Tony Manos and Dr. Yoji Akao at ASQ World Conference on Quality & Improvement

I had the honor and privilege to meet Dr. Yoji Akao at the American Society for Quality’s (ASQ) World Conference on Quality & Improvement on Monday, May 24, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri USA. Many people may know Dr. Akao as a co-creator of Quality Function Deployment (QFD), but I would like to thank him for creating a tool that I personally use and help other organizations implement – Hoshin Kanri (a.k.a. Policy Deployment).

So many times as Lean practitioners we are well skilled in using the tools associated with the Toyota Production System, but sometimes we fail to remember all those people that created these concepts and tools; testing them and extending them to the masses for a breakthrough in thinking and practice.

It’s a little hard for me to think that Dr. Akao was using Hoshin forty years ago. It is also a little remarkable that more companies aren’t using it today. Let’s try to get the word out about Hoshin and let’s hope we can make our organizations better. In order to do my part, I will offer a free webinar late June on this topic. If you plan on attending the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Conference in the fall I will be presenting a Hoshin workshop there. Stayed tuned for more information.

Domo arigato Sensei

“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” – Henry Ford

Since today I am at the American Society for Quality (ASQ) World Conference on Quality and Improvement I thought this would be an appropriate quote. With all that has transpired recently with Toyota and the recall of millions of cars it is easy to see what happens when we let quality take a back seat (no pun intended) to production or growth. 

I can remember the big push for quality in the 1980s. Many American companies were realizing that quality was an essential element to be able to compete in the global market place. What spurred this on? One thing was the level of quality from companies overseas including car companies in Japan like Toyota and Honda. If you think back to the 1960s, if a product said “Made in Japan” it was considered junk or of low quality. Within two decades that perception was turned around. During the 1970s electronics from Japan (remember stereos?) were considered top-notch. At this time there was also a big push in the United States to “Buy American”. I can certainly see why people were saying that – save jobs, keep manufacturing here and so on. I can recall how hard it was for my dad to find an American made stereo. He finally decided on a Radio Shack model. As I recall it was pretty good (but I wanted the fancier Pioneer stereo). He was personally affected by this because his company served the electronics industry and as Japan targeted this market it drove his company out of business. So, over time manufacturing left the U.S. in large droves. But the ones that remained focused on quality, service, delivery and of course, reducing costs. This was a bitter pill to swallow and still is for many groups. But what it has done was make us stronger and better.

So here’s to quality – may every organization practice it everyday even when no one is looking.

I thought I would try something new with the blog. Each Monday I will share a quote that has a meaning to Lean practitioners. Then I will add a short message myself. Hopefully these quotes and commentary will be inspirational, allow you to reflect, and possibly share your thoughts or comments with colleagues or on this blog.

Finding Time for Improvement

Shigeo Shingo

“Are you too busy for improvement? Frequently, I am rebuffed by people who say they are too busy and have no time for such activities. I make it a point to respond by telling people, look, you’ll stop being busy either when you die or when the company goes bankrupt.” – Shigeo Shingo

I have noticed that it’s not just me saying “I don’t have enough time to ____ (fill in the blank).” I think we all hit moments where we just don’t have enough time to get everything done that we want to accomplish. Just recently, while working with a talented group of people at a company trying to improve their problem solving skills, I noticed that they did a good job at their initial response. But if they just went a little step further they probably could have prevented the problem from ever occurring again. When I asked why they weren’t able to do this, the most common response is “I don’t have time to.” I felt for them, because I know I’ve been in their shoes.

While pondering this for my own situation, I concluded that I have several options:

  1. Re-prioritize items. If it isn’t important enough I would just have to let it go.
  2. Delegate it to someone else. I would have to see if there is someone else that could do this task for me.
  3. Find another resource to do it. Hire someone, use an intern, and get a consultant or whatever it takes to get it done.
  4. Steal time from somewhere else. Work late; come in early, work Saturday, whatever it takes. Definitely not my preferred method.

How do you respond when someone says “I just don’t have time”? Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks – Tony

The Secret Drawer

May 14, 2010

I’m sure you have run into a similar story while performing a 5S event. We were working in a tool crib at a small job shop trying to get it organized when we discovered the “Secret Drawer” during the “Sort” phase of 5S.

There were many cabinets with tooling stashed away in this little room. Some items seemed to be categorized, but it was readily apparent that these categories were scattered throughout the room. While the team was busy 5S Red Tagging items and moving them to the 5S Red Tag Holding area, one of the drawers seemed a little different. After clearing it out, it still was heavier than an empty drawer should be. Upon closer examination, it was discovered that a piece of wood at the bottom of the drawer was covering up something. The other drawers had pieces of plywood on the bottom in an attempt to protect the drawers and tools, but this one seemed odd. Upon prying it up it, we saw a bunch of unused tooling (“Geometric thread chasers” for use in a die head typically used for outside diameter threading applications). We found about 30 perfectly good sets. Each set probably was worth about $50-$70 per set or about $1,500-$2,250 total.

The part I found very interesting is that one of the employees said that these must have been here for 15-20 years and nobody knew about them! When I asked why these were here the answers I got included: “We probably got a good deal on them when we bought them” and “I think these were overstock.” Of course, the tools are now obsolete for this company; they don’t even use tooling like this anymore. Another observation when I asked why were these hidden under the piece of plywood; no one on the team could come up with an answer.

How much of a “good deal” was it when they are hidden away and no one knows about it? They have been taking up space in this cabinet for 15 years and no one knew about them. That money could have been spent on something that they could have actually used instead. By the way, we found about $20,000 dollars worth of tooling (at original cost) that was red tagged.

Buying things because “we got a good deal on them” is not always a good deal.

Do you have any good “Secret Drawer” stories that you would like to share? Let me know. Thanks – Tony

I am pleased to announce a special guest blogger, Tim McMahon. Tim is the Founder and Contributor of A Lean Journey Blog. His site is dedicated to sharing lessons and experiences along the Lean Journey in the Quest for True North. The blog also serves as the source for learning and reflection which are critical elements in Lean Thinking.

Check out his blog, he has a lot of great information.


Sustaining with Layered Audits

One of the most common questions I hear with 5S (and Lean for that matter) is how do you sustain.   Sustaining 5S can be very difficult without the use of 5S standard. A layered audit program is essential to ensure that your company’s 5S efforts continue.

Layered Audits are tied directly into the fifth S – Sustain – and they are the means used in Lean Improvement Systems to avoid “backsliding” into old habits, creating sustainable culture change.

Originating in the automotive industry, the concepts behind the Layered Process Audit are not new.  They find their origin in the well-known Plan-Do-Check-Act continuous improvement cycle.

 Layered Process Audits require that multiple operational levels within an organization review the same key operational controls to ensure sustainability.  Simply stated, they are an ongoing chain of simple verification checks, which through observation, evaluation and conversations on the line; assure that the process is being properly performed.

The key is everyone is an “auditor”.   To paraphrase E. Edwards Deming, no one goes to work with the intention of doing a bad job.  Therefore, everyone wants to know that he or she is doing a good job. If people need to know that they are doing a good job, they need to have metrics regarding their job.  This starts with the operator personally checking their process for compliance.  Then the first line supervisor checks key processes, where feedback is immediate as are any agreed-upon corrective actions. The next level supervisor would then make the same checks, and so forth, up the chain of command in the organization.

 The essential part of the Layered Audit is the creation of a standard checklist   You must identify and ask the right questions on the checklist.  This is where Standard work at all levels of the organization is critical.  Layered Audits is a formalization of “management by walking the Gemba”.

 Layered Process Audits can be compared to a preflight checklist. Is my operation ready for take-off?  Am I confident that everything is in place to build and ship conforming product to my customer?  When the flight, or day, goes smoothly, management and operators can use the time saved to work on improvements.

The Layered Audit approach is especially effective in sustaining process improvements and institutionalizing key process steps because all levels of the organization participate.  Managers often can learn much about the manufacturing processes from operators, and operators can learn much about what is important to customers from managers.