The Vehicle for Stability - Training & Follow-Up

Here is a JI experience from last week's kaizen event:

Major changes were made to a work cell. Specifically big job combinations where several workstations were rearranged and combined. When the people inquired about how to train operators in the new work cell, my line of questioning revealed many problems:

Q. What are the training needs of the area?
A. Each operator needs to know quality, methods and work flow.

Q. Let's look at the job breakdown sheets. Do these meet those needs?
A. Well, its better than what we have had, but no, these don't meet all of our needs. For example, this one doesn't have the visual checks written on the breakdown sheet.

Q. Are people required to make those checks during each cycle?
A. Yes! They better make them! If they don't, they can stop the line or create a lot of scrap! They were trained to do that!

Q. O.k., so if your training is effective than you shouldn't have to worry about them forgetting, right?
A. Well, not exactly. Nothing's perfect! But they should remember.

Q. O.k., that's true. But what can you do as a trainer to help them out?
A. What do you mean? Either they do it or they don't!

Q. You aren't seeing my point. Let's try something else. Why don't you use your breakdown sheet and train me in how to do that job.
A. O.k. (trainer stumbles through use of four step JI method and shows me the job.)

Q. O.k., great thanks. Can I watch you do the job and ask you a few questions while I refer to the JBS?
A. Sure...go ahead, shoot.

Q. Alright, go ahead. (Observation of job.) O.k., stop. On that step there, I saw you pause briefly to look at something on the part. What are you looking for?
A. Well, I'm glancing at the stamp to ensure the machine is printing straight, with no missing letters.

Q. During the instruction, you told me to look at the stamp and use it only if it was o.k. But I didn't really know what “o.k.” really was. Now I know. Do you suppose everyone looks for everything you do?
A. Ummm...I don't know.

Q. Let's ask another person who knows this job, shall we?

Q. (to second operator) What makes a good stamp?
A. Well, if its centered, shiny, no missing letters and especially if I can see the small trademark symbol, I know the machine is running well.

Q. And does that mean the part is good?
A. Of course!

(thought to myself: Back to the trainer!)

Q. Do you suppose other people look for other quality key points?
A. After that, I have to say yes, probably.

Q. Is it possible that some people don't look for some of these things?
A. Yup. That has happened as well.

Q. If we included these on the JBS, would it make your training job easier and more effective?
A. Yes, I think so.

Needless to say, we edited the all of the job breakdown sheets in the work cell.

The next step was to tackle the problem of pace and ongoing performance in the work cell. It is one thing to create a standard, it is a whole other matter to ensure that the standard is working properly. Most line trainers I come across basically feel like this:

"I know what should be happening, but often things don't work out that way."

The example above is but one of several problems with this work cell's first revision of JBS: important key points were being missed by the trainer and as a result, unknowingly introducing instability into the process. But training people in standard work is only one side of the coin. In a couple of days, I'll talk about the other side of the coin, follow-up, and how these trainers came up with a plan to determine if their training is effective and what they can do about it when it is not.

Labels: , , ,


5S Training Lesson in the Genba

I'm in a Kaizen event this week. No, like really in one, Not as a facilitator, trainer, advisor, but as a participant. It's nice to be on the receiving end of the training and objectives once in awhile.

One of my tasks I volunteered for was to combine four workstations into two workstations. The equipment is simple: pneumatic presses, bins of parts, control panels, jigs, gauges, sensors, etc., need to be disassembled from the tables and reassembled and rewired onto their new tables. But it is a time consuming task that requires tools, information and materials. I learned a good 5S lesson today while working with some tools for this job.

Part of the plant's kaizen event planning is to prepare and maintain a rolling cabinet of tools and supplies handy for jobs like this. Whoever built the cabinet did a great job of placing shadowboxes in the drawers for screwdrivers, wrenches and other tools. Most 5S auditors would be proud.

I made good use of an adjustable wrench today. The tools are easy to use and versatile for disassembly, particularly in breaking torque on the various sizes of bolts on the unit. Then I could go through with a socket and ratchet to quickly remove the hardware.

One thing was aggravating though. Within the shadowbox (made of a foam cutouts) the large medium and small adjustable wrenches were stored like this, in the closed position:
You might imagine grabbing a wrench and having to adjust the wrench from "0" out to 5/8", 7/8" or 1" in order to fit the bolt head. Since I was working with larger bolts, I often would go back to the tool box to put the wrench away with it looking like this in the fully open position......and then have to thumb the jaws all the way back to the closed position so it will fit inside its home in the shadowbox. Annoying!

O.K., alright, it isn't a big deal. But let's think about the job for a minute and see if any lessons may be learned from this experience. First, there does not exist within any part of this world, a bolt with head width of "0". So why store the wrench in the closed setting? Nobody will EVER use it at this setting. Come to think of it, isn't it funny that manufacturers sometimes actually engrave a "0" on their adjustable wrenches?

It is a simple example, but one that speaks to the purpose of 5S. 5S is not about housekeeping or keeping things looking neat, although a clean and tidy workplace is often the result of 5S thinking. The person who put the shadowbox together did a great job of cutting out the foam, but effectively standardized the waste of excessive motion by cutting out foam that only allows the wrench to be stored in the closed position.

So, we must admit that the foam shadowbox is good, but what would be better? What is the next improvement? What would take us beyond the viewpoint of 5S as housekeeping? Here is a small kaizen idea: Store the wrench in a common position, like 1/2", 7/8". Just thumb it to somewhere close to its middle setting. Now, any movement will be minimized while permitting the next user to go in both directions with minimal waste of motion and time:

Perhaps this is a too simple, almost silly example, but we can apply this lesson to many things in the workplace: 5S isn't about housekeeping which often leads to the standardization of waste. 5S is about waste-free standardization.

Labels: , , ,


Eliminate Waste in Government - Abolish the Fed

A NY Times article points out a surprisingly somewhat neutral story about the Federal Reserve, and a plan from the administration to expand its market smothering powers.

"The administration is proposing to make the Fed responsible for identifying “systemic risks,” like the bubble in housing prices and the explosion of reckless mortgage lending that started the worst financial crisis since the Great Derpression."

Actually, this is misleading. It is the largest one year drop in the market since the great depression. It is the largest drop in GDP since the recession of the early eighties, hardly comparable to the Great Depression. I digress...but sometimes facts are funny things...especially to the NY Times.

So, who here didn't see the housing bubble coming? Raise your hand...go ahead. O.k., now ask yourself this very important question: why does the Fed need to be given this power? What does this new power really mean?

“I do not know of any clear examples in which the Federal Reserve acted in advance to head off a crisis or a series of banking or financial failures,” said Allan H. Meltzer, professor of economics at Carnegie-Mellon University and author of a comprehensive history of the Fed.

Mr. Meltzer ticked off a long list of financial collapses — the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the savings-and loan collapse of the early 1990s, the collapse of the dot-com bubble and the recent binge in reckless mortgages — and argued that the Fed had either failed to take preventive action or made things worse.

“We all know that the Federal Reserve did nothing to prevent the current credit crisis” Mr. Meltzer said. “It has not recognized that its actions promoted moral hazard and encouraged incentives to take risk.”

The Times stops short of suggesting the Fed was actually part of the problem, bringing interest rates so artificially low that anyone was encouraged to purchase a home. Couple that with other regulatory agencies and committees, who manipulated market forces for political reasons and one has to ask if the Fed might have a little too much power. Let's not get started on the bailouts, strongarming banks into acquiring toxic banks, inflating the monetary supply etc.

One has to wonder if this activity is just simply wasteful. Instead of granting the Fed more power, how about abolishing the Fed? What value does the Federal Reserve provide in our daily lives? Can anyone put this in plain terms for me? Otherwise I'm going to wake up tomorrow and not wonder: "Geez, I hope the Fed is looking out for me and my family's future today!"

Labels: ,

The Cause of Lean Failure

I've been thinking a lot lately about why the spirit of continuous improvement dies. Notice I didn't say Lean initiative, or Six Sigma program. What I'm talking about is why, when asked if Lean is successful in a your plant, the response is usually, "no?"

There may be a lesson learned in TWI. After the war ended, the TWI Service was decommissioned. A few companies carried on the TWI programs in their plants. If most had carried them on, we would see evidence of that today. In fact, only one company today yields evidence that TWI has been part of their culture for nearly sixty years: Toyota. As regular readers of the blog may know, the government of Japan set up a similar TWI program as a service to business. An American consultant trained them in TWI in 1950-51.

Some say that in the U.S., TWI died for several reasons. One, since the service was decommissioned along with its free services, so did the interest in the program. Although interest waned at a national scale, many former employees of the TWI service started their own consulting firms around the country. Recall that Lowell Mellon, the TWI wartime representative for Cleveland, had hundreds of clients after the war. He provided the J-skill training in 1950-51 and was called back to Japan to deliver Problem Solving training to JITA in 1964. The TWI Foundation, was a non-profit consortia that continued the programs through the 1970's. In short, the program didn't die, but it sure did suffer as time went on.

Another reason explaining the death of TWI is that companies had no incentive or the culture capable of adopting TWI principles. In fact, this level of resistance is a common excuse of change agents when trying to create change in any organization. It isn't the consultants fault, or the leaders fault, it is the people. This is a similar argument when lean is not adopted by a group. In fact, American culture is often to blame.

This reasoning doesn't stand a basic litmus test: if American companies wouldn't use TWI after the war, bringing on the premature death of TWI, then why would the Japanese blindly accept the program? Further more, many companies in the U.S. did use JI for many years after the war, such as Kodak, Union Carbide and others. Even if we assume that the Japanese were obligated to indoctrinate business in TWI, under order from the occupation forces, how does that explain the lasting effects of TWI on Japan? Wouldn't the level of resistance have been greater if you were told to do something you may not want to do? To this day, the Japanese authorities still offer TWI J-skills for supervisors, nearly sixty years after they were trained. It is still offered in the five day, two hour format. In reality, not all companies use TWI, a very similar situation to the U.S. scene. There are two known Japanese companies that use JI today: Toyota and Canon. There are more known U.S. companies using JI today than those known in Japan. Americans are perfectly capable of adopting principles, yet we continue to be extremely hard on ourselves.

No, if the program worked during the war, and it worked in a post war Japan, it could certainly be easily adapted to peacetime production. What then is the reason for the slow demise?

I have my thoughts on socio-political events at the time which may have discouraged the level of training TWI aimed to provide, but have yet to vet those ideas.

In combination with those ideas, there is a much bigger factor. Mellon had hundreds of clients in Cleveland, he spread national programs to Japan and Indonesia. Likewise, the TWIF spread the program to dozens of countries and domestic companies. The program didn't die, but it did fade away. The most likely reason is twofold in my humble opinion:

1) Standardization. People don't like it because of our human nature that yearns for individual freedom, yet we crave it for making our collective lives easier. So we struggle with the concept of standardization. TWI (and Lean) is all about the Standardize/Improvement cycle. How many future leaders are being practically taught how to work in this cycle in their undergrad business or MBA program? I don't know how else to say this.

2) Lack of Self Discipline. Again, something we know we need, but we struggle to stay in one place and master one thing before moving on to the next. Unfortunately, we are taught to move quickly from one achievement to the next without following up and monitoring the process. This behavior spreads like a cancer.

The problem then, is leadership. TWI is a simple proven concept that would be difficult to improve upon, yet it provides the most powerful standardization/improvement cycle skill set I have seen to date. Despite the proven results, old and new leaders alike think they can dream something up that is better for the sake of the company culture, policy, flexibility, inability to understand the program, etc. There are many stories in the TWI archives how this, "I can do it better" bastardization of the program ruined many a company's' TWI program.

The paradox, which hardly anyone can see on day one of training, is that TWI (and Lean) is extremely flexible and adaptable to most any situation. In combination with this urgent need that is difficult for the masses to grasp, we really struggle with the level of patience and perseverance needed to master these types of skills.

In learning about the TWI program, many parallels can be drawn to Lean. Lean has been around, in the mainstream, for a good twenty years now in some form or another. It is starting to lose its luster. Why? Not because of the Lean concept itself, Rather, the problem is us. We are getting bored with it, or more specifically it isn't giving us the results we were promised.

Lean isn't flashy. It can sometimes be excruciatingly tedious as we watch small improvements add up over long periods. But what is driving that steady growth? You guessed it: standardization, self discipline, improvement, self discovery and growth for all. If we want lean to stick around for another 25 years, we need to get back to basics.

Labels: ,


2009 TWI Summit Keynote Address Now Available

Patrick Graupp's Keynote Address is available through the TWI Summit - To Japan and Back: Insights on My TWI Journey

Hear Pat’s insights on TWI in Japan and learn how his early experiences as a trainer there shaped his passion for TWI. After working with TWI in Japan for many years, Pat returned to the U.S. and became a pioneer in reintroducing TWI in the U.S. The lessons he learned along the way will enlighten experienced practitioners and TWI beginners alike.

SPECIAL APPEARANCE: Patrick's mentor in Japan, Mr. Kazuhiko Shibuya, will address the Summit with Patrick translating to English. Mr. Shibuya learned TWI in the early 1960s from the first Japanese Masters! Don't miss your chance to hear this historically significant event that ties together TWI's past with today!

Keynote Address Available Here

Labels: , , , ,


Best Flow Training Money Can Buy!

You can have learn while you are eating! This weekend, go to a Fourth of July picnic dinner. Watch in amazement how a hundred people will willingly queue-up and somehow make it through the line with their four year olds in under 10 minutes with a heaping plate of great summertime food!

Planning, teamwork, layout, preparation and expectations are all part of what you are seeing. Now imagine if you had to do this everyday! This is the challenge for the workplace leaders! How to get this level of consistency and flow to occur everyday!

Happy Fourth!

Labels: ,

Fail to Plan = Plan to Fail

Thanks, Phil, for the holiday weekend laugh!

Dear Sir,

I am writing in response to your request for additional information in Block 3 of the accident report form. I put "poor planning" as the cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation and I trust the following details will be sufficient.

I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building. When I completed my work, I found that I had some bricks left over which, when weighed later were found to be slightly in excess of 500lbs. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley, which was attached to the side of the building on the sixth floor. Securing the rope at ground I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to ensure a slow descent of the bricks.

You will note Block 11 of the accident report form that I weigh 135 lbs.

Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel, which was now proceeding downward at an equally impressive speed. This explained the fractured skull, minor abrasions and the broken collar bone, as listed in section 3 of the accident report form. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley.

Fortunately by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope, in spite of beginning to experience pain. At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel.

Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, that barrel weighed approximately 50 lbs. I refer you again to my weight. As you can imagine, I began a rapid descent, down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth and several lacerations of my legs and lower body.

Here my luck began to change slightly. The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked. I am sorry to report, however, as I lay there on the pile of bricks, in pain, unable to move, I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of therope and I lay there watching the empty barrel begin its journey back down onto me. This explains the two broken legs.

I hope this answers your inquiry.