes not from the mere word knowledge of these things, but through action."

This final message from Hartness reminds me of what a plant manager from the Asia Pacific region of our world said to me very recently: "A decision does not make a solution." In other words, just because we say we are doing Lean, doesn't mean we are Lean."

Doesn't this hint at the dichotomy of Lean thinking? How do we challenge the current thinking, practices and theories yet stick to the fundamentals of good management: Respect for People and Continuous Improvement?

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday!

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Job Breakdown Sheet - How to Compress Hundreds of Digital Photos in Under 1 minute

JBS Example for today is "How to Compress 'a lot' of Digital Photos in under 60 seconds"...but first, what problem does this solve?

1) During a lean assessment, there are hundreds of photos taken, maybe even almost a thousand. Since most digital cameras do not have very low resolution settings nowadays, the file space consumed can be enormous. This makes for download and viewing times that actually discourage people from reviewing the photos at a later date. I want them to act on what they see, not have an excuse to ignore it.

2) Using the files in presentations presents a similar problem. The multiplier effect can push a ppt file over the 20MB mark or more. This not only causes ridiculously long download times, but makes it almost impossible to easily email a presentation without the extra work of compressing the photos in the file. Compression can be done to a ppt presentation, but I would prefer to compress ALL of the photos in one shot and not risk forgetting to compress the final product at the end, jamming up hard drives and inboxes. (So sue me, I'm batching o.k.?)

The technique I use actually compresses hundreds of photos in under 60 seconds. It also will compress most photos by 50-90% depending on the initial resolution. With some practice, you will be able to do this in about 20 seconds for about 100 photos.

Word of caution...I think it is still necessary to use the four step method for training even though you may be tempted to let this JBS stand alone. There are little things you can explain that go beyond this simple task of compression once the training is over and a one-on-one interaction is the best way to do that. With that said, here is the link to my Job Breakdown Sheet: "How to Compress a Truckload of Digital Photos in under 60 seconds."

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Root Cause Analysis Not Journalists' Core Competency

Following is a quote from a leading trade show update, providing readers with the mood/state of industry felt by the attendees:

"Better productivity, lean manufacturing, and cost-effective staffing are holding back job creation continuing to put a pall on the industry in general."

Normally, this wouldn't bother me...but this is the kind of nonsense that gets reported frequently in the news and gets under my skin...

First of all, a "pall" can either be used a noun or a verb. In the context above, the definition of a pall is: "dark covering", or, a dark veil, dark cloud, a shroud or blanket.

So, let me get this straight...better productivity results in a looming dark cloud over industry in general?

Lean manufacturing is the cause of the dark veil put over the job market?

Cost effective staffing is the reason for the shroud keeping back the recovery?

In other words, industry and industry alone is to blame for the slow recovery. This is the conclusion that is drawn from a journalist who is surrounded by thousands of people at a leading manufacturing trade show? There aren't any other underlying factors people are willing to discuss, except to stay on the surface and blame (usually ill implemented) lean manufacturing techniques?

I hope that "cost effective staffing" is the reason behind the lack of editing this garbage and not malevolence. Or do people in industry and journalism really blame lean manufacturing, productivity gains and core staffing as the culprit?

If so, than we have got a bigger problem on our hands...like not understanding basic economics.

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Steven Spear article in Quality Magizine

Perhaps you have already seen it. But Jim Peck from the forum, JobShopLean linked the TWI blog up with the Steven Spear article titled, Innovation and Workforce Engagement in a High Velocity World, in the November 2009 edition of Quality Magazine talks about a different kind of workforce training and management's obligation to directly lead that effort.

There are some nuggets to take away from Spear's article. In today's fast paced world, even "Change is not enough." Spear goes on to explain, "Any one idea, even an insanely great one, will get a company only so far ahead and keep it there only so long.," therefore , "Competition today has to be a team sport with barely anyone riding the bench."

Sidenote: I'm not sure what the following means: "The result is that Toyota went into the downturn well in advance of its rivals, had a far bigger cushion and seems to be recovering quicker." So, does this mean that Toyota, because of the noticeably more sensitive (fragile?) systems it has intentionally put in place felt the effects of the economic downturn before its competition? This would be a very interesting hypothesis to explore further...any thoughts on this?

We can imply from the article that most management has failed in engaging the entire workforce in a meaningful way. At Aisin, a Toyota supplier, "Junior employees hired for front line work are first trained to do standard work with high fidelity," and then subsequently are "taught how to see problems that compromise safety, quality and time. This does not mean dropping a note in the suggestion box. It cannot be accomplished by the same management style that has already failed to accomplish it. A company's management has to change."

An anecdotal example from Pratt and Whitney follows, just so those that say it can only happen in Japan have a genba they can go and see in the United States.

And what do they need to see? That which requires change: managements ultimate obligation is that they must "improve their ability to keep improving."

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Flame Good

A friend of the TWI Blog, John Milan, sent this for your enjoyment:

"I was quite amused by studying a matchbook at a recent family birthday party. I know that simple minds are easily amused, but I wanted to share the instructions on the inside cover of the matchbook for lighting a match. It appears that detailed instructions for procedures and safety are deemed necessary in more than one industry."

From the inside cover of a matchbook Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company: Instructions on how to light a match.

"Firmly grasp individual match, keeping fingers away from the igniting tip. After liberating said match from its confinement, assure that your matchbook cover is closed. Briskly strike the tip across the provided strikeplate on the backside of your matchbook to facilitate ignition of said match. Repeat when necessary. Flame good. For more information, go to www.sfntc.com"

Thanks John!

A bit overdone, eh? Is it no wonder then, with examples like this in everyday life, why people in specialized industries create complicated work instructions? For you Job Instruction trainers out there, this is one of the first battles you will face: most managers will look at JI as a documentation program, rendering most of your documents useless, if not for entertainment purposes like the one provided here by Sante Fe Tobacco.

Have a great Sunday!

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Lean Nation Radio Show Debuts November 9, 2009

Today is the debut of what may be the first live radio show that is built on the topic of Lean. At the 2008 NE Shingo Prize, Karl Wadensten's delivered a passionate message to a captivated audience about the kaizen he led at VIBCO, Inc. in Rhode Island. It seems he has stepped up the effort to "yokoten" with others about Lean!

I'm not sure what will become of this, but I will be listening today at 4 pm to find out.



The Lean Leadership Industry

- "Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten."

B. F. Skinner

That quote helps explain one reason why tens of thousands of books have been written on the topic of leadership and lean has become its own little cottage industry.

Sure, some people are born natural leaders, but for the vast majority of us, leadership isn't in our genes. This is why leadership should be viewed as a skill: if you don't use it, you will lose it.

Or we get frustrated and impatient, forgetting the fundamentals and seek other rehashed information that has been spun a different way that we might relate to.

Education doesn't solve problems or lead people, people do. This helps explain why the TWI J-skills are called skills, by practicing daily, we have a chance to convert the knowledge we acquire in the sessions into a skill. Use it or lose it!

I suppose the same could be said for many things in life...

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A Perfect Lean Article in USAToday

The title link will take you to the full article...

Leansters always say to NEVER lay off people as a result of improvements. The article predictably dances around this dogma - you may be wanting a nice, clean and tidy explanation of why Lean should never lead to layoffs, but you won't find it here:

"In the short term, as manufacturers slash inventories and reduce their workforces, the recovery could be slowed or delayed, experts say. Many, such as Sealy, are scaling back through attrition and cutting temporary staff rather than resorting to layoffs.

Yet industry wide, some jobs will be lost permanently as manufacturers use their new cost efficiencies to wring more output from fewer employees, says Cliff Waldman, an economist at the Manufacturers Alliance, which does research for the industry. But by allowing U.S. manufacturers to better compete against low-cost rivals abroad, the maneuvers are helping them maintain profits and ultimately hire employees, economists say."

"It's survival," Waldman goes on to say, "Our response to the cost pressures brought about by globalization is … to produce cheaper and more efficiently."

And the magic metric responds accordingly:

"'manufacturing productivity, or output per labor hour, rose 4.9% in the second quarter, the highest since early 2005', traced to lean-manufacturing techniques."

So what is good for Wall St. (productivity) is not so good for Main St. (loss of jobs). This was probably one of the more favorable Lean articles, but like many before it, the message is conflicted...but shouldn't it be? I predict that you may see some critical reviews of this article on the lean blogging posts today...defender's of the lean principles telling all of us how the rest of the world doesn't understand lean.

We are all learning, so be careful about seeking the Perfect Cinderella Lean Story...that may signal the end of the journey. Toyota's story is full of conflict, contradictions and put simply - problems. Their story is far from perfect and yet it continues. So why should we expect something different for our situation?

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Connect the Lean Dots

I love this photo. This was seen in the genba and can serve as a 5S Learning Lab. It helps us imagine many benefits of practicing lean if we only embrace problems.

How would 5S make this area ready for work? Tools would be easier to retrieve, perhaps even at the point of use. This would free up space on the shelf, perhaps to create a visual kanban system for the rebuilt units.

More space would also give us an opportunity to re- layout the work area, reducing motion, twisting, lifting, walking and stretching.

This type of problem awareness might allow us to see potential problems, like the refrigerator on top of the cabinet. Is this a hard hat area?

Do we need to open the cabinet to know the inside condition? When we talk about "shine", are we thinking about housekeeping, or do we see shine as an action: "cleaning to inspect?" If we remove the doors from the cabinet and made frequent genba walks in this area, do you expect this level of visuality would help us identify and embrace problems more easily?

Assuming we made some 5S improvements in this area, what other Lean benefits could we expect? Would jobs be easier? Faster? Of higher quality? Perhaps. It is also possible that training could be done more easily, thoroughly and of higher quality. This may also lead to safer, easier, faster and higher quality jobs.

There are many small kaizen opportunities here that will help people connect the dots and see the benefits of continuous improvement through the simple act of 5S. Are you helping them see?

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