Toyota with its Toyota Production System is the archetype of lean manufacturing, which also makes it to one of the most successful companies on earth. This success is due to outstanding cooperative management at Toyota; however, recent changes in hiring practices threaten the Toyota Production System.
Modern workplace management undoubtedly started with Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915), who almost single-handedly created modern industrial management. He was the first to measure industrial work and apply the results to improve efficiency. Even so, efficiency was greatly improved by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth (1868–1924 and 1878–1972 respectively). Unfortunately, Frederick Taylor and Frank Gilbreth were at war with each other. This post looks into the history of how the conflict started, and how Lillian Gilbreth resolved the conflict after their deaths.
The concept of lean manufacturing originated on the shop floor at Toyota. Since then it has expanded into many other areas, including but not limited to lean healthcare, lean administration, lean logistics, lean services, lean hotel, lean military, lean banking, or any lean whatever topic. There is even a lean government, albeit I am somehow skeptical on that one. Even so, most practitioners of lean work in manufacturing. Hence it comes as no surprise that most lean efforts are focused on the shop floor. However, while there is usually much improvement potential on any given shop floor, it is not necessarily the area you most want to improve.
Lean happens on the shop floor. When working hands-on in manufacturing, there are a number of items that can help you. Throughout the years I have optimized a small lean toolkit that I bring with me for my everyday practical work. Here are seven gadgets that help me to do lean on the shop floor.
Due to popular demand related to my two posts on “Make Your Plant Tour a Success!” and “How to Misguide Your Visitor – or What Not to Pay Attention to During a Plant Visit!,” I have created a checklist for a lean visit to a manufacturing shop floor for you to download. Take this checklist with easy-to-use metrics during your shop floor visit to make yourself independent of potentially misleading data given to you by the shop floor staff. Metrics include worker utilization, machine utilization, inventory reach and turnaround, and order & cleanliness.
In the West, the standard approach for problem solving is to take a good look a the problem, after which a solution approach will pop into someone’s head. This approach is then optimized until the problem is solved. However, while this often ends up with one solution, it usually is far from the best solution possible. In Japan, a very different multidimensional problem-solving approach is common. Rather than just use any solution that solves the problem, they aim for the best solution they can find.
Standardization, visual management, and process confirmation are some important elements of lean manufacturing. Here we have an example many of you are probably familiar with – toilet paper folding at hotels. This simple example can clearly demonstrate the value of Standardization, visual management, and process confirmation.