Can't See

cantseepicMy friend and mentor, Gifford Brown, told me a remarkable story some time back about a visit to his plant in 1987 by Shigeo Shingo in which Shingo, with the help of set-up people, operators and a tool maker, demonstrated (in the space of a day) how machine set-ups could be reduced from four hours to under 15 minutes.  I wrote a post about this story about three years ago entitled  Standards -- Part 1, which probably would be good for you to peruse before continuing to today’s sequel.

When Gifford first told me of his remarkable experience with Dr. Shingo, I was so impressed that I retold it at every opportunity in my own plant. My plant had struggled with long set-ups, so this anecdote was important to us.  I think we were victims a belief system and set of knee-jerk policies that stood in the way of open-mindedness.  The idea that set-ups can be consistently reduced, as Dr. Shingo said, by “59/60’s”, made peoples’ heads spin.  Managers, who envisioned a rushed production environment, raised fears of quality problems.  Operators feared the possibility of a machine crash or operator injury.  Accountants worried about a presumed drop in machine utilization.  And there was, of course, the mindless objection: “We don’t build automobiles in our plant!”

Fortunately, there was one thing we could all agree on in my facility:  On-time deliveries of parts from our machining department to our assembly department stunk!  We seemed always to be building too much of something we didn’t need, while parts needed in assembly ran short.  This pain, like the grain of sand in the oyster’s shell, eventually produced the miracle of eight minute changeovers and better deliveries to the internal customer.   In retrospect, it was also fortunate that the relatively small size of our factory (under a hundred thousand square feet) made our set-up problems more accessible to management observation.

So, now the rest of the story:   A couple years after hearing from Gifford about Dr. Shingo’s visit to his plant,  I ran into him at the Shingo Conference.

“Gifford,” I said, “That story you told me about Dr. Shingo’s changeover demonstration was so good, I’ve retold it many times.”

Gifford smiled as he responded.  “Oh, that’s nothing! You haven’t heard the best part of the story:  First, Dr. Shingo’s training absolutely changed the way we approached set-ups and more than that the involvement of our production associates.”

He went on.  “But unfortunately, the improvements did not extend beyond my plant. We’d asked sister facilities to send representatives to our plant  for the changeover demonstration so they too could see the power of Shingo’s ideas.  But they all sent junior engineers, persons with no influence, to participate.  When those folks returned to their facilities they heard universally from their managers,

“We can’t see spending time on this.  We have more important things to do.”

The moral of this story:  Sometimes we can’t see because we have our eyes closed.

Are your eyes open?   Share a comment.


BTW – There’s still time to sign up for my next Tea Time with the Toast Guy free webinar on Monday March 3, from 3:00-3:45 p.m. EST.  The topic will be “Lean CompensationI’ll be discussing ways to bring front line employee compensation into sync with your Lean deployment.  Hope you can join me.  Click here to register. 

You can learn about all of GBMP’s public lean training events here  – from benchmarking Plant Tours to Lean Accounting Workshops, Six Sigma Green Belt Certificate programs and much more.

This entry was posted in old lean dude, lean manufacturing, Toast Kaizen, internal customer, kaizen, Shingo Conference, bruce hamilton, toyota production system, shigeo shingo, set-up reduction, quick changeover on February 13 , 2014.