Sep 29, 2013 | Posted by Matt Elson
While an overall toolkit approach to TPS implementation is NOT a good thing (check out our previous posts for more on this one), that doesn’t mean leaders don’t need a deep understanding of the work, techniques and principles. If they don’t, how can be effective teachers and developers of others?
Deep knowledge comes from OJT and mentoring from an experienced coach in the various aspects of the area you leading (production, supply chain, finance, etc.) as well as the various facets of TPS.
Much of the training within a TPS environment comes from struggling on your own to find a solution (using the scientific method of course!), with small “adjustments” offered from your coach. One of my first experiences at TMMC was very similar to this…
I was assigned the task of analyzing why repeated shortages were occurring in a particular area. Being fairly new, I tried a “desktop” approach to “problem solving”…analyzing the various reports that were generated from the system. As you can already imagine, the reports gave me a lot of information, some of which seemed to contradict (how can there be a shortage if more kanbans were read than was forecasted? Why did the shortages seem to come in “clumps”?). Needless to say, I struggled for a while and wasn’t getting far. My Japanese mentor came to check on my progress, and seeing what I was doing, suggested that I go to the shop floor and observe & count the kanban cards (at that point, TMMC used physical cards to move all the materials in the plant) as they circulated to see if I could see any patterns or abnormalities there (sound familiar…this is genchi genbutsu, but I didn’t know it at the time). I pushed back and said that the systems are there for a reason, and the answer MUST be buried in the reports somewhere! The answer was simple and direct: “Matt-san, fortunately or unfortunately, you MUST do…Please do.” And that was that; I proceeded to the shop floor.
Shortly after, I discovered that there was in fact a problem with the number of kanbans circulating, but I only understood this once I went to investigate myself, first hand. A very important and early lesson for me in one of the technical concepts of TPS. Frankly, the lesson was lost on me for quite some time, but now I look back with thanks that my mentor was following the tried and true method of coaching.
Check out some of the other technical aspects of TPS below, but don’t forget they’re all part of an overall system!