Ken McGuire, AME Icon, Responds to Blue Heron Journal On Kaizen. The creator of pioneering Japan Study Missions looks back to ask, “What’s next?” and like The Mill Girl, McGuire objects to “all lean, all the time”
I commend you on the Blue Heron work, it's a refreshing overall point of view, a welcome change from the "all lean, all the time" drum-beat that is all too prevalent. My humble observation is that the degree of enthusiasm about all things lean is in direct inverse correlation to how recently the enthusiast has discovered it. Your message that “lean alone can't save you” is right on.
I especially like that Blue Heron does not totally dismiss MRP and computers in the hope that that lean can solve everything with some gemba walks. While blind adherence to a MRP process has been disastrous, so too is the avoidance of any computerization as a knee jerk reaction. But more on that at another time.
The kaizen blitz narrative, and particularly Doc's and Gwen's warnings are right on as well. But I would like to add my recollection of the history and some of the aha's I experienced regarding the use of kaizen blitz methodology back in the nineties.
Kaizen in Gemba
First, I had been to Japan several times visiting dozens of Japanese manufacturing companies. During the fifteen years I designed and organized Japan Study Missions from 1983 to 1998, our delegations visited every auto company - Toyota, Nissan, and Honda several times, but also Mitsubishi Motors, Mazda, Kanto Auto Works, Isuzu, Suzuki and Hino, and many of their first tier suppliers - Nippondenso, Aisin Seiki, Asahi Glass, and Tokai Rika. But we never devoted our study to auto manufacturing exclusively. Automotive manufacturing was scale-wise beyond most non-auto companies, and as for best practices, they all were pretty similar. Toyota was perhaps the best.
To examine the essence of other best practices we also visited Canon Copiers, Ricoh, Citizen Watch, Pentel Pens, Olympus Optical and others in instruments manufacturing. To explore multinational companies we visited Fuji-Xerox, IBM-Japan, Yokagawa-HP, DEC-Japan, Sony plus some lesser names. And in high tech we went to companies like Kyocera, Omron Taitishi, Matsushita, Sharp, Mitsubishi Electric, Tokai Rubber, and Natsumi Optical. We also went down the supply chain tiers to visit many component suppliers. In large equipment we visited Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Okuma Machine, Sonoike Machine, Nigata Engineering, and Amada Tool. We also went to Komatsu, Kubota, IHI, Toshiba Heavy, Summitomo, Fanuc, Fujitsu, and Hitachi, as well as many more unfamiliar names of lower tier suppliers. Over time we observed some 275 companies over some two dozen missions.
Doc (Robert W. Hall,
author of Zero Inventories and AME
co-founder) was with me on one study mission, George Plossl on another, and
every mission to Japan focused on the learning experience of "best
practices." So my opinion of what practices were transferable was
something of a consensus drawn from the observations of a number of knowledgeable
groups of senior manufacturing operations folks in management.
Every Study Mission to Japan focused the group breakouts on key subject areas:
* Supply Chain & Logistics
* Human Relations
* Factory Practices.
During the sixteen-day missions, when we always
observed 12-15 different manufacturing operations, we debriefed as a group to
download key learnings. Consistently
every plant site had extraordinary housekeeping referred to as 5S (a leftover shorthand
slang from the US Navy occupation). However, careful attention to space
allocation was not an unusual virtue in a place with ten times the population
density of The U.S. The post-war slang was combined with a longstanding Shinto
teaching. I was given a translation f the teaching by a Shinto High Priest the Reverend
Yammamoto-gujcci-san of the Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Suzuki Japan. He relayed to me that 5S of the
familiar five Japanese words also was an old Shinto teaching having to do with
Clear Mind, Positive Mind, Straight Mind, Truthful Mind, a Sincere Mind. Since Shinto is not a doctrine so much as it
is a ‘way of life’, none of which is written down, the consolidation of both “cliche
jingles” has parallels in the western world to Ben Franklin’s “a penny saved is
a penny earned."
We also observed manufacturing cells and U-shaped layouts, lot size of one,
small lot transfers, quick set- up and changeovers of equipment, focused
factories (value streams), TPM, and Takt Time cadence of production rates.
These too were perfectly in keeping with the space constraints of a country
where land values were in the hundreds of millions of dollars per acre.
We observed low inventories, fast frequent flows, small lot deliveries, supplier milk runs and short lead times among Japanese companies. It confirmed for many observers that for Japanese enterprises, inventory was truly a waste and that inventories were really the shadow of time.
Different people, different language, different culture
On the people side of lean, in every factory we observed engagement, whether through small group activities or quality circles or suggestion systems. Themes like “every worker = an engineer," “machines should work,” “workers should practice creativity," “make tomorrow better through kaizen today" - always focused improvement with simple (sometimes corny) slogans. And yes we saw or heard about “kaizen,” sometimes as an event, sometimes as a vague happening, but always documented in what we now call A3's. These A3 formats in Japan seemed quite normal, especially with the devilishly difficult kanji and kata kana written language. Few ordinary workers could command more than a cursory fluency in the written Japanese, so pictures of things were a superb communications tool. The A3 spelled out the problem, clearly and succinctly, and some form of group engagement tactic provided the result. This too was not so surprising in a land populated by rice-farming peasants where group-think prevailed.
There was also one characteristic of Japanese hierarchy - in factories, in government, possibly in life in general - that was different from American norms. There are some eighteen words in Japanese for the pronoun “I,” depending on who is speaking to whom. There are only Superiors and some level of Inferiors in the context of every conversation. Deference is the constant motive of interpersonal relations. And in a society where “Duty, Honor, Obedience” in that order are the expected behaviors, efficiency naturally results (at least in the view of the superior).
The Kaizen Blitz (sm)and The Connecticut Shop Rats
Personally, I was skeptical about whether kaizen had much sticking power in the
Yankee culture of most Connecticut manufacturing businesses. My own conversion
to “Japanese Tactics” had been
influenced by a 1978 NMTBA (National Machine Tool Builders Assn) Study Mission
report in which six to eight CEOs from prominent Connecticut manufacturers
participated, observed the tactics, and failed to make the changes that
eventually evaporated their companies. The machine tool companies included Joe
Clancy of Bridgeport Machine, who headed the mission, Farrell Birmingham,
DeVlieg Machine, American Lathe, Giddings &Lewis, and some others. That report was right on
every key aspect of why the US machine tool industry was at risk to what was
known as JIT. These industry bulwarks essentially wrote their own
Jon Brodeur and I were longstanding friends from his days at Emhart Industries, where his boss Dick Reed learned his JIT/TQC on one of my study missions to Japan in 1984. Jon left Emhart and joined KPMG Peat Marwick as a manufacturing consultant. On one much delayed Friday night late flight back to Hartford's Bradley Field, we were upgraded to 1st and were seated together for the flight. After a long week of consulting to different clients we joked about the reputation that these Japanese kaizen consultants had gained in Connecticut - “ ‘miracles performed’ by “going into some 'C' grade factory, ordering everybody around, making them immediately do things that needed to be done, and feigning English language misunderstanding to ignore any “usual” objections to "why not?".
Their real secret sauce was to intimidate the BMIC (big man in charge) into subservience by not becoming a 'concrete-head' in front of his staff. Then by ignoring all objections by everyone, these Japanese consultants quickly established Flow, Pull, & Takt. And by 'trying it out' and getting the buy-in of the actual 'hands-on' working people to the new more effective process, then disappearing after producing a 'to-do' list for follow up. How easy was that?
We laughed at the prospect of putting together a team of “lean thinking” zealots to blitz the many conventional wisdom holdouts in the client base we both served. Jon soon left consulting and did exactly what we had talked about with his new company, Connecticut Spring and Stamping. Jon was joined by a few other courageous companies in his supply base for a group workout. They pulled off several kaizen blitzes on the pure strength of the zeal and excitement for the improvements achieved. Jon then wanted to spread the excitement further and enlisted Tony Laraia and the AME Northeast Region to sponsor the kaizen events. He recruited United Technologies - Pratt & Whitney to join in and help. It was a great success for about two years, but then as in so many other great lean starts, there was a change in event Champions and it petered out. Jon moved to Oregon, leaving the kaizen blitz idea to AME. I had gotten involved with the region and was charged with documenting the kaizen blitz process for AME so that it could be replicated nationally.
My original skepticism on the kaizen idea had proven unfounded. I was obviously wrong about the willingness of American workers to enthusiastically embrace a 'kaizen mandate' and accept it as a time sensitive command to action. And I learned that given the A3 Purpose, and boundaries on the limits of action, along with giving ordinary workers of all stripes some freedom of latitude in how to accomplish the objectives, kaizen teams could over-achieve most mandates. Deference in this regard was not an affront to the culture of Americans. The deference was time-limited, not permanent. The kaizen blitz event was an opportunity to “do what we always wanted to do” and Just Do It without the risk of blame for wrongdoing. The senior management “witnessed” the improvements and applauded the temporary team for making them, but management was not tasked with deciding how to do them. Win-Win-Win all around!
The contribution I made to AME was to provide a little upfront education on the process, some rudimentary lessons on JIT, and to define the timelines for a 5-day process. Five days at the time was necessary to indoctrinate “first-timers” to some very strange new tactics. With practice and with a few veterans of past kaizens, a day or two can be cut out. But in the early nineties, it was pretty new to everyone. Nowadays kaizen is pretty familiar “lean learnings” in most organizations.
Where will The Next Big Thing for manufacturing come from?
So on to the question of “What’s next?” for the kaizen blitz. There will be something, but it may not be a rush to imitate another Japanese legend. It most likely will involve “analytics” of some sort. It will probably involve a novel application of some new technology. It will also most certainly involve a new stream of thought that challenges the conventions of mainstream thinking. And it will be driven by the economics and the distortions of comparative price. And most importantly “the next new thing” will be right for its time.
How did we 'discover' the kaizen thing in the first place? When I reflect back on those early days of learning about Japanese manufacturing, I am reminded that what I really observed was the fanatical application of common sense in manufacturing. In Japanese factories we observed the things about quality that we already knew but were badly neglecting back in our own factories. We saw clarity in layouts instead of complex sub-optimum job shops. We were startled by “small” instead of excessive EOQ's for the sake of cost. We witnessed simple straightforward goals posted on walls versus multipage sophisticated business plans that confounded all but its own authors. We saw whiteboards in place of computers. Colored cards and tickets to record receipts and locations. We saw many many neat ideas, too many to mention.
But most of all we saw people responding to the respect that they were getting from their superiors. Genuine respect, not condescending acknowledgement. And it was paying off handsomely. And that is where the next kaizen blitz will come from.
Management Excellence Action Coalition
Chairman, AME Institute Board of Directors
Ken McGuire is
President of the Management Excellence Action Coalition, an international
management education and consulting firm to manufacturing companies. Founded in
1981, MEAC has provided full service strategic operational counsel and technical
education for those companies making the transition to benchmark level
performance. He is Chairman of the AME Institute (Association for Manufacturing
Excellence) and developed their Leadership Development Program. He is also a
Director of Business Development at the Manufacturing Advancement Center of
Massachusetts, a private corporation
founded to increase the competitiveness of local small manufacturers in New
Manufacturing people have great dogs!
Meet Mr. Guy Noir, Ken McGuire's best buddy. He's famous:
“On a dark night, on the 12th floor of the Acme Building, in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, one man ponders life’s persistent questions, Guy Noir – Private Eye”.
-Garrison Keillor, Prairie Home Companion -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE4vh3UuThg
by Patricia E. Moody
When AME’s intrepid Kaizen Blitzers invaded a handful of Connecticut companies almost twenty years ago, they were swept into the unleashed energy and enthusiasm of some hardcore production “experts,” the people on the shop floor. But what we really were tackling head-on with spaghetti diagrams that tracked the mysterious movement of WIP, and stop watches to time changeover and production cycles, and red tags to highlight scrap and questionable materials, was the legacy of uncontrolled production control systems.
TO ORDER THE KAIZEN BLITZ, CLICK HERE: The Kaizen Blitz (sm)
It was former AME president Tony Laraia who dubbed these campaigns Kaizen Blitz – kaizen from the Japanese “to make better,” and Blitz from the German Blitzkrieg, or “lighting war.” As first constituted by the American blitzers, these events lasted about three days. For many of us, this was a great opportunity to work in teams with strangers, to muck about in strange production areas, and to uncover strange root cause problems that may have been lingering just below our line of sight for years, if not decades.But for now, it was impossible to dampen the excitement of the blitz’ first big achievements. At Jackson Corrugated Container, for instance, team members realized a 30% decrease in Barney Moore, the plant manager, cycle time. At Plastic Design Inc. blitzers cut changeover time on the 110-ton Van Dorn injection molding press from 135 to 15.59 minutes, well above their 70% goal. At Connecticut Spring and Stamping in Farmington teams tackled two monster press projects and reduced changeover time by 50%. A long string of companies joined the campaigns, and as blitzers marched deeper into the guts of frequently dark and dirty, and always messy production flows, they were joined by converts who were also attracted to this “ready-fire-aim” approach.
Soon enough new recruits volunteered for duty beyond traditional production areas. At Lantech, for instance, a Louisville, Kentucky material handling and packaging system provider, Pat Lancaster and Ron Hicks stunned campaign survivors with their innovative approach to new product design and development. Was this a mysterious and arcane process controlled by “the others ” - engineers and “those marketing folks” outside of production? Yes! But were they also susceptible to the power of energized blitzers? Yes, and to prove the effectiveness of these production techniques as applied to a white collar process, Lantech telescoped the new product development cycle, including:
Design cycle cut from four years to nine months;
Batch production on highest volume line converted to
Build time cut from 5 weeks to days.
These blitzers were hands-on discovering the speed and financial benefit to fast product design. In fact, they would now readily admit that during the design stage more than 90% of the final product cost is set.
With production and new product development well enlisted and trained the basic kaizen tools, it should be no surprise that the kaizen movement spread to other white collar areas, including healthcare and financial institutions, customer service. As powerful as these empowering initiatives were, however, they were not, as we later learned, without a downside.
Pioneers like Maasaki Imai and the Shingijutsu consultants, plus in the US Art Byrne of Wiremold and George Koenigsaecker of Jacobs Mfg., along with AME blitzers in other plants thoroughly exercised the beginning concepts. And their results, coming up against hardcore assembly line set-ups loaded with out-of-control inventories, were stunning and, it turns out, historic. CEO Art Byrne of Wiremold, a Connecticut company that began their kaizen programs in 1991, cited productivity improvement 20% per year, throughput time cut from 4 to 6 weeks to 2 days or less; defect rate reduced by 42% in year one and 50% in year 2, and inventories slashed by 80%; equipment changeovers cut from up to 10 hrs to less than 10 minutes. New product development time was slashed from “almost three years,” said Byrne, “to under six months.”
Blitz, as we said, means lighting, and as teams became more skilled at working together with the basic tools of 5S, visual systems, the 5 whys, pull, kanban, poke-yoke, takt time, spaghetti diagrams, one-piece flow, cells, quick changeover and others, we started to see a change in tactics and response over the years. We don’t know if management strayed from mapping out overall strategic objectives, or if shop people got tired of doing their own production jobs, plus intensive team participation, or all of the above, but we can now say, looking back, that multiple kaizen events just aren’t enough to guarantee a company’s future health. Because as global outsourcing took hold and factories shipped out to Asia and Eastern Europe, the challenges of managing global supply chains required more than simple kaizen tools – IT for instance, and sophisticated supply chain management.
Kaizen as practiced in Japan had to be modified to fit the American landscape. Rumors of Japanese consultants slapping American workers
into obedience highlighted the extreme contrast between the two cultures, a “gift” that accelerated North American industry’s adopting and making kaizen its own. And now we are looking for clear line of sight to the next generation of Kaizen Blitzers who will lead and inhabit what I call The Third Industrial Revolution (sm).
What kaizen tools are still the most useful and powerful for industry today? We will continue to measure quality, although we have advanced enough to rely on software for on-going operations, beyond histograms and other manual observation tools we use for initial tests. Our teams still focus on waste reduction – inventory, movement, scrap, although too many supply networks have fallen to what my book partner Dick Morley dubs “corporate anorexia,” an extreme dedication to inventory reduction that places producers’ profit margins at risk when faced with the type of supply disruption Toyota experienced during recent floods and tsunami. Here, risk management and network mapping software take over where simple pull systems and kaizen manual tools cannot go. Our culture still demands teams, but the tools that the teams use have expanded to include Legos, videos and iPads. (see Sur-Seal feature). Three days to conduct a Kaizen Blitz event changed as team members developed new and more focused continuous improvement projects. Automotive supplier engineers for Honda and other majors, for example, plan on spending weeks working with suppliers to kaizen their production operations. In critical problem areas, they may stretch their visit to months of hands-on work followed up by weekly check-ins.
Tools that became basic starting points still include A3 problem-solving, which I first studied at Honda of America Manufacturing, visual systems, an approach to structuring the workplace that I believe will still be essential even after most of our factories have become Advanced Manufacturing Centers; 5S, the Three A’s (the actual place, the actual part, the actual situation, in gemba); Deming’s Plan/Do/Check/Act, and Dorian Shainin’s famous “Let the data lead you.” The challenge for manufacturers wanting to take kaizen to the next level will be how they manage and integrate a global supply network with IT tools that rest on a clarified lean foundation.
Will the tools that kaizen pioneers introduced work for the generation now tasked with building the future of manufacturing? Can these basics remain the undisputed means to getting production ready and moving? Kaizen has no shelf life and producers eager to see fast results have carried kaizen’s tools and methodology into new previously untouched areas such as new product development, supplier management, even marketing and legal functions. And with each iteration, kaizen teams become more skilled at observation, at diagnosis and problem-solving. In fact, as an observation and learning tool, kaizen revolutionized the way workers are included in manufacturing processes.
But when factories reduce their workforce to ten percent of the current population, and when jobs are upskilled to engineering and automation positions, the systems and methods that we now must rebuild to bring manufacturing back to The Americas deserve our full blitzkrieg focus. It’s time to rebuild our rusted out infrastructure, our neglected Bills of Material, part master and routing structures, and replace or fix our disparate legacy systems to build The Future of Manufacturing.
the United States, kaizen is frequently understood as a multi-day study of a
significant chunk of some work process. It might be in production. It might be in
any other operational activity. Among Toyota-like companies, kaizen is more
likely to be a regular improvement or correction of processes without holding a
special event. Kaizen
in this sense gave American companies a way to structure initiatives to improve
processes, something beyond "think of an idea and try to implement
it." Of course, it had a substantial impact on flow of work, and sometimes
a very dramatic one. The approach is now becoming mature. Its
weakness, as generally used, is to co-opt a few workers into a kaizen event for
a few days; then do no more until staff schedules another kaizen event.
Progress is sporadic, and unless a discipline of standard work is developed, an
improved process degrades over time -- work changes, people change, etc.
Despite increasing awareness of this, and some attention to it, "remedial
kaizen" remains a problem. A kaizen event is also a training exercise.
Once people have trained through a few cycles, it's time to take the training
wheels off, but too few companies get to this stage.
Robert W. “Doc” Hall, AME co-founder and author of Zero Inventories
"All the signs of a revolution were in that event....the sharp focus, the speed of change, the power of the network, the exhilaration of "just do it." The original Toyota formulation, which was titled "Five Days & Four Nights," morphed into the Kaizen Blitz and changed the landscape of organizational improvement--both what that change was and how it was achieved. This was the moment "The Blitz" first grabbed our national attention--and we have never looked back.
But we should have. We should have suspected an event that seemed to have power to change the physical landscape of work in less
than a week. We should have examined more closely the Blitz event, with its pre-designed collision of full-speed ahead and the principles of what was then called JIT or cellular design. Because in the pursuant years, far too many companies (innocent and hopeful that this, the Blitz, was the new best way) did great harm to their work culture, with the rip-apart tactics of the original Blitz approach. What plant manager could resist an 80% reduction in flow distance and flow time? No one told them that Toyota reserved the Blitz format for its supply chain only, where suppliers were, at the time, single sourced to Toyota and beholden to doing its will. No one told eager US companies, back in the 1980s when the Blitz first came to our shores, and then in 1995 Taiichi Ohno titled the men who delivered blitzes to its supply chain" "the thugs" of the Toyota Production System. Their job, which they did with consummate effect was to get 5%, 10%, 15% cost reduction from eh supply chain.
This was the form that arrived on our shore and was foisted upon innocent (may I say naive) American companies, thinking that the so-called "Blitz" was the secret of Toyota's success.
The truth is: Ohno never allowed, and would never have allowed, the Blitz approach at Toyota proper. it was far to disruptive, unrelenting, and rapid. Instead, Ohno cultivated employees and turn them into thinkers, not members of a Swat Team.
What amazes me the most, though, is the spot-on instincts of the managers, coaches, and change agents (especially here in the USA) to delete much of what was damaging or did not work in the snazzy Blitz format and replace it with what did. These are the men and women who put humanity back into rapid improvement and made it a force not just for short-term business benefit but also for long-term cultural alignment. As a result, over the past 25 years, the Blitz has evolved into a pivotal change modality that transforms, informs, and inspires. Hurray. The gift of that Kaizen Blitz promise made in Connecticut nearly a quarter of a century ago has been delivered."
Gwen Galsworth, Shingo Research Prize winner and CEO Visual Thinking Inc.
About the author:
Named by Fortune magazine a "Pioneering Woman in Manufacturing," Patricia E. Moody, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a business visionary, author of 14 business books and hundreds of features. A manufacturing and supply management consultant for over 30 years, her client list includes Fortune 100 companies as well as start-ups. She is the publisher of Blue Heron Journal, https://sites.google.com/site/blueheronjournal/, where she created the Made In The Americas (sm) and the Education for Innovation (sm) Series; her next book about the future of manufacturing is called The Third Industrial Revolution.
Copyright Patricia E. Moody, Blue Heron Journal, 2012
Three generations of innovation lost and re-found......
The Amoskeag Mill Complex done in Legos at the SEE Museum, in the second floor of the main mill building.
This Manchester, New Hampshire mill complex lies parallel to the Merrimac River, at the Neville Site where archeological excavations at the falls revealed Native American activity going back 8000 years. Unfortunately at the time of the discoveries of fish weirs and other artifacts from the indigenous people, the city of Manchester was constructing a new bridge and on/off ramps. Notes from the excavations and artifacts were donated to Harvard University, while the completed construction project destroyed most of the Native American discoveries. Dena Dincauze, author of the archeological report on the Neville Site, commented, "it remains to this date the thickest series of archeological deposits known in New England."
When the Amoskeag Mills shut down in 1937, the machinery was removed and many of the mills sat vacant for decades. After the rediscovery and renovations of the mill city of Lowell, Massachusetts some 60 miles downstream on the Merrimac, interest in historic industrial preservation and some funds started to drift toward the Amoskeag. The buildings now house a mix of start-ups, tech companies, two museums, the original penstock in the basement and other new businesses. In fact, Dean Kamen's company DEKA, creator of the Segway motorized scooter and the Luke bio-arm, is housed in one of the Amoskeag mills.