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Jim Huntzinger

Jim Huntzinger: Right-Designing: Freeing up Kaizen Capacity

By Jim Huntzinger, - Last updated: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

My response is not necessarily kaizen in complete context, but I will address a certain aspect which, unfortunately, consumes a significant amount of kaizen effort.

I am assuming several assumptions – clear objectives already existing or are being processed – customer requirements in volume, features, and functions.  And that the process, as articulated by Mike Rother in Kata (current condition and target condition – reference Mike’s slideshare referenced in his post) is what is driving the overarching work of the manufacturing engineers I address below.

While TWI is a great structure to develop kaizen and a daily and normal function structure, it is focused on operators and supervisors for the most part.  (Granted it will lead to the ability, experience, and leadership of supervisors as they move upward in the organization during their career.)  This is only part of the kaizen function.  Another key, but often missed aspect is with the manufacturing engineers and the process development process.

Manufacturing engineers are the leading edge folks responsible for developing, designing and deploying “lean” systems.  Unfortunately, most organizations, even ones implementing lean, have shopfloor folks “kaizening” the poorly (batch) designed systems.  The shopfloor folks should not be doing this – nor should they have too!  The shopfloor folks should be fine-tuning, problem-solving, learning, and making adjustments/improvements (this is what TWI is great for – PDCA on a daily basis) to flow (one-piece) systems and breakdowns of flow.  Simply put the manufacturing engineers should be delivering right-designed systems.

But of course, the manufacturing engineers cannot do their work in a vacuum.  They must be the integrators of the product engineers to the shopfloor folks – the connection.  Taking product design – this means working out specifications, tolerances, and features with the product engineers which make both functional (customer focus) and economic (company) sense – and developing machines, tooling, fixtures, line layouts, material handling, etc. which allow operators and supervisors to manufacture high quality, consistent parts on stable manufacturing lines.  This is no easy task, but a highly critical one to the operational and financial success of an organization.

While there is certainly more details underscoring what I have briefly described above, it is a key feature to kaizen.  And, while it is activity much larger than daily, basic kaizen, it sets the tone for evolving right-designed systems so that the daily kaizen work of operators and supervisors can focus in incremental improvements –not system redesigned improvements.  Manufacturing engineers must also remain activity engaged with the incremental improvements made by the shopfloor (daily kaizen) so they can make the needed adjustments for the next generation of systems (machines, tooling, fixtures, etc.) they develop and deliver to the shopfloor.  So deep knowledge of processes, strong relationships with the shopfloor and product engineering, and deep comprehension with one-piece flow and Jidoka (in the context of equipment and people) is critical to successful manufacturing engineers; and, in turn, excellent daily kaizen.

This delivers superior systems (although, ever-evolving) and relieves the shopfloor from system engineering, and allows them to focus and concentrate on daily kaizen, continuous improvement, problem-solving, and people development.

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