Rosie the Riveter

See the AP story published yesterday, Dec 30th...

60 Years Later, Rosie Still Riveting

It's too bad segregation still existed in the U.S. workplace; imagine what we could have achieved without that hurdle. The TWI principles were built on the foundations of Democracy, "We the People", the proof is how TWI district representatives tapped into the productive power and creative talents of millions of workers through this program during the war. In researching the history of TWI, I stumbled across this gem in the Job Relations files which discusses the purpose of the J-programs.

I like this snippet because it gives us a clue about why TWI worked in the U.S. war production period and why it worked in war-torn Japan, and why it still works today in an environment that is vastly different then when TWI was introduced. I suspect that, knowing how TWI contributed to winning the production war and especially why it worked, prompted Gen. MacArthur to import TWI to the Japanese workplace. I wonder if he knew that Japanese companies would build their standardized work philosophies on the industrial engineering principles built into TWI and still use them, unchanged, 60 years later:

“We are not going to work out any theoretical principles, but we are going to get experience in using some skills that have been developed in sound industrial practice. These methods have been tried and tested. They are the product of experience. They apply regardless of whether there is a Wagner Act or not. They apply whether you are dealing with a man or a woman, a black or a white, a Republican or a Democrat. Why is this so? Because people are people once you get under their skins, regardless of political or religious creed, regardless of race or color.” emphasis author's, not TWI Blog's.

Job Relations Archive Document, 1940

For more info on the Rosie the Riveter National Park, visit the website!

To learn more about TWI, come visit learn and share with me and others at the TWI Summit in Orlando, May 5-9, 2008!



5S & The Visual Factory - Prerequisites for Standard Work

5S is the standardization and organization of the workplace. The Visual Factory (VF) is a metaphor for the way the workplace helps the worker do the job easier, more effectively and more efficiently. Many people see the VF as an alternative method for managing the workplace, from the viewpoint of the manager. A common litmus test is that the workplace standardization and organization should be so simplified and obvious that someone off the street could make sense of the workplace. This is certainly an ideal state of 5S and VF, but is impractical and can get in the way of real progress.

In reality, the 5S activities should be initiated by the people doing the work and should be done in order to support standardized work routines. 5S has little to do with colors, lines and labels and more to do with whether or not the workplace is ready to perform under the desired standard conditions. This is why 5S & the VF encompass so much more than cleanliness a common target for managers beginning the lean journey.

Of course, one needs to know what the standard work and conditions should be in order to prepare the workplace to support standard work. This requires subscribing to the notion of takt time, work sequence and standard WIP levels. This then, requires an acceptance of JIT principles. Only then can we begin the task of understanding the standard work.

Standard work is not meant to be another point of management to command and control. It must be written by the people doing the job. Again, many managers will say that the job must be so simplified that even they could do the job. This misses the point of standard work. Managers don’t need to understand the standard work, but they do need to know how to coach and question the working experts of the job so that the standard can be established and then further improved. By doing so, better coaching of 5S and VF improvements can be made. This is the basic concept of a questioning attitude used in kaizen teian systems.

The elementary skills of instruction and standard work are found in TWI’s Job Instruction courses. It is here that lies a true importance of 5S and standard work in JI’s four “GET READY FOR INSTRUCTION” points; we are taught to “have the workplace properly arranged – just as the worker is expected to maintain it.” Sounds like 5S to me. “Have everything ready – the right equipment, materials and supplies.” Sounds like more 5S and Standard WIP now. Job Instruction is chock full of meaningful hidden “lean” concepts that cannot be seen on the Toyota factory floor; yet this training is taught and used to this day in the same way it was taught to Japanese management by U.S. consultants six decades ago.

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Incentives and Human Behavior

After this phone conversation, I can only assume that the managers at the local paper must have been given a mandate: increase revenue in classified ads. Too bad they didn’t inform paying customers how they were going to do that. Consider the following true conversation:

Classified Ad Saleswoman: “O.k., so what do you want your ad to say?”

Customer: “1997 Volvo Sedan 4D, pw, pl, ps, air, CD, 35,400 miles. One owner, great condition. $5500 OBO. 555-5555 anytime”

Saleswoman: “O.k. that sounds good. Umm…do want to keep the ‘OBO’?”

Customer: “Uh yeah…(thinking)…why do you ask?”

Saleswoman: “Well we don’t abbreviate OBO anymore.”

Customer: “Well, o.k…just out of curiosity, why?”

Saleswoman: “Well….OBO could be misconstrued as meaning something else. We just don’t want anyone confused by what OBO means. So we are now asking our customers to spell out “or best offer.”

Customer: (thinking something fishy) “Hmm. O.k. I understand. Do we need to spell out other abbreviations, like cyl., auto, 4D, pb, pw, ps, CD, AM/FM or things like that?”

Saleswoman: “Oh no, everyone knows what those mean. It’s just OBO that causes confusion. Everyone knows that auto means “automatic transmission”.

Customer: “Oh, it doesn’t mean ‘automobile’? Are you sure there isn’t some other reason why we can’t use OBO?”

Saleswoman: (Laughs nervously) “Uh, well no. I mean, it’s just to make sure nobody is confused. It’s for our customers benefit.”

Customer: “Well, I’ll tell you what. It sounds like OBO can be confusing. How about I just save some money and keep it out. Sound good to you?”

Saleswoman: “Uh, are you sure? We can spell it out for you just to be safe?”

Customer: “No most people negotiate anyway. I’ll work it out with the buyer. Thanks anyway though”

Increasing revenue may be the goal, but the means to do that is not by coercing people to buy more words under false pretenses. This leads to distrust by your customer. An incentive must be put in place to get people to buy more words. In this case, people now have an incentive to NOT buy more words. This is why abbreviations were made in the first place. As cars acquired more features, i.e., standards of living increased, people needed to fully describe the vehicle they were selling. This of course became expensive for classified ad buyers, takes up precious commerical ad space on the paper and in general requires more print materials and space. Abbreviations are cost saving measures for both the printer and customer. To all of you managers out there, this is called progress through improvements.

A great book about incentives, progress and human behavior is Freedomnomics, a well written rebuttal of the book Freakonomics. To get “the other side of the story”, check it out.

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When Standard Work is not standard

I just had my alternator replaced for $418. I'm told I was lucky. The mechanic gets $48 per hour and spent three hours swapping out the part, replacing the burnt belt and replacing the ball joint. I stood there in the garage as he explained to me the burden of changing an alternator on my Ford Taurus:

"Well, on the smaller engines, you can get at the alternator from the top of the engine. But on these dual overhead cam engines you have to go through the bottom. You see that glint of new metal hiding down through there? That's your new alternator. There's no way I can get that from the top of the engine compartment here. These car companies make these engines bigger and jam them into the same space they had last year. I had to put your car on the lift, disconnect the ball joint and remove the axle to get at that thing. I've already got three hours into this job. Sorry, since I'm not a dealer I don't have the OEM ball joint remover. I just hammered yours off so that had to be replaced too."

I won't comment now on how DFR (Design for Repair) is not a consideration by car designers, but I did comment then that I didn't mind paying him three hours of labor versus laying in my cold Vermont driveway under my car for eight hours.

I had some time to call my father, who is a 25 year auto body repair veteran. He also has the crash books which detail the standard estimates of time units for repair and replacement. My alternator, on the large, six cylinder, DOHC, 3.0L Taurus engine required 1.8 hours to change. The unit for the smaller engine required 0.6 hours. I've change a few alternators in my time, I'm good for about half a day regardless of type. Mostly because beer is involved. My mechanic nearly apologized for having three hours in the job. Again, I'm glad to pay him for his time, yet he only charged me for two hours of labor, which he insisted was a fair deal. I have a good mechanic.

I asked my father how those time standards are determined. He told me that he asked an insurance adjuster years ago the same question after taking a beating on a couple of jobs. He was told that three time trials are studied on new cars. Now, if you have ever worked on a car that has been home to Vermont for over ten years, you know that every single bolt on the underbody is either seized, rusted, or about to move into a permanent phase of petrification. Many bolts and pins must be cutoff, torched, broke, hammered etc. just to get through the next step of the job. I imagine that the time studies used to compile the crash books also have all of the necessary tools laid out before the mechanic, ahead of time. Three trials are conducted and then averaged. This is then published in crash books for mechanics to use in estimating jobs for customers. My father says, "you win some, you lose some."

This experience reinforced in my mind the genba principle that any study or observation should always be done in the actuality, or the reality. A time study that is done for a crash book should be done on a car that has been through rain snow and mud for two years. The same is true when setting standards for the manufacturing plant. Standards cannot be set based on theory, or conditions that do not reflect reality, but by actually observing the current job, capturing the good and the bad. Otherwise the standards we are held to always seem unfair.



Lean Jargon – Part IV, Kaizen, Muda & Gemba

I asked the question in the first post of this four part series: "Is lean jargon helpful?" What I wondered is the jargon helpful in understanding lean? For me, yes, the jargon is helpful. The previous three posts described the literal translations of the following words, kaizen, muda, mura, muri, genba, genbutsu and genjitsu. Now, I'll try to bring this together and explain why it is sometimes helpful to understand, what exactly do these words mean? Let's give this some context:
In summary of the three previous posts, kaizen means literally, “virtuous reform”. Within an organization, which involves every person, we want people to make small changes that benefit the group. How do we get people to make changes? We ask them to consider muda (wastefulness, or the seven wastes), mura (heavy burdens) and muri (unevenness). Genba is the “actual place”, genbutsu is the “actual thing” and genjitsu is “the actual condition or situation”.
Kaizen is done by looking for the 3Ms in the place where the work is done and by dealing with the reality of the situation, the 3Gs. None of this is done in the conference room. Anything done in the conference room is generally not done for the workers’ sake. By going to the genba, we are seeking out ways to make the workers’ job easier and more fulfilling, by focusing on the actual process and engaging the mind of the person doing the job. This is the premise behind Toyota’s “Respect for People” and has roots in classic work simplification programs created in the U.S.

The flaw, or blind spot if you will, in American lean systems is that we try to kaizen in the conference room. A term that was lost in Japanese translation, early on in America’s Lean journey was “teian.” Kaizen Teian is actually the way Toyota and other Japanese companies engage their employees. Americans do not have very good experience with Kaizen Teian, or the formal suggestion system. Many American managers have a bad taste in their mouths with suggestion boxes. But Kaizen Teian doesn’t even use a suggestion box. The way proposals are created and implemented is by having shop floor leaders teach others the 3Ms, the 3Gs and then seek out small improvements that they can make in order to learn by doing.

Incidentally, this model was proven, ironically, in an American WWII production plant in New Jersey. Picatinny Arsenal employees, where 18,000 people manufactured munitions, saved the plant over $8 million per year for three years during the years of 1942-45. This was done through the TWI Service’s Job Methods program, the precursor to Japanese work simplification programs, or Kaizen. Adjust that $8 million for inflation in 2007 dollars, just make sure you are sitting down first. With this in mind, we can begin to understand how Toyota can claim and achieve, billions in cost savings per year.

Kaizen Teian activities involve evaluating the standard work, getting people to see the 3Ms in their work, and then soliciting and coaching people through the process of making those improvements. This requires the skills of methods instruction (how to lock in standards), the skill of methods improvement (how to kaizen) and the skill of maintaining good relations (how to lead people). These are the three skills taught TWI and have been taught in Toyota since the postwar period, and continue to this day.

This is why TWI is so important…you can’t see this level of activity which is hidden in the relationships between people on the shop floor and their immediate leaders. It’s the blind spot in American Lean Theory. It is much easier to see the results of JIT, SMED and Poke-Yoke rather than develop our soft skills so that we can develop our people. We want fast results and the specialized lean tools give us that. Don’t get me wrong, the flashy JIT and SMED tools are necessary, the trick is in how to get them to stick; TWI is one part of that answer.

The other part is this: 30 years elapsed before we caught onto JIT in the 1980s. Now in 2007, another 30 years have slipped by before we really began to understand how Toyota conducts Kaizen. When we go to the shop floor (3Gs) to see and evaluate the reality of the problems (3Ms), it requires patience and persistence. Patience is not a strong characteristic of Americans. How will we overcome this problem? If it took us nearly 60 years to notice the secrets to Toyota’s success then I’d bet that it will be more than half a century for the next Toyota to emerge from American roots. We are just beginning to see, now we have a lifetime to learn!

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Lean Jargon - Part III, Gemba (Genba), Genbutsu, Genjitsu

There is another often used word in Lean that could use some discussion: Gemba. Actually, I couldn't find a translation* for Gemba. It turns out, the American word is Gemba, the Japanese word is Genba. Why this is true I don’t know, but thanks to the new book “Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management”, we have some clarity and can begin to understand the “gen” words: genba, genbutsu and genjitsu.

First of all, gen means actuality or reality. When we look at the word gen-ba, it means the actual place. In the terms of manufacturing, we can loosely translate this to mean where the work is done. Why is this meaningful? It is not until we understand the other gen words that this begins to make sense.

Second is gen-butsu. Butsu means, the condition of the thing. In terms of manufacturing and considering the word gen-ba, we ask ourselves, “what are the conditions of things in the workplace, where the work is actually done?” The things we are looking for? The condition of the design, the quality, the process, the people, the methods, the equipment, etc. When we think of genba and genbutsu, we are looking to see if the conditions of our standards are deviating in the workplace. This forms the basis for standardization of all aspects in the business.

Third is gen-jitsu. The actual situation. We are looking for facts so that we may understand the gap between reality and standard. We are not looking for what it should be, we know that. We are looking for actual situations, or the facts. This helps us begin to dig for the actual root cause.

If we only consider the standards we tend to sit in a meeting room wondering why the equipment, the people, the materials and processes don’t meet standards. The only way to truly know, is to go to the actual workplace, observe the actual conditions and collect the facts. This leads to true understanding of reality. Otherwise our solutions we invent in the meeting room are for problems that are not really happening in the workplace. This is the reason why problem solving begins with the saying, “go and see for yourself, in the workplace where the work is actually happening.”

Next post: Lean Jargon - Part IV, Kaizen the 3Ms and the 3Gs

*translations via alta vista babel fish.

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Lean Jargon – Part II, Muda, Muri, Mura

In Part I, I talked about how lean jargon in the form of Japanese words, like Kaizen, Muda and Genbutsu tend to do two things in our industrial culture: 1) workers see through the transparency of words that provide no useful purpose other than to communicate concepts rather than solve real problems and 2) managers tend to rely on words - setting the expectation that you have been told to kaizen, therefore you will kaizen. Of course, the two are irreconcilable; people solve problems, not foreign words. Part of the problem is not understanding the words in the first place.

Kaizen. It is made of two words. Kai, meaning “virtue” and “zen”, meaning “reform”.* I like to think this gives a slightly different meaning to kaizen than we are used to hearing in the U.S. In the states, people see kaizen as continuous improvement. We conduct large kaizen events where radical change is considered the best practice. In other cultures where the group benefits from individual contribution, kaizen means the improvement benefits everyone.

Muda. This word means, “wastefulness”. It applies to everything. It is everything that is non-value added. It seems Kiichiro Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno were able to classify wastefulness into seven buckets commonly seen on the shop floor, but most importantly in the context of the conditions of that time. For them, they faced a small market controlled by the government, where materials, machines, money people were a scarcity. Wastefulness was not an option. They found that inventories that were too big hurt the ability for cash to flow through the business, where it was needed, when it was needed. This is true for the American war production story during WWII. Steel, copper, people, equipment entire factories were controlled by the War Production Office. Profits were slim. Wastefulness in the form of large stockpiles of material inventories was not an option during critical war production.

Mura. This word means, “unevenness”. It applies to everything. This word embodies the concept of JIT, or Just-In-Time. If we have unevenness, we are batching. We are not making the right parts, in the right quantities, at the right time. The concept of “takt” time, is used to create a pace for people to work to. Takt is a German word, just to make it more confusing, meaning pace or beat. The takt time is the pace of customer demand. If we build to demand, we avoid unevenness in our work. We are making the most efficient use of people, materials, and machines available.

Muri. This word means, “heavy burden”. It applies to everything. This word embodies the concepts of standard work. When we observe the job, we see what is actually happening from the viewpoint of the worker. We see the potential safety issues, the ergonomic issues, the searching for tools, the walking for help, the waiting for approvals, etc. In other words, our current system, as we designed it, is a burden for our customers, the operator. All improvement is done for the operators in order to reduce the burden. The lean tools of standard work help us improve the job for operators, while improving the process for our quality, cost, delivery and safety objectives.

*translations provided via alta vista babel fish. http://www.altavista.com/

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