History of Lean P4To understand the history of Lean we must go Essay

History of Lean P4

To understand the history of Lean, we must go back to where modern manufacturing began. Henry Ford was the first to create a truly integrated system of production which was coined ‘mass-production’, wherein large quantities of standardized products could be created.

Ford created what he called flow production, which aims to create a continuous movement of elements through the production process. Using this Ford could fabricate and assemble his vehicle components in a matter of minutes rather than hours or days.

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Unlike traditional production, this system delivered perfectly fitted components that can be interchanged. This process proved incredibly successful and allowed the Ford Motor Company to produce over 15 million Model T cars between 1908 and 1927. During World War II, the US military adopted Ford’s mass production system.

In 1926, Sakichi Toyoda founded the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works. Within several years the company changed its name to Toyota and began producing cars. In 1950, Eiji Toyoda, the founder’s nephew, visited the Rouge plant of Ford in Dearborn, Michigan for a three month period.

At the time, the Rouge plant was Ford’s most complex and largest manufacturing facility. Producing nearly 8000 cars per day while Toyota was producing 2500 cars each year.

After studying Ford’s production system, Toyoda understood that the system employed by Ford wasn’t one that could be of use to Toyota. He thought the Japanese market was too small and diverse for mass production techniques to be effective. The Japanese markets requirements ranged from compact cars to incredibly luxurious vehicles.

Ford’s mass-production system focused heavily on the amount of production rather than the voice of the customer. In collaboration with Taiichi Ohno, Toyota developed a new means of production. They came to the conclusion that by correctly sizing machines for the actual volume required, and the introduction of machines that monitor themselves; they can make products faster, cheaper, better, and most importantly; with a higher level of variety! Ohno had to face the challenge of trading off between productivity and quality. His experiments would eventually lead to the development of several novel ideas, which became known as the ‘Toyota Production System’.

P2 the Toyota production system (TPS)

Originally created as a methodology to make very efficient systems of production, lean management techniques have been utilised by more than 72 percent of machine shops across the country. Many of these have had a dramatic increase in there competitive edge as a result, whilst also removing wasteful practices which contribute to the bottom line

Lean techniques can be utilised by a company, regardless of what they produce. They can be used as a tool to produce products and deliver services using as few resources as possible, all whilst minimising as much waste as possible. Be it a restaurant, bakery, small offices, or large processing plant; all follow the same five Principles of Lean from the Toyota Production System. These principles are:

• Defining customer value, both internal and external

• Defining the Value Stream

• Making it Flow (Process)

• “Pulling” from the Customer back (Inventory)

• Striving for Excellence (Long term)

Each of these concepts is related to the others. My focus will be on flow, and the seven flows of manufacturing, barriers to flow in organizations, and how to improve flow. I have chosen this as I believe it to be one of the most fundamental principles in minimising waste.

Defining Flow

Flow is how work progresses through a system. When a system is working efficiently, we would say this has “Good flow”, good flow tends to move steadily and predictably, whereas, “bad” flow would mean that work is carried out intermittently and there is a lot of stopping and starting.

Every time there is a breakdown in the flow, the chances of creating waste increases. One goal is to Strive for a consistent flow which generates more reliable delivery, and greater value to customers, teams, and stakeholders. The benefits of this are many.

Identifying the Seven Flows of Manufacturing

Mike Wroblewski, Senior Operations Consultant for Gemba Consulting, explains in his Reliable Plant blog, the Seven Flows of Manufacturing by his Japanese sensei, Nakao-san:

1. The flow of raw material

2. The flow of work-in-process

3. The flow of finished goods

4. The flow of operators

5. The flow of machines

6. The flow of information

7. The flow of engineering

Companies that can integrate these principles understand that when these seven types of flows are work harmoniously, that the chances of producing finished goods and services that require little to no corrective action increases. Continuously running production, in such a smooth fashion, also helps to ensure that a company is creating efficiencies.

There is a direct relationship between creating efficiencies that enhance overall business performance and increasing profitability. These are just some of the ways that a company implementing lean manufacturing can put notable distance between themselves and their competitors.

Barriers to Flow

If you want to improve flow, all barriers must first be removed.

Examples of Physical Barriers to Flow:

• Long Setup Times: When changing over tooling takes a long time, larger batches are run to minimise the amount of changeovers

• Distance: Rather than transporting individual items, they are collected and shipped in a batch

• Batch-Oriented Machines: Some machines are designed to be most efficient with large runs.

• Poor Maintenance: Machines that break down frequently disrupt flow.

Examples of Intangible Barriers to Flow:

• Unreliable Deliveries: when there isn’t a trust that the parts can be delivered on time, more spares will be stocked.

• Unreliable Quality: If there is little trust the quality of the parts will render them useless, more are kept on hand

• Approval Processes: The inefficient beaurocracy of a company may lead to work piling up until ta go-ahead is given

• Lack of Faith: Some may believe flow isn’t possible, thus will never try

• Resistance to Change: some people might just not want to change.

Once companies identify and prioritize all of the barriers to flow, they are ready to implement the changes designed to improve the overall process of flow.

Lee Candy, creator of Educational Business Articles, suggests 6 pointers to help companies develop flow within their processes:

• Map the process

• Identify and log all problems process owners experience

• Identify all waste in the current process

• Map an ideal state – the perfect process achieved in absence of all constraints

• Develop an action plan

• Actively monitor the new processes put into place by creating performance measures

An imperative closing point to make about improving flow is the importance of educating the workforce. The workforce has to understand, and appreciate, the importance of maintaining good flow.

Once flow is enhanced, the chances are the workforce will see these changes and begin to see that their jobs may have become physically and/or psychologically a bit easier to do.

P3, M3 D2 Nissan Production Way: A better alternative to TPS?

The NPW was introduced in 1994. The NPW and TPS share the same objective: To achieve high class operations by reducing waste and reducing lead times. However the approaches have major differences: Toyota focuses on extreme simplicity and Kanban-based supply, whereas Nissan focuses on synchronization and technology-driven supply.

Nissan invests far more on the use of IT and detailed planning of just-in-time deliveries. The factories demonstrate a synchronized dance of parts and products flowing flawlessly on the production floor where they merge together on moving assembly line. Low-tech AGVs are a lifeline in the factory, they bring prepared parts directly to the area they are required and only when they are needed (the timing is key here). Whilst Toyota achieves the same with Kanban, the approach is different.

The two “never-endings”

The overall purpose that the NPW stands to achieve is “boundless synchronization with customers and boundless exposure of problems and innovation”. The two key aspects of this being Synchronization and Kaizen, which are known as the “two never-endings”.

Ideal synchronization would mean “Produce when consume, this gives Nissan a never-ending quest to make just-in-time supply perfect. The overall objective is to reduce lead-times.

The two never-endings of the Nissan Production Way (Source: NPW Kaizen Consulting)

Synchronization then comes as a result of an integrated plan and a strict level of discipline to that plan. In the Nissan factories, it is not just the product that moves along a line; the carts which carry kitted parts for assembly and the operator often move in unison with the line. There isn’t an inventory on the line other than the parts required and simple two-bin systems of small standard components.

This level of Standardization is the heart beat of the system, this regime makes it all possible. Kaizen acts as a brain that is working to forever improve the standard. The methods for Kaizen are Nissan’s 4-boxes method, QC-circles, and the classical Plan Do Check Act. Andon makes sure the system is fit; the Andon cord is used many times every day to eliminate any hiccups that might occur. The result is a top notch production system

Comparison of NPW and TPS

The basis of the NPW is Gemba Kanri: which relies on Shop-floor management being performed by experienced and trained Foremen. This means the factory operations are managed based on the true situation in the factory relative to the plan. There are two situations: Normal and abnormal production. For any activities that deviate from the plan or the standard, the improvement process is started right on the shop floor where it has arisen; after analysing the current operations the desired operation is designed, tested and verified, before being introduced as the new standard. The Workforce is trained to the new standard and it then becomes the normal situation. Daily meeting structures, the Andon system and Foremen’s daily work keep this ecosystem going.

It is hard to critically evaluate the two against each other, as they are both incredibly effective tools to achieve a lean manufacturing environment, however I believe Nissans approach deserves more attention from Western companies. When compared with Toyota, Nissans synchronization philosophy is better suited towards low volume, high variety and utilizes high-tech manufacturing. Which are exact characteristics that western economies.

One must be weary though; as even if the system is a simple concept, it relies on a level of discipline that is rare to find outside of Japanese society. However, success has been seen in Western plants, an example being the Nissan factory in Sunderland, which has proven many times that world-class effectiveness is achievable with an approach like NPW.

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