Vote for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta

Please log on to www.refresheverything.com and
vote for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta!!  You will have to click on the $250,000 tab and
then scroll down until you find Camp Ta-Kum-Ta.


Most Vermonters are aware that Camp Ta-Kum-Ta is a program that gives kids with cancer a week of camping every August.  For many years, they operated at Camp Holy Cross, but when that facility closed two years ago, they were forced to look for another location.

Camp Ta-Kum-Ta was fortunate to have a beautiful site in South Hero donated to them, but there are no cabins for the campers.  Last summer they slept in tents, but that is a problem for some of them, because their
medical needs require better facilities.  Fund raising in these times has been difficult, and the camp does not yet have the funds needed to do the necessary construction.

Coincidentally, Pepsi decided this year that instead of advertising during the Super Bowl, it would embark on a major program to support worthy charities, which it calls the Pepsi Refresh Project.  Numerous charities
have applied for grants, including Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, and the public will determine the winners with online voting!  There are only 4 days left to vote, and Camp Ta-Kum-Ta is presently sitting in seventh place in this
nationwide competition involving nearly 1,000 applicants!

So, if you are willing, please log on to www.refresheverything.com and vote for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta!!  You will have to click on the $250,000 tab and then scroll down until you find Camp Ta-Kum-Ta.

If Vermont can win an online vote to bring a movie premier to Springfield, we can pull together to build the cabins that these kids need so they can enjoy a week of camp during this most difficult time in their lives!  So I
hope you'll vote and then ask your entire mailing list to do the same. 



Politicians Jump Onto the Pig Pile

Well, here is real trouble for Toyota now. Looks like Toyota may have "misled" regulators in the handling of the recall. Hell hath no fury like a Democratic controlled Congress who is about to lose control of the House and Senate in 2010. Toyota, whether negligent or not, is easy pickings for a Congress that has done all but purchase the entire fleet of American made cars to buy off their constituents.

But, if Toyota intentionally misled regulators, then they will reap what they sow.



Management Reality

I've started a new job recently as Director of Quality and Continuous Improvement. One might think that after having over ten years of CI/Lean experience that it would be no problem to jump right in and start making changes to improve the business. One would be wrong.

What I've realized very quickly is that Lean tools are not going to improve anything unless the people that I work with are responsible for the job of creating standards and improving those standards. I could make mandates, but what will that gain for us? Probably too much change with a good dose of resentment heaped with resistance and backsliding. The result is kind of like a diet without the discipline of daily of exercise...frustration with the same results.

What does all this have to do with TWI? Well, if daily self-discipline is the problem, then I guess thats where to start. The J-skills have self-discipline already built-in. A simple concept in the J-skills that helps us with self-discipline are the pocket cards. They are like little management checklists whether you are dealing with creating and training people in standards (JI), involving people in the improvement of standards (JM) or dealing with issues that involve people (JR).

Here is a podcast link to a January 7 talk delivered by Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.

Yup. The thing I plan on doing over the next several months is using TWI pocket cards checklists to remind myself the crucial steps that I cannot forget to take in leading people. Anything more than that is just asking for trouble!

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The Pig Pile Gets Bigger

Critics of the Toyota Production System have been quick to pile on the revolutionary management approach as part of the reason for the recall. This is faulty thinking. Here is why:

The pedal design problem, according to Toyota, is due to a design issue - possible corrosion related. Corrosion, like other engineering problems, is one of a predictive nature.

Back on February 3, I talked with my co-author of the Job Instruction Implementation Manual, Mark Warren, of Tesla2, Inc., about this problem. Mark has been called in to solve failure analysis problems for companies so he had some interesting insight on this matter. After reading my post on "The Pig Pile", Mark had this to say:

"Have any of the critics considered the number of miles on the vehicles in question or the age of the components or the locations of the failures? Given the initial stumble of attributing the failures to floor mats is indicative that they did not use their famous admonition of considering multiple solutions before choosing the final one."

So, at first glance, Mark seems to be falling onto the pig pile, blaming Toyota for not following their principles. Did they simply abandon the questioning method, focusing on the simple, low cost solution of fixing the floor mat? Or were they facing a more complex solution not easily solved by a quality circle or kaizen solution? Mark continues without going down path of the "see, I told you TPS was all wrong! crowd..."

"However, most field failures are rarely a ‘cut and dried’ affair, especially where tragedy has struck. No one likes to hear that human error was the cause or major contributor. While the news reports claim that there are thousands of complaints of sticking throttles, the first step is that we must realize that this is a symptom description. One that was given by a large number of different people. When you take a large number of failures with the same symptom description that are presented to a warranty department, they usually take the component and try to replicate the described failure. Typical results will have a distribution of some of the complaints matching the initial description. You will also have other failure modes that can possibly be described by the initial description, but fit a different failure mode better. Then you have the samples that function perfectly – to the original manufacturing specifications. Granted, some of the parts might exhibit intermittent behavior, but many just get pulled because the dealer is just trying to satisfy a customer that is concerned (the placebo effect). (General rule of thumb was only about half of the components submitted had ANY identifiable defects. People just replace parts until the symptoms go away.)"

This description of the data collection and analysis phase of problem solving feels about right, doesn't it? We can't replicate the problem, or other problems are discovered, or everything works just as expected. Question for the Pig Pilers: is this the "fault" of the Toyota Production System?

"Oops, I forgot to shoot down the people that think a Toyota employee has failed because they did not pull the andon cord on the assembly line. If this is a corrosion problem that caused the sticking of the throttle mechanism, this failure may take months or years to happen. This is no reflection on the Toyota line workers. In addition, most parts undergo a salt spray to test for corrosion. I find it unlikely that the initial design would be the problem. Most cases like this happen where minor changes are made to a component that has been used for years failure free and the contract manufacturer does not complete the lengthy reliability testing on the changes."

Again, the fault of Toyota Production System? Probably not...would we blame this problem on the Ford Production System if this was found with in the Focus, Fusion and Taurus? It seems to be that this problem has presented itself as a convenient way of allowing people to exhibit some good ole' fashion protectionism...but I digress...back to Mark:

"Now, back to the people point fingers…even when you might have a unit with corrosion, this does not mean that you can have the part stick every time you try it. With such a statistically low failure rate there are probably other factors as well that exist to create the situation. Multiple dependent failures are difficult to detect and to duplicate. Because of this the investigators often make misleading assumptions, mostly claiming that they have found THE cause. That is until more failures occur and they must go back and sift thru the data yet again.

"Probably what is going to found is the typical car part has had elevated exposure to moisture and temperature (accelerating the corrosion). That the part dimensions between the sticking components are not near the production means (less clearance than normal). That the return spring might also be corroded, leading to lower than normal C rate to return throttle to idle (or on the lower value if there is no corrosion). That the normal driving habit did not include pushing the throttle to the max position – if they regularly floored the throttle (aggressive drivers), corrosion would be worn away as it accumulated. However, a careful driver is more at risk than an aggressive one (unless they are not the normal driver) – with the random time that they move the throttle into a position that was not typical. Corrosion would have had time to build up to a point that the normal return controls would not be able to function.

I ask you to consider this point about the difficulty failure analysis presents given the wide demographic of consumers, driving conditions, environment, etc. I ask you to consider this because there is also a lot of criticism about the delay in Toyota's response to this problem affecting peoples lives. If Toyota recalled millions of vehicles three years ago and the failure revealed itself after the recall - what would the criticism be then? Hindsight is always 20/20 isn't it?

Mark suggests, "Now that you think that I have defended Toyota, I can take the other side. With all the advances in engine performance maps, I find it unusual that they do not have a safety routine to protect from accidental over-speed events. I’m sure that this sort of close inspection of what they should have done will trigger safety routines to be installed as a standard feature in future Toyotas as well as other brands."

Yes, the armchair quarterbacking of a multi-billion dollar, multi-national company does seem to be setting a certain direction, it seems that Mark's predictions are more or less correct, Toyota is taking a comprehensive approach to the safety problem. Blaming a production system scheme, however, is flat wrong.



The Pig Pile on Toyota

O.k., I didn't sleep well and this article annoyed me. So bear with me...the media machine is rumbling, stumbling and bumbling along...from Smartplanet, another clone article piles on lean manufacturing principles, or as they claim -lack there of, as the problem behind the gas pedal recall. They can say this at Smartplanet because they practice lean principles there and can project there lean experience over the Toyota company experience and pinpoint the problem in a 750 word article. They have knowledge.

Step up to the feeding trough and have some slops...

Is anybody going to do some insightful work on this story that doesn't blame:

-global business
-a management approach
-an organizational culture
-American employees for not being Japanese employees

Is anybody going to discuss sound principles that may have been overlooked, like testing, engineering, etc., things that have NOTHING to do with lean manufacturing? Or is the answer as simple as that claimed in this article: Japanese managers couldn't pass on their wisdom by "word of mouth?" Enough of the mystical Toyota bullshit, lets get down to the nuts and bolts of real problem solving - because while we are blathering on about management principles, Toyota stepped up and ate a whole pig trough of humble pie before the world and recalled over 9 million vehicles...do we seriously believe they aren't looking under every stone, but only focusing on their lean manufacturing philosophy?

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