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Jim Huntzinger

Jim Huntzinger: Quality Is In The People

By Jim Huntzinger, - Last updated: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

As Mr. Micklewright points out one of the aspects of the lean business model is increasing productivity and efficiency – this is often the focus of many lean programs (program, unfortunately, instead of a business model).  This aspect is manifested in developing and implementing flow.  But quality is directly linked to flow, and this link is all too often missed, or ignored.

In order to maintain good flow – that is constant and consistent flow (and ideally one-piece flow) – certain outcomes have to happen, and not just by circumstance; uptime on equipment, no long changeovers, consistent supply of the right parts, etc., etc, and maintaining perfect quality.  Not having perfect quality breakdowns down good flow.  (Or quickly losses customers, if you choose to ignore it!)  Even if you look at the other issues mentioned (machine uptime, changeovers, etc.) those also can and do impact the quality of your process and, therefore, your products.  Quality absolutely co-exists, at all times, with the flow aspect of the lean business model.

It reminds me of the stories from when the concepts of TPS first began to make their way into our industrial landscape.  The Toyota folks would be all happy and excited by the pain exerted on them from the breakdown of flow from quality problems rearing their ugly head.  While their American counterparts would shudder and squirm from the very thought of the pain of enduring this situation.  Same situation, two different worldviews.

OK – I have simply explained the mechanics of the situation.  What to do – or better yet, why the completely different response by the Toyota folks compared to their American counterparts at that time (actually even still today all too frequently)?  The difference comes from people.  People can and do make the difference.  The Americans saw only the mechanics of the problem; and, as Mike Micklewright points out, they saw only the burden of needing more people (resources) to support a system which does not function well.  Their view was external.

The Toyota folks saw a reason to continue to develop their people – and that excites them.  In fact, their people were already developed with the skills to resolve problems and issues.  Quickly observe, analyze, evaluate, try and repeat.  And accomplish this day in and day out.  Their quality was embedded in the very function of the flow.  It was one in the same and the link between flow and quality was people.  (Note:  quality and problem-solving can be viewed, in this case, as one in the same.)

Just think of the TPS House model – two pillars, JIT/Flow and Jidoka/Built-in Quality.  Guess what stands between the two pillars – people!  And the TPS House model labeled it, “Respect for people.”  Hint, hint, it is not a coincidence.

Granted this is easier said than done.  But it is certainly possible, and the organizations which have accomplished this, at some level, certainly radiate a noticeable attitude.  This is what outsiders notice as a continuous improvement or learning “culture.”  An all too important, but all too frequently missed aspect of this is quality embedded into the process.  There are many functional – mechanical – attributes to accomplish this, mistake proofing, 5S, etc.  But even more important and fundamental is developing the skills in your people to actively and effectively observe, analyze, evaluate, and try – but then constantly repeat this process.

And if you don’t think quality is important – just ask yourself when you are out being a consumer.  We have all personally experienced it – quality does matter to each of us.

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