Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lessons From a Japan Study Mission

Many US companies have sent delegations to Japan to study a wide variety of Japanese manufacturing techniques.

Below is a summary of the lessons learned from one such study mission.

1. Everything in the work environment is considered a process, to be measured, controlled, standardized, and continuously improved upon.

2. The Company will find and implement the "most reliable method" for manufacturing, (and by extension, other activities) and implement it everywhere in the Company, so that all similar activities will be standardized. The Company will be open to new, improved methods which, when proved, will become the new "most reliable method."

3. We should never talk about "optimizing" since, once we do, we accept the status quo. Instead we must talk of "continuing improvement" in every aspect of our work.

4. Education drives the organization; the job of the manager is to educate.

5. The Company must be close to the consumer; we should not seek compliments, but complaints and criticism; it is every employee's responsibility to regularly submit criticism of the way things are done, with suggestions for improvements.

6. The Customer defines quality, through a concept called "fitness for use". If a product is not "fit for use", it should not be made. This concept applies to staff group work products as well.

7. Staff groups must appreciate the concept of internal customers and apply the "close to the customer", "criticism", and "fitness for use" approaches to them, both "up" and "down" the process.

8. Aim for what we do; do not settle for anything less.

9. Goals are to be carefully spelled out and mutually agreed to, but methods are also to be spelled out.

10. Controls are to be established to show when any "process" is in or out of control; when out of control, a correction plan is to be prepared; each employee is responsible for seeing that his/her parameters are in control; each supervisor is held accountable for ensuring that his supervisor's goals remain "in control."

11. "Failure" is a foreign concept; "out of control" simply represents a problem (opportunity, responsibility) to solve, without blame, but with willing and eager help from all who can contribute.

12. Clean offices represent the concept of clear thinking, discipline, elimination of wasteful processes and procedures.

13. Purposes for automation include elimination of drudgery and danger.

14. "Apply your brain" to the problem.

15. In manufacturing, stress no or low inventory, just in time delivery, and mixed mode production.

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