Shingijutsu Kaizen Seminar – Day 1

As I mentioned in the last post, this is the third time I have been through one of these events. The first time was in 1998, then again in late 2000, now in 2008 – so it has been a while. As you may or may not know, the company that was Shingijutsu back in 2000 had an internal factional split a few years ago, so now there are two of them. This seminar is being conducted by what I would call the “Nakao faction.” It was a credit to Nakao-sensei that he recognized me, as did his son and daughter who are also working for the company. They are all very good people, as usual.

The first day of these seminars is lecture.

I will be the first to tell you that the Japanese style of teaching, especially when filtered through an interpreter, can be difficult for a Westerner to follow. Nevertheless, it was good to re-grounded on some of the very basics.

Take-away quotes:

“I have them see what I am seeing.”

– Nakao-sensei describing taking a senior manager to the shop floor and questioning what she saw until she saw “it.” My early postings about “the chalk circle” reflect my own experience with the same thing. My note to myself was:

“Teaching through directed observation is a core concept.”

This is very consistent with the experience recounted in Steven Spear’s article “Learning to Lead at Toyota.”

The other key point (at least for me) was the end of a story told about the response to recommending more frequent deliveries from suppliers:

“That would be expensive.”
Response: “Why?”
And thus, the muda is revealed when implementing better flow merely as a thought experiment.
Many years ago Hirano published the same advice: Force single-piece-flow, at least temporarily, into the process to reveal what waste you need to work on. Then work on it.

Tomorrow we go to the shop floor. I found out that I am the “team leader” for this group of people, about half from my company, so it should be an interesting experience. There is a very diverse spread in the level of knowledge and understanding. I asked this afternoon who had not had experience with time studies before. Those are the people I will put on the point for gathering the current condition as this is a learning exercise. Too often people get obsessed with the targets, or with proving they “already know this” – that’s not the point, and not what our companies are paying us to do here. We are supposed to be learning.

Good night, it is an early morning.

One Reply to “Shingijutsu Kaizen Seminar – Day 1”


    Dawn’s early light seeping through the wood-framed window at 4:30 am reminded me that this is the Land of Rising Sun, no longer USA.

    The 80 students of this 58th Shingijutsu Gemba Kaizen seminar assembled in the lobby of hotel at 8 am. The night before, everyone was given a seating chart with an ID number. We boarded the buses by number to make the short hop to Midland Square Building, the seminar site.

    Mr. Chihiro Nakao started Day 1 in good spirits. He expounded on quality and the hidden factory using the deburring and adjustment functions as prime examples. “Totally unacceptable to be numb by these types of waste” exclaimed the chairman.

    The lectures focused on the foundational, hands-on techniques used in point kaizen events — production capacity sheet, work combination, standard work sheet and time studies. As nice souvenirs, everyone is given a Seiko stop watch and a pair of high-tech erasable ball point pens. Cheers!

    A third of the students is from a hospital in eastern united states and another third from Japanese and Chinese companies. The remainder, yours truly included, is placed in two “international” groups with people from everywhere: Brazil (bankers), UK (aerospace), US (energy and industrial tools), and all over Europe (office equipment). The American industrial tool company enrolled 19 employees while Lean leader Jim (his 9th seminar) from the European firm brought 8 others.

    The knowhow of the people ranged from superb to superficial. At times I wonder how applicable are the simple manufacturing-based lecture exercises to, say, a credit card value stream manager or in an emergency room doctor. Certain individuals, I trust, would see the intent of the lectures as building blocks toward genchi genbushu. Most would not, and relegate them to interesting trivia. Such is the limitation of a standardized curriculum!

    Talking about standards. The Japanese culture strikes me as highly “standardized”, regimented, or disciplined. For example, every pedestrian appears to obey crossing signals, even when no one else is looking. There is a place for everything, even a slot to display the train ticket so that the conductor can audit while walking down the aisle of a carriage. Standard work seems to be an ingrained part of the Japanese way.

    The day concluded with taking Hikari 476 bullet train at 17:34 pm to Shinsouka, the site of Day 2 events.

    Regards from Nagoya,
    Larry Y. Lamb

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