When improving a system, Western engineers love to take the technical approach and to optimize the machines and tools. However, at Toyota this is seen differently. At Toyota, they try to address a problem by first training the people, followed by improving the standards and the layout, before improving the equipment and finally twiddling with the design. Let’s have a closer look at how Toyota is approaching improvements.
Cardboard Engineering is a quick way to try out different configurations in reality. As the name says, this is done using cardboard. However, there are a few alternatives. Let me show you a portfolio of different ways to make cardboard models with (not only) cardboard, from ultra-cheap to very fancy. Please note that the fancier methods are usually not so well suited for layout optimization, but more for workstation optimization.
In my last post I talked about what you need for Cardboard Engineering. In this post I will show you how to do a Cardboard Engineering workshop. Spoiler: Keep in mind that the goal is not to just put something together but to try out different options (and I will repeat this a few times in this post). It is very easy to have fun with cardboard while learning very little about the problem you want to investigate!
Cardboard Engineering (CBE, sometimes also Cardboard Modeling) is in general the building of models from cardboard. These models are usually quick and inexpensive to build, but often not very durable. In lean manufacturing, these cardboard models are often workstations or entire assembly lines to test different concepts before building the whole thing in more expensive and time-consuming aluminum and steel. This allows faster and easier experimentation with different concepts to improve your production system.
Good problem solving can seriously help you with the performance in your plant. John Shook recently pointed out another nice example to me: the Japanese Men’s 4x100m relay team during the 2016 Olympics in Rio. They were the underdogs, with none of their team having ever run 100m in under 10 seconds. Yet they stunningly won the silver medal! They achieved this through good problem solving. Let me show you the details:
If you’re doing lean, you will encounter people telling you to do “5 Why” everywhere. And the method sounds simple, just ask “Why?” five times to find the root cause of a problem. However, there is a surprising amount of depth to this, as well as some pitfalls. Let me elaborate:
In lean manufacturing – or in fact, in any kind of production system – you have to solve problems. Depending on the problem, you may need a creative solution and have to access the wisdom of the crowd. For this I have a workshop structure that I frequently use for problems that have lots of different options. Let me show you my workshop structure with which I’ve had quite good results.
A lot of lean is about problem solving, and most of these problems are complex and difficult. Otherwise, someone would have solved them already. Hence, I would like to introduce you to different creativity techniques for problem solving. Most of them can be used in groups to access the collective wisdom and creativity. Most of them are also suitable to develop a number of alternative solutions, of which you can pick the best ones (see my previous post on Japanese Multidimensional Problem Solving). Many of them can be combined in sequence. Let me start with the most common one, brainstorming: