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Mike Rother

Mike Rother: What About Using TWI ‘Job Methods’ for Kaizen?

By Mike Rother, Author of Toyota Kata and co-author of Learning to See - Last updated: Monday, July 19, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

Question: What are the upsides/downsides of using TWI “Job Methods” as our approach for kaizen?

Just last week I got an email and Powerpoint presentation from a small plant that introduced its first assembly cell. Most of us know the excitement that comes with first efforts to eliminate waste. Not only do the processes operate much better than before, but our eyes also become opened to the potential! At the beginning of a lean effort, eliminating waste works and is exciting.

But after a while — four or five years into a lean journey seems about right — those of us who are honest with ourselves begin to recognize that we do not have continuous improvement. Up to that time we have been defining success as achieving good outcomes with waste elimination projects and workshops, but then we start to wish we would keep improving continually across the organization.

The lean community seems to be recognizing that eliminating waste may not be such a good description or definition of lean. In short, the objective and actual activity are not to eliminate waste, but to work through the obstacles that lie between us and our next desired condition. Eliminating waste is just one result — one outcome — of such striving. The difference is important if we want to understand and operationalize what Toyota is doing to achieve continuous improvement. The following brief Slideshare presentation explains it:

The Evolution of Lean

The Job Methods side of TWI is great stuff that helps, as the program’s authors say, to bring out and improve many details of a job we never realized were there. But in a way, JM is still essentially about eliminating waste. The stated goal of JM is to eliminate, combine, rearrange and simplify details of a job in order to produce greater quantities of quality products in less time by better utilizing the available manpower, machines and materials. That sounds just like the excitement of the first four or five years of a lean journey, doesn’t it!

It may be important to see that TWI was applied within the context of a superordinate goal, the war effort, where the objective — the target condition — was to make more, faster. Two comments about that:

  1. Work in groups sure goes a lot better if you have a superordinate goal.
  2. The superordinate goal of the WWII era is not the superordinate goal for every situation.

I think if Henry Ford and his engineers, or the authors of the TWI materials, were to come back today and visit us in our factories and at our processes they might ask us with some interest, “What objective are you striving to reach here?” When I observe Toyota people in action, that’s usually one of the first questions they ask.

Mike


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