If you are planning on attending (or sending people to) a Shingijutsu Seminar, I have a word of wisdom: Prepare.
Just sending people cold and expecting great things from the experience will, at best, give you a fraction of the potential learning. At worst it can turn people off completely. Here is a little advice:
Read my post on “Getting a Plant Tour“
Everything there applies here. Don’t be “industrial tourists.”
Groups are Better than Individuals
Even two people together are better than one alone. Not to say that an individual is going to get nothing, but when there are others to debrief the day and share learnings I think that interaction contributes a great deal to quality of the experience. It also provides a degree of insurance against the possibility of being assigned alone, or with a handful of “singles” to a large team composed of people from the same company. While that is by no means a disaster, it is probably a little easier if there is some assured mutual support rather than counting on finding it there with people you just met – and who may have their own rigorous agendas.
It is important to have an certain level of comfort with the basics:
- Understand the fundamentals of standard work.
- Know how to use a stopwatch and a time observation sheet.
- Know how to build a standard work combination sheet, and what it is for.
- Understand what takt time is, what cycle time is (and the difference).
- Know how to build a work balance chart.
They teach all of these things in the first day lecture, but (trust me) the more you know before you get there, the better you will be able to follow what they are teaching.
A Theoretical Base
Once again, the more you know before you go, the better. Even if you are working a complete implementation, it works well if your team is focused on a specific aspect of learning. Since everything in the system is inter-connected anyway, this does not limit your experience, it just focuses it.
Whatever your chosen topic, have the team members to some research and study, make presentations, and generally gain a level of understanding. This will help everyone make sense of what they see and hear in Japan since they will at least have a context for it.
Generally, one of the features of these trips is a tour of a Toyota plant. The tour is the same 50 minute tour everyone gets, there is nothing special. In fact, on this last trip, we were asked to leave our Shingijutsu name tags and any Shingijutsu-specific materials on the bus – not sure why, but I can speculate.
Rather than everyone just getting the tour, here is how to make the most of it.
Assign four sub-teams. Each one is focusing on a specific aspect of what you will see.
- Standard work / the flow of people.
- Pull and the flow of materials.
- Tools and gadgets that make the work easier, assure quality (poka-yoke) – technical kaizens
- The flow of problems – the andon system and the response.
It is good to get the theoretical base in these things before you depart, so people have some idea what to expect. This is the Plan of Plan-Do-Check-Act. They are establishing a “should be happening” in their minds. Doing so will focus their observations. Whatever they see will either confirm what they think should be happening, or will contradict it. Either way, they will remember much better.
After the tour, each sub-team should debrief themselves, then report to the larger group what they saw and what they learned.
Note that this doesn’t mean that people focused on, say, kanban would ignore andon and line stops. Quite the contrary. The system is highly inter-connected. But having focus helps people see.
Get a Custom Experience
This is a bit of an advanced topic, and perhaps is a little redundant. I say that because if you know how to arrange this, you already know what I am going to say here. The boilerplate seminars are probably not the best solution if you know what you want. If you have a client relationship with either of the Shingijutsu’s, they have proven agreeable to setting up a custom experience. This is especially true for top-level leadership teams and advanced topical training.
Shingijutsu is not the end-all
It is true – Shingijutsu, especially some senior individuals, can be a challenge to deal with. There are other consultants today who have the connections and contacts to arrange the “Japan” experience. I have no personal experience, so cannot specifically advise, but some have quite good reputations. Still, I would strongly advise performing your due-diligence, and ensuring you still have good preparation. I would also advise having someone on your staff, or someone you trust, who knows the business do some of the vetting for you.
Another option is that there are independent consultancies who have relationships with Shingijutsu. Frankly, mere association with Shingijutsu, and even using “Shingijutsu” in the name does not assure quality or competency, but they are out there, have the relationships, and might be able to get you started.