A Little Taster "Adventures in Leanland" (#31)

My first book from 2011 "Adventures in Leanland" is free on kindle until tomorrow. As a taster, Chapter 5.6 follows below.

If you like the style, this is pretty typical of the book. I'm currently working (slowly) on the follow-up "Misadventures in Leanland" about how lean consultants and our clients get it wrong.



5.6  Control - and kodawari - before kaizen 

"We spend a lot of time discussing and extolling the virtues of kaizen and often forget that kaizen can only really successfully be built on 'control', to avoid shifting sands and the scenario where improvements cannot be sustained because of insufficient control / standardisation. Supervisor basic control of his area is, in my opinion, based on the holy trinity of Team Brief, Cell Patrol (walking the patch regularly to understand the current condition) and dealing with abnormality to return to a running condition as soon as possible. 

During the last 3 years I have trained 60 Team and Group Leaders in a Toyota Group Company to perform thorough Cell Patrols to improve levels of control, based on the premise that most defects and accidents happen when something changes - either a planned or unplanned change. Planned changes are taken care of at the start of shift Team Brief. The other side of this particular coin is recognising when unplanned changes are happening...hence a thorough Cell Patrol is an essential skill for a supervisor. Kodawari makes the difference between a useful and useless patrol. 

If you ask supervisors what they look for when they are walking their patch you're likely to tease out some general statements - "problems", or "defects". Dig a little deeper and you'll likely hear something more useful but incomplete "I keep an eye on the gauge on ABC machine" or "I look in the defect bin". These comments are a country mile away from the attention to detail required for a strong Cell Patrol; a patrol that does not require an aide memoire or checklist and that can be done without breaking step. 

It is possible to teach this level of detail within five or so patrols but requires constant practice to enhance. The level of kodawari in monitoring defects is a good example. It's not enough to look at the defect bin to see if its full. You are looking to see if all defects have been clearly separated from good material; whether the usual defects are present (a lack of the usual defects can be just as enlightening as it means that something in the process has changed and you'd do well to understand  what); if unusual defects are present; if there are unusually high or low quantities of defects. Note that I set this paragraph up with the phrase "monitoring defects". By this stage it is already too late. The best control comes from understanding 'normal' and spotting 'abnormal conditions' quickly. This is truly the difference between 'good' and 'great' control. 'Good' control finds and deals well with defects. 'Great' control spots and resolves the abnormality before it has a chance to become a defect.  

Similarly, looking for "safety issues" is too vague. The ability to identify and resolve safety problems starts with teaching people to keep a good 5s condition and look for specific problems; the most common and significant risks for the kind of area you work in. For example, I have trained supervisors in an HVAC factory to look for the correct PPE being worn correctly, overhead power drivers swinging around near the head, aisles being blocked, doors of cupboards left open, safety devices being overridden, fatigue matting wearing or broken, chemical cupboards unlocked, and items left in a temporary home to surprise somebody else.  

Broadening our kodawari discussion, I have some simple indicators that I look for to gauge the interest and engagement of the management team in the shopfloor, it's people and it's activities. I'll walk slightly behind the Senior Manager to assess whether they are looking as they walk, how aware they are of forklift danger when crossing aisles, whether they cut corners, do they walk around while talking on their phone, are they respectful of not meandering into someone’s work area and disrupting their movement flow; remembering that most defects and accidents happen when something changes. Do they understand that product changeovers and break-times (just before and just after) are some of the riskiest points in the day where a dip in concentration can flow a defect out to the Customer. 

At another level again, we can assess the overall level of control on the shopfloor by confirming whether the various clocks dotted around the factory show the same time - often not. A strong team starts together and finishes together. Team Leaders around the world have the daily heartache of convincing their team not to pack up a few minutes early and queue at the clocking machine because the team across the gangway are allowed to (as their clock has been erroneously set 2 minutes faster).  

If you want to gauge the level of control, be present at the start of the shift and at the end of the shift. For a bonus engagement question, look at how the rest areas are left after breaks; the comfort of the facilities are also a gauge of management respect for where wealth is truly created in the factory. You can tell a lot about 'respect for people' from the facilities they are asked to rest in. After 4 hours on your feet working to a 60 second TAKT Time you don't want to be sitting in a filthy area trying to keep the flies off your sandwich, and your sandwich off the cracked filthy table. Kodawari, kodawari, kodawari: From the MD all the way up to the on-line Associate, we all need it. 

I could go into much more depth and dissect the attention to detail required to recognise and train fundamental skills, or write strong Standardised Work Instructions and train them well via the simple beauty of TWI Job Instruction. I could talk about the kan-kotsu (or knack) involved in picking up screws and feeding them dexterously through your fingers to present them easily in your finger tips; skills that can be taught to collapse learning curves and safeguard Safety, Quality and Productivity; but I won't, for fear of labouring the point. 

Before we leave kodawari, one final comment. Fujio Cho incumbent Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation, once gave a brief summary of the philosophy behind TPS as he saw it. As long as I draw breath I doubt that I'll ever be able to match his succinctness; to say so much in merely six words. His exact words were "Go see,ask why, show respect".  

At the base of lean, hidden to all but the most determined, is attention to detail. Perhaps it lays largely undiscovered because we naturally recoil from some of the seemingly obsessive behaviours that Japanese, and perhaps Toyota veterans in particular, have engrained into their behaviours. For example, the practice of walking in right angles around corners in factories to absolutely respect the gangway markings sounds odd, but understand the reason behind it and it makes good sense. 

Perhaps the last word in kodawari should go to the men I mentioned earlier in this chapter - the snipers of the world. These men, having crawled painstakingly slowly using the sniper crawl (barely moving, no more than 4 inches at a time propelled only by fingers and toes) into range of the target, set about a process so disciplined that, ethics of the profession to one side, may well make snipers the poster boys for kodawari.  

Imagine the sniper who, brandishing his meticulously maintained rifle, has to calculate his shot to compensate for humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed, wind direction, and for the fact that, if he has recently fired a shot, he has to allow for the heating that has affected the barrel of his rifle. If his shot is over 400 yards he has to allow, mindbogglingly, for the Coriolis effect  - the curvature of the earth. Having allowed for all these factors he then remembers not to exhale at the moment he pulls the trigger as detailed earlier. Oh, and during all of this he has kept his feet laid flat on the ground behind him so as to present as insignificant a target as possible to the enemy. This is kodawari"

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