When we did the first “Toyota Kata” based kaizen event here a second shift lead came up and told me “I’ve been working here 34 years and this week I learned what my job is.”
In most companies leads are expediters charged with forcing product out of the process when the system breaks down.
As we have introduced better flow into this process, things generally work better for overall output, but obstacles still occur.
The leads now assume a critical role for daily kaizen. They are the nerve endings for the entire production process. They are the ones who see the issues when they are small.
We are working with them this week to develop their skills to see, and capture those issues – the rough spots where the production team members struggle a bit to get things working; or where the team needs to bypass the intended process flow to make things work.
By helping them see the difference between smooth flow and rough flow, we are increasing the sensitivity of those nerve endings, and starting to flush out more sources of unplanned variation in a process with a fair amount of part and cycle variation.
At the same time, we are working with the core shop floor leadership team running then through PDCA cycles to develop their skills for improving flow.
What is kinda cool is that it is working, and the linguistic patterns (which reflect thought patterns) are shifting.