How to Learn Lean

Lean manufacturing can help you and your company greatly. But how do you learn lean? Of course, there are plenty of Six Sigma lean black belts and other certificates available online, but do they really make you understand lean? In this post I have some suggestions on how to learn lean. These can befollowed by people with access to an actual shop floor to work on. However, I have also included suggestions for people, e.g. students, that do not have access to a shop floor. In this case, you can do … let’s call it “Home Improvement“. Let’s have a look at some suggested actions for learning how to do lean!

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JI: Training within Industry – Job Instructions

Arguably the most successful module of Training within Industry is Job Instructions, or JI for short. JI has a precise focus on one topic: how to train your workers. The method is very simple and basic but works well.

Of course, there are some limitations. The process works well with pretty much any type of work, but it is best done one-on-one, as it was intended. It is not well suited for classroom teaching of larger groups; the trainer does need to invest time and attention to every individual student. But overall a very useful method. This is the second in a series of five posts on TWI.

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Training within Industry – TWI – Oldies but Goldies

We Can Do It!Training within Industry – or TWI for short – was a US program during World War II. It significantly improved industrial production and helped the Allies to win the war. While the ideas date to the 1940s, they are still very relevant. In my view, they are pure gold if you have to manage a shop floor. It is to me the best overarching system for training and managing workers, and it significantly influenced Toyota.

While technology has changed a lot since 1945, people have not. The methods of TWI still work, and can really help you to improve. Even better, the original US government documents from 1945 are all in public domain. Let me introduce you to TWI. This is the first in a series of five posts on TWI.

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A Small Dice Game for the Kingman Formula

In a previous post I wrote about the relation between utilization, fluctuation, and waiting time, and its approximation by the Kingman formula. Let me show you a quick and easy dice game where we simulate a supermarket checkout to let participants experience the effect of utilization, fluctuation, and the (worse) combined effect of both.

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Taiichi Ohno’s Chalk Circle

Chalk CircleOne of the famous teaching methods by Taiichi Ohno is the chalk circle. The method itself is simple. A circle is drawn on the shop floor near a point of interest. A disciple is put in the circle and told not to leave it until he is picked up again by the teacher.

In this post I will explain a bit about the chalk circle, how to use it for teaching, and how to use it for yourself.

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Pay Attention to Details – Operator Training at Toyota and Scania

Watchmaker
It’s all in the details…

Often, implementing “lean” means management is picking the latest lean-related buzzword and telling their people to implement it. This is wrong on so many levels. For one, a lean project should always start with a problem, not a solution. On another level, good manufacturing is all about the nitty-gritty details. Both normal operations and improvement projects need a lot of attention to details. Unfortunately, this is frequently lacking in many companies. In this post I would like to show you the level of detail for operator training in some excellent companies.

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SMED – Creative Quick Changeover Exercises and Training

Fish Course
Set up exercises

One popular approach to battle waste is to streamline changeovers. Changing machines from one setup to another is often a time-consuming exercise. Hence, in lean manufacturing, reducing changeover times is a well-known method for improving efficiency. This post will show a number of examples where these quick changeovers (also known as SMED) can be practiced in an unusual environment.

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Poka Yoke Training – Simple Mistake Proofing Game

Assembled Blue Dragon
Poka yoke anyone?

Mistake proofing (or Poka Yoke in Japanese) is one important way to avoid waste in lean manufacturing. In this post, I will present a small game that can be used to teach the basics of poka yoke easily and quickly. The game is based on Kinder Surprise eggs made by Ferrero, also known as a Kinder Egg. These eggs are available almost anywhere – except in the US, in which case there are some alternatives.

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