Go and See for Yourself – Genji Gembutsu (Genchi Genbutusu)

We have discussed 20 lean tools so far. One of the main features of all these tools is their simplicity. Starting from 5S, lean tools are very simple and effective. Our tool today, you would agree, is a great example for this.
“Gengi Gembutsu” is one of very popular lean tools. It is discussed in many forums, by professionals. But what really is this tool? What is meant to do?
“Gengi Gembutsu” reduces time taken to complete your decision making process. It makes it easy to make the correct decision. How this tool does this? By taking the decision makers to the problem, and letting them to observe the problems and then coming to decision. It seems very simple isn’t it?
When you have a problem in your hand, how do you solve them? In a traditional organization, managers will ask all the relevant parties to come to his or her room. He will go through all the reports and figures. Then he will discuss with all the relevant parties and then will make a decision. This is not a bad way of making a decision, isn’t it? But the problem is, when the facts and figures are reformatted by different people, the true meaning of them can get distorted. Sometimes important information might be left out on purpose or by accident. This way of problem solving encourages figure pointing and blame passing. So at the end of the process there can be a wrong decision made, if a decision is made at all.
Lean encourages hands on way of problem solving. Even the managers are bought to the place where problem occurred. So they get the real picture and real information about the situation. Then they can discuss with the people directly involved on the process. Then the decision made will be much more accurate.
Can you remember last time you made a decision based on second hand information and later found problem is completely misinterpreted and your decision made it even worse? If something comes to your mind please leave it as a comment to this post. It will help all the people want to learn lean.
So next time, when you have a problem to solve, go to the place where problem occurred, check the process for yourself and then make your decision. Check for the improvement of the quality of your decision.

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Jidoka – Automation with a human touch

Jidoka is one of the main tools of lean. In fact it is treated as one of the main pillars of lean manufacturing. Although Jidoka is very important tool, as most of lean tools it stays simple both to understand and practice.

Jidoka is often explained as “Automation with a human touch”. In other words this means automation with some degree of human involvement. When your machinery runs normally and processes are being followed properly, there is nothing you should worry about. But if your processes and machinery are not producing expected results, and if it continues to run, you have a problem in your hand. You will end up with tons of faulty goods.
This is where the concept of Jidoka comes to play. If there is something wrong in your operation, Jidoka suggests you to stop immediately and then fix the problem before start running your process gain. This will ensure you remove the problem from the process so you will not be making piles of faulty items.
Roots of Jidoka traces back to the early automated loom developments. When the looms were automated there was a major problem. When the yarn is broken, entire length of the woven fabric will have a defect. This is very costly. So you have to identify the problem (broken yarn) immediately and stop the loom to fix the problem to avoid this issue. This is where error detection techniques and automatic stopping devices were introduced. When you have a thread broken, there will be a mechanism to identify the error, and it will automatically stop the machine. This will alert the operator. He will come to the machine, fix the problem and then re start the machine. Although today there are new technologies is available to detect problems easily still the same old concept is followed. You identify the problem immediately; you stop the process and fix it.
Later concept of Jidoka was applied on the processes like assembly lines. When an operator detects an error, they will try solving it themselves. If they cannot correct it themselves, they will call their immediate boss, line supervisor for an example. If the supervisor can solve the issue within an allocated limit of time, line will not be stopped. If the supervisor cannot complete the job within the given amount of time, line will be stopped. Error will be fixed and the line will be re started.
Jidoka is often used with Poka Yoke and Visual control concepts. Visual indicators are used to highlight the errors and Pokayoke is practiced to avoid the identified problems in future.
Jidoka makes it very hard to hide problems. When you stop the line, you create a crisis. If you have no solution to the problem, you will not be able to continue with manufacturing. So solving problems becomes a must.
Although it is simple enough to understand and implement, for an organization to come to the point of Jidoka implementation it take some change. Implementing Jidoka calls for a complete shift in traditional management mentality. Traditionally, stopping the manufacturing line is treated as a crime, something you should not do at all. People are encouraged to continue the work regardless of the problems which may come through.
So changing the mentality will not be easy. This will be the main problem associated with implementing Jidoka in your organization.

What is Hoshin Kanri?

Before starting on hosin kanri let me tell you something. I am sure most of you have an eye on Toyota right now. Father of lean manufacturing is in trouble. Last week’s article on Toyota crisis and its relationship to lean has bought lots of responses. Most of the readers have emailed me their thoughts. I learnt through them, most of you do not blame lean for the problems Toyota have in their hands right now. If you haven’t read it already read the article by clicking the link above. Please leave your comments at the end of the article for the entire world will be able to see it.
Now back to the topic. Every organization exists for a reason. One of the main reasons is to earn profits. There can be other reasons for existence as well. On the other hand every organization has their resources like capital, organizational structures, processes, and people. You may be a follower of lean or not, but I am sure you will agree with me, it is very difficult to align all your resources to achieve what you want to achieve, especially when your organization is larger. If you are working with only handful amount of people it is mighty easy to achieve your goals. You can see each other working. You have a direct control. But when your organization is large, you will have different clusters, departments and divisions etc, etc. there will be hundreds or even thousands of people who are working for you to achieve your goals. Everyone needs to be pulling in same direction in order for you to achieve your goals effectively. But I am sure you would know, it is not easy as it sounds.
Only very few people in an organization would be aware of the goals of the organization. Even if they know it only a handful would know how your organization is going to achieve them, or your strategies. Even if they know how they are going to be achieved, most of you will not know what is the part you will have to play in order to achieve your organization goals. Sounds familiar isn’t it. Best part is, even if you know what you want to achieve, you wouldn’t know how you, yourself and others are going to measure it.
So every organization has to answer few questions when they set up their goals and cascade them down the chain.
1. What is our goal? For an example “we want to be the #1 car manufacturer in the world”
2. How are we going to achieve our goal? For an example “we want to sell x million units of cars to become the #1 car manufacturer of the world”
3. What do we want to achieve the target? For an example “We are going to manufacturer the world’s lowest cost car so that everyone can afford it”
4. How are we going to measure whether we achieved our objective? For an example “Have sold y number of cars in this year as per our plan”
There may be several answers for the questions above depending on the goal you may set. But I guess you get the idea.
As you can see, setting the goals and cascading them down one step is hard enough. How about cascading your goals to thousands of employees. It will not be easy. But this is where Hoshin Kanri comes to play.
Hoshin Kanri is a very important tool used in lean environment. It is known as a good policy deployment tool. It basically systemizes the process of passing information level by level so that all the components of your organization would be completely aligned to the overall goals of your organization.
Every department will have their objective set by the Hoshin plan for their organization. Every sub divisions of the department will have their objectives set based on the goals their departments need to achieve. It will cascade down to the employee, and will clearly tell your employee what he or she has to do in order to achieve the goals of your organization. Isn’t this cool?
Again it needs to be said however, this process is not easy either. It requires mindset changes, thorough follow up and dedication. No one is 100% in this regard. But there is no need to be 100% in your hoshin efforts to realize its benefits. You may realize it on the go.

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