Akinori Hyodo, former Factory Manager, Toyota HiAce Factory | #AskSensei Event 20 Summary
Following on from the previous #AskSensei webinar on the topic of visual management boards, we continue to discuss the importance of visualization and visualizing problems in your workplace. Akinori Hyodo explains why this is important and draws some simple but effective examples from Japanese factory shop floors.
Visualizing Problems at Your Workplace
Today, I will be talking about the topic of visualizing problems. I trust that those of you participating in this webinar today are already using the idea of visualization in some form or another. To start with, let me ask you about why you want to use visualization. There are a few reasons why we would use visualization. Perhaps the main one is to share information with other people. What’s common across all companies is that everyone is working towards generating a profit for their organization. In order to do that, we all want to be better this year than last year, better this month than last month, better this week than last week, etc. and we are all moving together in this direction. In other words, everyone within an organization is working towards achieving the common goal of generating profit.
But, there are many different types of people working in an organization. There are people with various levels of experience, knowledge, backgrounds and an organization is made up of all these different individuals. But, despite all of that, we want all those people to be focused towards the same goal. One way of doing this is to communicate and share this information verbally within the organization. However, it would be quite difficult for everyone to retain the information within their head and to be able to extract the necessary information promptly at the time they require.
To explain this point, I often ask people the following question. Do you remember what you ate for dinner three nights ago? I guess not too many people can provide a quick answer to this question. Surely, that information was in your head at some point. However, over the past three days, it probably has left your mind.
Now, apply this logic to your workplace and reflect back on your daily operation including the problems and results you had over the past week. I am sure you had that information at the time that you checked and dealt with those issues. However, if I ask you for the details for each day of the past week, I think most of you would struggle to retrieve that information from your memory promptly and accurately. This is a problem for a company. As I mentioned before, we have managers, supervisors and operators all trying to work towards this one goal of generating a profit. That is why we need to visualize the important information and indicators amongst us using a common platform. One example of a tool that can support this is a visual management board, which I discussed during our previous #AskSensei webinar.
A visual management board enables all of us to focus towards the same goal, view information in the same way and reach the same judgement from that information. This approach makes it easy for all of us individually to be able to focus towards a certain goal but also to help engage others to focus towards the common goal.
Another important aspect of this is that through visualization we can raise our own awareness around the situation as well as the awareness of others. I touch on this point quite regularly, but when you can change the awareness of an individual, this will translate into a change in their actions as well.
We humans tend to forget things easily. So, while it’s important to verbally repeat something important to people around you to help them remember those things, visualizing information will be an effective tool for people to be able to refer to that information and help them recall the important information that might have left their mind at some point. This will then assist everyone in focusing towards the common goal together.
That’s why, in addition to what is displayed on the management boards, I encourage you to visualize as much other important information as possible including rules and standards that you have in your workplace. I am not suggesting that you must visualize every single rule and standard you have in place but it’s worth going through an exercise of identifying what is important for you to visualize, and then to act on those items first. This will also help ensure people are aware of and following those rules and standards.
Now, I want to show you some specific examples of visualization.
The first example is about increasing awareness regarding a certain situation and point, and this photo in particular is an example of visualizing information around quality.
The second example is of what we call a Heijunka Post or Level-loading Post. By utilizing a visualized tool like this i.e. allocating and utilizing kanban cards visually in this post with the time and processes in which those kanban cards will be used, we can see whether we are level-loading our production as well as if we are ahead or behind where we need to be in our production in a visual manner.
Ex. 1: Quality Information Display
Ex. 2: Level-Loading Post
The third example shows visual management applied in welding machine management. The table on the upper right on the information board allows operators and supervisors to see the status of the change of welding tips visually. Likewise, by looking at the table below with the magnets placed, operators and supervisors are also able to understand at a glance whether spatter removal has been performed or not at the time scheduled. The top half of this table shows the schedule of when the task needs to be performed. And, by moving the magnet down to the bottom half of the table, it is confirmed that the task has been performed for the time scheduled. This is a visual way of making sure certain required tasks are completed.
For the final example, what I want you to focus on is the front tire of the forklift and the white marking on the tire there. We use this to visualize whether the forklift is traveling below the set speed limit or not. Most companies utilizing forklifts within their operation whether inside or outside of their factories and sites have to abide by the speed limit set in place. While the forklift operators themselves can tell whether they are within the speed limit, it is often difficult for those around them to know. So, in this example, the front tire is painted in a certain way such that when the forklift speed exceeds the speed limit, the front tire appears as a complete white circle. In this way, anyone can tell if the forklift is speeding or not.
Ex.3: Welding Machine Visual Management
Ex.4 Forklift Visual Management
These are some specific examples of visualization. An important point I want to reiterate about this is that visualization itself is not an objective. As I said earlier, the reason why we are doing the visualization is to share important information amongst all employees and for all of us to be able to see problems in our workplace as well as the direction we are focusing towards. My recommendation is not to overthink or over-complicate your visualization attempts but instead to start with some simple applications of visualization like the examples I have just shown you.
Visualization is certainly helpful. However, not everything is worth being visualized. How can we decide what matters?
As I mentioned earlier, you don’t need to visualize everything. However, I do recommend visualizing as much as possible in order for people right across the organization to understand and share a common goal so that everyone is moving towards the same direction. But, each company is different as to what is critical for them to be visualizing and where they should start their visualization. So, going through the exercise of determining the key things that need to be visualized is important in order for everyone to understand what is happening and what they need to focus on. Prioritize what you need to visualize from that list and determine what you will gain the most benefit from.
However, the objective of doing these things is not just to visualize things. If you have a certain area or point and you think various people looking at the same area and point can come up with the same judgement and answer, then, those types of areas and points don’t need to be visualized. However, when you have a situation where you have different people looking at the same situation but coming up with different judgements, answers and opinions, this is where visualization truly helps and has to be applied.
But, to give a more specific answer to the question, one area I suggest you prioritize regarding visualization is related to the theme of safety. If there are things regarding safety that you can visualize, I would recommend getting those visualized first. This is because matters concerning safety must always take priority.
We have recently implemented lean visual management boards across our entire plant. But, as a result, we ended up hiring two people to enter all information visually updated on our management boards into electronic data systems for future analysis. Is this something also happening within Toyota and how is this type of problem solved within Toyota?
In Toyota, there are no full-time staff taking the information off management boards and then importing it into an electronic system. It’s all done by those who are at the supervisor and manager level. Looking at the question, the fact that two dedicated people are hired for this specific task suggests to me that the company is certainly collecting a lot of information and data. But, what is often happening in many companies nowadays, especially given the advancement of IT technologies throughout our companies, is that the shop floor is pushed to collect and save a lot of information electronically based on the assumption from their supervisors and managers that all this information is important and necessary to manage and control the area. However, I am sure there is a lot of information that is actually not required. Therefore, it is important to understand what information is really necessary. So, do a 5S exercise to determine what information supervisors and managers on the shop floor really require in order to manage their area. And, identify important information under different themes and decide the detail under each theme that will be helpful in doing this exercise.
I said that in Toyota, those at the supervisor or manager level transfer the information from the management boards into an electronic database. But, even so, it’s not taking them hours to do that. The maximum amount of time they spend is one hour or so on a daily basis. How to achieve that depends on the amount of information they choose to transfer as well as the method they use to transfer the information from the boards across to the electronic system. So, if you can utilize IT tools effectively and efficiently when transferring the information collected manually on the shop floor onto the management boards across to electronic systems, this will assist in reducing the amount of time required for supervisors and managers to do this task. In reality, you should be able to do this within a matter of 30 minutes or so.
How is productivity measured in TPS, and what type of productivity results are being generated through TPS?
Firstly, I feel TPS can be taken out of this question. Essentially speaking, it gets down to what the organization really needs to be tracking. Tracking metrics is quite common across the world of lean.
Firstly, what you need to understand regarding your production and manufacturing is the figures around the target versus actual, meaning how you are actually performing against your target. What is common across all companies in manufacturing is that companies need to produce good products at a low cost. In addition, they need to fulfill the volume they have promised to their customers. That’s why it is important that companies track their actual performance against the production plan put in place.
When it comes to producing good products, as it concerns the quality of your products, you would need to be tracking the number of defects, the first time through quality at the end of line as well as complaints and claims you receive from your customers, etc. When it comes to efficiency, as it concerns the number of people being utilized to produce the volume you have promised your customers, the common indicators we often use in the world of lean are around the operational availability which is sometimes referred to as run rate, as well as line balance efficiency which is an indicator reflecting the labor efficiency of the work being performed. We also check the amount of overtime we are doing as well as the absenteeism rate of our operators, etc.
In addition to what I have just described, what we need to understand is the cost required to produce a unit of product (e.g. cost of producing one vehicle in my case) in terms of money or man-hours required. Actually, this should form the basis of what we must track and to what detail. In order for us to produce good products with the lowest possible cost, we implement kaizen and address issues we come across while tracking relevant information under each theme on a daily basis.
The key productivity indicator we use in Toyota is the number of man-hours per vehicle. So, we try to maintain and further improve the number around this on a daily basis and we can do so by addressing different process indicators under different themes as I have just touched on.
I don’t think the things I have explained are unique to TPS. I think that most companies in the manufacturing sector are generating and tracking similar information. That is why I said at the very beginning that TPS can be taken out of this question. At any rate, I believe what is vital is to understand what you need for your specific manufacturing environment and the situation you are in and track what is going to help you to achieve your production goal in the best manner.
How do I avoid the situation where the team transfers their accountabilities to their managers?
If I understand the question correctly, I don’t think transferring accountabilities and responsibilities from a lower level to an upper level within the organization happens under normal circumstances. I don’t think this is the way things normally would work. We usually see this turned the other way around where the manager is at a level of the organization where they assume responsibility and accountability for the area they manage. And, they have the ability to transfer those down through their organization. So, I am not sure how it works the other way around where those below the manager level are transferring their responsibility and accountability up.
Generally speaking, those at the supervisor and manager level are expected to supervise and manage those below them. That is why they are given the authority and power to direct people as well as the responsibility and accountability to perform their job required for that position.
This is the general way of looking at an organizational structure. But, with regard to the question, there may be a different expectation in terms of people’s roles and responsibilities in different levels of the organization or there may be an issue around the understanding of roles and responsibilities of people at different levels within the organization. So, my recommendation is to reflect and clarify what exactly are the roles and responsibilities of each level of the organization. There needs to be a clear difference between each level and having clarity will provide a better organization for each level to take responsibility and accountability for the position that they are in.
As for a manager position, he/she must take the responsibility and accountability of his/her area and if the manager is not doing that or doesn’t have to do that, you must wonder the point of having that person in a manager position at all because he/she is not fulfilling the responsibility.
When you look at the relationship between a manager and those underneath him/her, how things work in general is that the manager provides directions and instructions to those below them to complete certain work. Once those directions and instructions are provided, it is the responsibility of those at the next level down to actually follow through with what has been directed by their managers. So, they cannot transfer that responsibility back to their manager in that sense.
In any case, if there is a blurred line or boundary between different levels of your organization, I recommend you to have a look at what is happening there and consider re-establishing clear roles for and responsibilities for management and each level of the organization.
#AskSensei is a regularly-scheduled webinar held together with Shinka Management Senior Lean Consultant Akinori Hyodo, who formerly enjoyed a career with Toyota rising from operator and team leader at Toyota, right up to factory manager and director of Toyota’s HiAce Factory. Each event we cover a different topic related to lean, with participants invited to put their questions to Hyodo Sensei.
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