In manufacturing environments, there are many areas in which you can focus to create workplace improvement efforts and systems. Some of the more commonly used techniques are the 6Ss and the eight wastes. These can help you to find a focus for workplace improvements.
Recently I have picked up a book called 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement, written by Iwao Kobayashi. In his book, Mr. Kobayshi created a longer list that not only included the 6Ss, eight wastes but more, that can be used for great audits. This list reads very much like a whos who of manufacturing innovations and hence makes a very useful checklist for those companies that do not or cannot go down the lean improvement path or that want smaller grassroots efforts prior to a major undertaking.
The 20 Keys are as follows:
- Clean and tidy. Everywhere and all of the time. Think safety!
- Participative management style. Working with all people to engage their minds and hearts into their work as well as their hands. Think Gemba!
- Teamwork on improvement. Focused on teamwork to involve everyone in enthusiastic improvements.
- Reduced inventory and lead time. Addressing overproduction and reducing costs and timescales.
- Changeover reduction. Reducing times to change dies and machines to enable more flexible working.
- Continuous improvement in the workplace. Creating improvement as a ‘way of life’, constantly making a better product and the workplace a better place to work.
- Zero monitoring. Building systems that avoid the need for ‘machine minders’ and instead have people who are working on maintaining a number of machines.
- Process, cellular manufacturing. Creating interconnected cells where flow and pull are the order of the day.
- Maintenance. Maintaining machines by people who work on them, rather than external specialists. This allows for constant adjustment and minimum downtime.
- Disciplined, rhythmic working. Synchronized total systems where all the parts work together rather than being independently timed.
- Defects. Management of defects, including defective parts and links into improvement.
- Supplier partnerships. Working with suppliers, making them a part of the constantly-improving value chain, rather than fighting with them.
- Waste. Constant identification and elimination of things that either do not add value or even destroy it.
- Worker empowerment and training. Training workers to do the jobs of more highly skilled people, so they can increase the value they add on the job.
- Cross-functional working. People working with others in different departments and even moving to gain experience in other areas too.
- Scheduling. Timing of operations that creates flow and a steady stream of on-time, high-quality, low-cost products.
- Efficiency. Balancing financial concerns with other areas that indirectly affect costs.
- Technology. Using and teaching people about more complex technology so they can use and adapt to it, bringing in the latest machines and making them work.
- Conservation. Conserving energy and materials to avoid waste, both for the company and the broader society and environment.
- Site technology and Concurrent Engineering. Understanding and use at all levels of methods such as Concurrent Engineering and Taguchi methods.
While I enjoyed the book and the insights that are shared by Mr. Kobayashi, this to me is an incomplete list. In my opinion, a practical exercise is to take this list and use it either to evaluate your current workplace or as a discussion forum, ensuring people understand it. While this list would be a great place to start the journey, bringing in the demand driven sciences is what would round out the opportunity. I felt that the goal of his book was to simplify workplace improvement, a noble effort but in my experience, it isn’t that the efforts are difficult it is that WE tend to over complicate it. For us this is the beauty of the demand driven sciences, straight forward, you have demand, you fill the demand.
Let us know what you think.
Reference: Iwao Kobayashi, 20 Keys to Workplace Improvement, Productivity Press, Portland, 1995
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