The strong intrinsic which Japanese manufacturing industry has 1
I have written about “Change in the world and the problems with Japanese manufacturing industry”. From this issue, I start writing about “The strong intrinsic which Japanese production industry has”.
I have worked as Kaizen consultant so far and I would like to introduce what happens on shop floor. As my title is Kaizen consultant, the presidents who use me expect to improve the work efficiency and product quality by applying Kaizen technic on shop-floor.
However, in addition to the improvement of work efficiency and product quality, development of new products or new markets often occurs. But as I have no experience or knowledge in developing new products or marketing, it is certain that the result is not brought by my guidance.
I do Kaizen on shop-floor wearing the work uniform of the plant. The important point is that there are always the president and other top people from design, sales, marketing, engineering and so on. All of us do Kaizen on shop-floor together and in the process of this activity, there may be the clue to the development of new products and new market.
Question: Have you ever experienced that super ideas came out while all the people are doing kaizen and chatting on site?
P.S. I received the title “Advanced Technology Meister FY2017” from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. I am happy.
Change in the world and the problems with Japanese manufacturing industry. 8
What should we do against various changes?
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By my observation, these changes are not temporary, and it is the result of changes in the business environment. Management must start fighting against these changes. Managers need to abandon their successful experiences so far and start their management reform with the intention of reviewing everything from scratch. Their future is not on the extension of the past experiences.
Then, how can we improve our production management? Is there a way of improving our production way without staying in the conventional way of our Kaizen or improvement?
Looking at the media reports, there are plenty of pessimistic information about Japanese production industry.
Question What kind of Kaizen do we need?
Change in the world and the problems with Japanese manufacturing industry. 4
This time, I will start talking about changes in the market and manufacturing.
This means that Japan’s manufacturing industry can not survive just by doing 5S, removing wastes, or shortening production lead time, which have shown a lot of good effect so far. In order to acquire the strength again, we have to understand that we are entering new era in which new improvement and further change are required while keeping the on-site improvement ability which we have made so far.
Then, what kind of change is coming in the future? Consumers already have most of the things and they do not show interests except what they really want, and even if they are interested they will not buy it if the price is high.
It has been said that if you make a good product you can sell it, but the good product then was the product with high functional quality. So Japanese manufacturing companies have been improving quality and cost competitiveness. In other words, competition has been in the field of production engineering and Genba Kaizen ability for high quality and low cost.
Question : I wrote that consumers have been changed. What do you think?
Change in the world and the problems with Japanese manufacturing industry. 3
Last time I wrote a visible part of the changes in the world. And this time I will write about invisible part of changes in markets and in manufacturing.
Markets themselves are also changing drastically, and as a result manufacturing has been forced to change too.
In the era when all the products were sold out, it was called as the product out era and the production process was simple, mass production with small variety. At the time, on-site improvement activities that realized quality improvement and efficiency improvement like the QC circle expanded production capacity and produced great results in improving profitability.
After that, when the variation increased gradually, it shifted to the production of small-lot size with a lot of variation, which was called as the market-in era. At that time, to respond to the customer orders without making the customers waiting although with very small amount of inventory, many Japanese manufacturing industry studied Toyota production system. That helped the Japanese manufacturing industry to get shorter production lead-time and to be profitable and they got high reputation.
Nonetheless, in Japan many small and medium-sized companies have already disappeared due to bankruptcy or lack of successors. And many companies which show good level of 5S and have done high level Kaizen like removing Muda or wastes are facing difficulties that their products are not selling as before or their profits are not as big as before.
Question: The level of Japanese manufacturing industry is high represented by Toyota production system. Nevertheless, many of them are facing a lot of difficulties and struggling . What are the problems?
Change in the world and the problems with Japanese manufacturing industry. 2
What are the reasons for it?
In Japan, wages have started to rise with the improvement of national strength and it has used foreign low wage workers and has produced some parts abroad. However, sales declined extremely due to the collapse of the bubble economy, and significant cost reductions were required to maintain profit. Then many home electric product industries relocated their production bases abroad.
As a result, domestic work decreased, and technological outflows occurred.
In home electronic products, sales declined due to lack of adaptability to local needs. In addition, in digital home appliances such as flat-screen televisions, cost competitiveness declined due to delays to global procurement of parts in modular production.
In the automobile industry as well, in the results of the JD Power US car quality survey in recent years, evaluation of quality has been changing from function quality to design quality, and Japanese cars are not evaluated so high as before.
Furthermore, a sharp decrease in the labor force has occurred due to aging of the population and decreasing birthrate, the quality and quantity of workforce has been short, and the problem of job skill handover also becomes serious.
For example, there are many foreign workers who do not understand Japanese at the site of production and temporary employees who have little experience even if they are Japanese. There are also generation alternation due to mandatory retirement by age.
Among them, there are many companies that have stopped Kaizen or continuous improvement.
Question I wrote what are happening on the production sites. But I am sure there are a lot more happening. Please tell me your experiences.
Chatting at work is important 5
I have written that chatting with common theme on shop-floor is important.
This time I want to tell you the image of this activity.
This is the logo picture of my company and it tells the feeling.
A young leader Kaizen-kun is standing in front of the group and the other people of the company are supporting him. The person on the right is the president, on the left is me.
Please do Kaizen like this. It must be enjoyable, and you will get a super result.
I wish you a happy new year!
Chatting at work is important 2
In the comics of the episode 18, there was a pleasant chatting. But I do not think that kind of chatting leads good Kaizen, either.
Then how is the chatting which helps good Kaizen? There are some important points.
First, the objects of Kaizen should be visible. Therefore, most of the time I stay in the place where real Kaizen is done because everything there is visible.
Second, the theme of Kaizen is shared by all the people there. When I am there I always point the object and the theme is shared.
And there should be various many people as it is a Kaizen assembly. There are the president, directors, managers, staff people, part-timers, sales people, designers, operators etc. These days I often hear the word “diversity” and I think this is it.
Every product in a plant has a lot of relations to all the people there. Sales people took the order of it, purchase people bought the material, engineers made the machine layout, controllers made the production plan, production people made it, inspectors checked it and drivers transported it. They are separated from each other but are related to each other.
If these people get together in front of a product and start chatting for example about shortening the lead-time, often the case super ideas comes out that can never be created by one self.
This is the chat I want to do.
When we do this chat and get good ideas, many attendants get very surprised and say, “this is an unique good assembly”. Yes, this kind of assembly is not done usually. In case of a big problem happening, this kind of assembly may be made but what I want is the assembly done in daily life in order to be good.
Let’s start chatting with many company people to do Kaizen!
I went to the Gunkan-jima or the Warship island, too.
Last time, I wrote that I went to a “robot hotel”. And the next day I went to the Gunkan-jima or the Warship island in Nagasaki prefecture. The Gunkan-jima is a common name of the Hashima and it is called so because of its outlook.
Why the island became warship shape? Because this island was a base place for mining coal till 1974 since Meiji era, and many buildings were built for the workers who went down into the bottom of the sea to mine the coal and their family. The buildings were apartment houses, shops, schools, hospitals etc. and they made the warship-shape of the island.
The size of the island is 480ｍ×160ｍ, very small! But in1960, there, more than 5000 people were living and that makes 83600 heads/㎢.（No.1 in the world！）
In 1941, more than 410 thousand tons of good coal was produced, which supported the development of Japan. But after 1960, the major energy was shifted from coal to oil and the coal became less and less required and the island mining area was closed in 1974 to make the island unpopulated.
Recently the island became partly open to the visitors and I visited and found it totally ruin.
In the year 1974, I graduated from university and started working. I do not feel it so long ago. And I knew the word “energy conversion” but it was a knowledge of historical word. It was the first experience for me to see the real thing by myself. I really understand the fact that the world is always changing.
Not only the shift from coal to oil, but also from analog to digital, from gas engine to electric engine, from manned driving to unmanned driving, from electronic calculator to artificial intelligence, the world is drastically changing.
I strongly feel the importance to change our manufacturing too.
Let’s hold Kaizen presentation No.2!
[This is the second example of Kaizen that I promised last time!]
This is what happed in an elevator of the hotel during my business trip the other day.
The hotel is a big one with 23 floors, and the elevators are always crowded in the morning because there are only four small elevators.
I got on the elevator that morning from the 20th floor, but it was already crowded. So, I said, “Excuse me, let me get in”, asking all other persons.
Another person got on in the next floor and the elevator was fully occupied. Therefore, nobody could get in the elevator even though it stopped at every floor and the door repeated opening and closing. So, the elevator went down very slowly. All passengers were irritated and the atmosphere was bad.
And when the elevator stopped at the second floor, one person got off and the door closed. Everybody thought that the elevator would arrive finally at the first floor, but the elevator began to go up unexpectedly.
Then, somebody said loudly, “Nobody pushed the button of the first floor!” But the way he spoke was very funny, and several people and myself laughed. The others also became smiling even though they did not laugh loudly.
The elevator with all the members returned to the 23rd floor and then started getting down again and finally arrived at the first floor safely.
It was a situation that all the members might get more irritated, but the atmosphere became peaceful clearly once after all laughed. When getting off the elevator, all the members said “Thank you” and “See you” with peaceful face.
I finally return to the title this time, I want to emphasize that smiling is very important. I sometimes see a presentation of formal rigid atmosphere, but let’s hold pleasant and relaxed Kaizen presentation.