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How to implement

Because all problems inevitably show up in the downstream processes - on the shop floor - the first thing that must be done in order to transform a company into a success is GEMBA KAIZEN. A GEMBA KAIZEN (Actual Site improvement) is Kaizen on the Shop Floor. There a three principles and always remember the three principles:

  • Actual Site,
  • Actual Thing,
  • Actual Fact.

The poor handling of management, product design, production technology, manufacturing technology, production control, quality control, purchasing, information management, product flow control, human resources management, capital equipment management, accounting and standardized technology - either separately or in some combination will result in MUDA. Muda is WASTE that will manifest itself as inefficient effort, defects, excess inventory, unnecessary space, transportation, warehouses, capital investments, non-functional equipment, worthless assets, and/or unmotivated people.

The first step towards implementing Gemba Kaizen is to recruit team members from various departments to identify existing problems at the shop floor level. Once identified, Shop Floor Management must define how these problems will be solved, setting measurable goals that will lead towards satisfactory resolution.

The team then transforms floor operations, from one where substance and waste are inter-mixed, to one where there are only linked productive processes. This transformation is also applied to each operator's movement linking only productive, value added movement. One Piece Flow Cells are created, wherein the sorting of parts and products, which share similar process structure and sequence, are handled based on a Process Matrix Table. Once set up to function as a One Piece Flow Cell, the team will be able to surpass the targets set by management. This phase is called the Awareness phase in Kaizen. Shop floor participants rediscover their potential. Their confidence, in themselves and what they are capable of accomplishing when they are motivated, increases dramatically.

Concurrently, Shop Floor Management must confront their own lack of discipline toward meeting their set targets, their absence of trust in subordinates, and their inability to envision where it wants to bring the company in the future. Shop Floor Management must admit that the cause of the problems on the shop floor frequently lies on the upstream side. (What are you referring to when you say upstream side? You reference management and management practices, but upstream frequently means the supply chain or the process on the left of the value stream)

(What are you referring to when you say upstream side? You reference management and management practices, but upstream frequently means the supply chain or the process on the left of the value stream)

To conduct Kaizen successfully, the next phase in Gemba Kaizen applies to, or is coherent with, the upstream process.

In this phase, a One Piece Flow Cell and a Visual Approach assessment on the shop floor must be further improved. However, alongside the progress achieved on the shop floor, any latent problems, previously unseen and/or unaddressed, that emanate from the upstream side, will grow more obvious on the shop floor. Each individual within each function on the upstream side, e.g., Production Control, Design Engineering, must go to the shop floor and be able to recognize, independently, that the root cause of any existing problems there, flow from their organizations. Upstream staff must examine how their own particular function must be reformed first, so that existing Gemba conditions can be improved. The implementation of One Piece Flow Cell implies that management will create an environment that nurtures this type of critical self-examination. It is imperative that each supporting function (e.g. engineering, production control, etc.) go to the shop floor and understand how they are impacting the manufacture or assembly of the product.

Focus on one main product as the Kaizen theme. When Kaizen is applied in this manner to the overall flow from the beginning to the end, the connection will become clear between the before-process and shop floor waste (Muda) and duplicable effort. The process must be reviewed for both information and work piece flow from the customer's purchase order, bill of material, to production and shipment of the product. Kaizen will contribute to the business success of those products that undergo Kaizen this way.

However, this phase of the process is not easy; success seldom is. It can be achieved only by gaining supporters, often one at a time, through patient, tenacious Kaizen activity. If the shop floor Gemba situation improves, the management index will improve as a result. And, subsequently, the numbers of advocates willing to carry the "banner" will grow.

To reiterate, physical participation in Gemba Kaizen by upstream members helps to heighten the realization that what occurs upstream has a direct bearing on what happens downstream. It is important that the managers from every department participate in Kaizen activities.

Resistance from managers who are in superior positions should be anticipated, as the process requires that they, upon completing an evaluation of their function, accept their share of responsibility for existing sub-par shop floor operations. In order to constantly improve shop floor operations, Kaizen "true believers" must lead the charge for reform. Success usually comes with some hardship, which might be large or small.

The next Kaizen phase is company-wide transformation. This must be carried out confidently and forcefully. If a company can reach to this level of Kaizen activity, the mission can be deemed a success. Success can be declared:

  • when top management can articulate a future vision clearly, and can articulate the target derived from their trust in their subordinates;
  • when top management, staff members and shop floor workers, together, participate in company-wide Kaizen activities with a common awareness that all the incidents which occur at the upstream departments flow down and show up at the end of the stream, the shop floor;
  • when the One Piece Flow Cell is deployed on the shop floors throughout the company and this enables visual, real time management ("Visual Factory") to be conducted,
  • when a management strategy and a product sales and marketing strategy are pegged to a shop floor target setting, relative to product-quality levels of the manufacturing cell such as: efficiency and lead time,
  • when Standard Work Kaizen and Change-Over Time Reduction Kaizen are conducted by all departments on a regular basis,
  • when such states of condition are constantly progressing due to these activities,
  • when an anomaly is identified, production is stopped instantly and staff dashes to the site to take corrective actions to prevent recurrence. These markers, then, enable real-time visual and dynamic monitoring of activities to occur, and
  • when offensive and defensive management is solely based on "Three Principles" - Actual Site, Actual Thing, Actual Fact, and organizational activities are running well.

In summary, company-wide Kaizen means to implement the state of condition that all employees, within all departments, understand the role and function of each upstream department. For example, each group understands the role and purpose of the Production Control Department. Company-wide Kaizen means to create a cell, streamline a flow and level, so that production runs smoothly without Production Control.Ultimately, creating customers who are fully satisfied with product quality, delivery lead time and price. Cooperation from each and every department, ranging from Manufacturing to Accounting, is integral and necessary to achieving this. Each department must recognize its true role, understand that all departments are inter-connected, and initiate actions that envision a clear target for each product. Consequently, company-wide Kaizen affects the shop floor positively; its dynamic effect is observed on the shop floor (this is called "sharing an emotional moment").

Company-wide Kaizen will enable employees and top management to raise the bar of their company's future dream inside the same picture frame, called "the actual situation of actual site where everything is happening." That shared sense of purpose elevates not only the company but also the society in which it conducts business.

By undergoing Kaizen together, management and employees will create an environment within which the joy of working becomes the joy of life. And their company will thereby grow to become a true world-class company.

This is my approach for Kaizen. Please join me to implement it.

Yoshihisa Doi