Category Archives: People

Stories and details on the many people contribution to lean manufacturing and modern manufacturing in general.

On Adjusting Supervisor Workload

In my last post I looked at the span of control. This is very related to the workload of the supervisor. Hence in this post I would like to discuss how to adjust the supervisor workload. Usually, this is to reduce the workload, as most shop-floor supervisors are in my opinion overworked and have no time left for improvement. In some cases, however, you may have a situation where you want to give the rare underworked supervisor more work. Most of the approaches presented will work in both directions. Let’s look at some ideas: Continue reading On Adjusting Supervisor Workload

25 Years after W. Edwards Deming


W. Edwards DemingTwenty-five years ago today, William Edwards Deming (October 14, 1900 – December 20, 1993) passed away. He greatly influenced the management of quality in Japan, where he is still revered as one of the great gurus in manufacturing. Through his influence on Toyota, his ideas are now common in the lean world. Time to look back at his life. Continue reading 25 Years after W. Edwards Deming

Fishbone Diagrams and Mind Maps

A lot of lean problem solving requires creativity. There are many creativity techniques available to help generate ideas for problem solving. In my last post I presented brainstorming, which is a freewheeling creativity technique. In this post I will show you some creativity techniques that have a more structured approach. These include mind maps and fishbone diagrams. Both can be used in groups, but they are also helpful if you need to tackle problems on your own. Continue reading Fishbone Diagrams and Mind Maps

Heroes, Firefighting, and Corporate Culture

Heroes save the day. Heroes turn around the disaster and rescue the puppy from the burning building. Heroes are admired, and everybody wants to be one. Everybody wants a hero when they need one.

But what about the people who prevent the need of a hero? What about the people that make sure the disaster never happens? What kind of people do you really need in your company? Continue reading Heroes, Firefighting, and Corporate Culture

Monozukuri – Japanese Work Ethics

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Japanese word monozukuri (sometimes written as 物作り, but most often written as ものづくり). Literally translated, it means to make (zukuri) things (mono). Yet, there is so much meaning lost in translation. A better translation would be “manufacturing; craftsmanship; or making things by hand.” However, this translation also does not give justice to the weight and influence this idea has in Japan. Let me take you on a tour of the Japanese culture of monozukuri. Continue reading Monozukuri – Japanese Work Ethics

Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 4: Respect for People

Motivating employees is not easy. In previous posts I described that the carrot and the stick approaches don’t work very well. What in my experience works best to improve the system is Respect for People!

This is actually a very important aspect of the Toyota Production System, and Toyota puts in lots of effort to show respect to all people. This includes not only employees (the focus of this post), but also customers, suppliers, neighbors, and pretty much everybody else it comes in contact with. At Toyota, it is actually called Respect for Humanity (人間性尊重, ningenseisoncho). Unfortunately, all too often I find this lacking in Western lean implementations. Continue reading Employee Motivation and Lean Implementation – Part 4: Respect for People