Tag Archives: TSSC

Always Made in America

[Blogger’s Note: A couple of important events coming up in the next couple weeks give me an opportunity to showcase a great American manufacturer in this post.

First the events:

1)    The 2014 Massachusetts Advance Manufacturing Summit, on April 29 at the Worcester, MA DCU Center will feature keynoter Harry Moser, a national champion for reshoring manufacturing. Through his organization, The Reshoring Initiative, Moser has highlighted the fallacies of “low cost” off shore production and created a new momentum to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. GBMP will have a booth at the conference, and we hope to see folks from our locale there.

2)    On May 5-6, as part of the Shingo Institute’s annual Shingo Conference, GBMP’s Shingo Certified Instructors will be teaching the Institute’s Discover Excellence course at Whirlpool’s Findlay Operations in Findlay, Ohio.

And that brings me to the great American manufacturer, one who will not “re-shore” because, despite all of the off-shoring frenzy of the last two decades, they kept jobs here in the U.S. – they never left! Whirlpool, where I’ll be teaching on May 5-6, has always been “Made in the USA.” I asked my friend, Kevin Spradlin, Assembly Leader at Whirlpool’s Findlay Operations, to provide a guest post to tell their story. I hope you’ll find it as inspiring as I have. In fact, we’ve invited Kevin and his team to present their lean journey at the Northeast L.E.A.N. Conference in October in Springfield, MA, a great opportunity for you and your team to network with other lean practitioners like Kevin!]

O.L.D.

————————————————-invested

 

Always Made in America

It is interesting to hear about companies proclaiming how they are bringing jobs back to America. Often they refer to it as re-shoring, in-sourcing, etc. The compelling part about Whirlpool’s story is that we have always been committed to U.S.-based manufacturing. Two decades ago as companies left our shores to follow “cheap” labor, we kept most of our manufacturing in the U.S. One has to ask: How did you compete when all of your competitors left? The answer is simple yet the journey has been hard. We had to develop a mindset of continuous improvement.

In the beginning, the road started with a small group of individuals completing a rigorous training called Operational Excellence. This is Whirlpool’s version of 6-sigma. At that point projects were bountiful and gains were huge. Several years of training, developing black belts and master belts through hands- on, tacit learning under the tutelage of a coach yielded tremendous results in our products and our profits. However, our top leadership was looking for more!

At the turn of this century, a core group of individuals started to study “The Machine that Changed the World.” In our initial lean journey we thought of lean as a set of tools; much like anybody on the outside looking in thought of OPEX (as we call it). However, after 5 to 6 years of starts, stops and learning, we really started to realize this is all about people! Moreover, if you really have people at all levels understand what a culture of continuous improvement is all about, a culture can truly start to change.

My own journey started well before my Whirlpool days when I was working for Delphi Automotive Systems and had the chance to work with John Shook’s TWI group.   My first teacher was an individual named Jim Parcus. Jim had worked at the Georgetown Toyota facility as a team member, team leader, and area manager. Jim was introducing us to concepts and tools, but though I did not realize at the time, also behaviors I was learning by being immersed in the application of the tools. I brought that learning with me to Whirlpool, but did not truly understand Kaizen — and what behaviors it took to support Kaizen and problem solving — until I had the chance to work with the YOMO consulting group at the Marion Division from 2007-2010. During that time, I had the privilege to work with many teachers, but our main teacher was Mr. Ohba.

Mr. Ohba was the former leader of the TSSC. Mr. Ohba had a team that was tasked to come in and help us learn how to transform the Marion Division of Whirlpool. Our “target” and/or business need was to dramatically reduce the cost of our front-load dryer by $50! As part of that learning, we also transformed our behaviors and how we thought about what it truly takes to develop people in the continuous improvement way of thinking. We were also fortunate that our plant leader, Brian Gahr, had worked for several years with Mr. Ohba and learned modeling the behaviors as a leader in lean.

Mr. Ohba had a way of asking great questions to make you think, but I was always amazed by his humility. He always would say that “nobody is an expert.” I interpreted that as we are always learning. So, my biggest learning through all of my experience is that lean gives us a vehicle to do great things by unlocking the potential of our people. Lean, Kaizen, continuous improvement — whatever you call it — is the competitive advantage as long as it is used to nurture and grow your folks!

So fast forward to 2014 in humble Findlay, Ohio, and what you find is the world’s largest dishwasher plant.   We have 2,200 employees and are the largest employer in Hancock County. We are part of Whirlpool’s overall Ohio presence of five plants encompassing more than 10,000 employees. Clyde sports the world’s largest washing machine plant and Marion is home to the world’s largest clothes dryer plant. Ottawa houses the upright freezer facility, and last but not least, Greenville is home to the legendary Kitchen Aid stand mixer plant. We just announced a $40M expansion to Greenville that will add 400 jobs to the plant. I am not sure any other manufacturer even makes small appliances in the U.S., let alone stand mixers. Overall Whirlpool employs 22,000 employees in North America. That is more than all of our major competitors combined! This did not happen by accident. It was a commitment to continuous improvement at all levels that fueled it. The passion for American manufacturing endures to this day.

Whirlpool is deeply committed to communities by providing good paying jobs and supporting community service. We support Habitat for Humanity, Cook for the Cure, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and our local United Way agencies. As a matter of fact, Findlay Operations has built several Habitat homes in the community — we were the first plant to build a Habitat Home in seven days! All of the credit goes to our greatest resource: our people. Nearly half of our employees have worked at the Findlay operation for more than 20 years. We believe these jobs represent more than just a job. All of these folks live locally, shop locally, pay taxes, tithe at church, etc. Our plant is the “lifeblood” of the community. We believe everybody working here is part of something bigger than themselves. We represent something greater than just building dishwashers. We believe we are creating a legacy that will endure for generations to come!

In conclusion, Whirlpool’s Findlay Operations are on a journey to become a Continuous Improvement Organization. We want to be the “undisputed choice” when someone goes to buy a dishwasher, and they only consider buying our product. We believe in putting the customer first, the dedication of our people and stay committed to continuous improvement wherever the work is done. We will accomplish this by means of 9 principles:

  1. Respect for the capabilities of all people
  2. Common objectives
  3. Business results driven through an external customer focus
  4. All decisions are principal based not rule based
  5. Personal development
  6. Teamwork
  7. Continuously improving
  8. Decision making at the lowest level as we problem solve
  9. Productive use of differences

Thanks Bruce for the chance to tell our story …the story of a company invested in American Manufacturing!

Warm Regards,

Kevin Spradlin, Stainless Steel Assembly Leader
Whirlpool Findlay Operations in Findlay, Ohio U.S.A.

Lines

linesAs any conference-goer can attest, the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line when that line is the lunch line.   At Lean conferences like the ones I attend it’s especially incongruous to hear stories all morning about customer service and flow, and then later stand in a long line at the lunch buffet.  (I confess, I’m not sure if I should be classified as the customer waiting for service, or inventory in queue before the serving process.  Can someone please help me clear up my role in that scenario?)

In this context, the recent LEI Transformation Summit in Orlando was noteworthy not only for its excellent theme, speakers and learning sessions, but also for its luncheon arrangements. On day one of the conference, I entered the dining room with the expectation that there would be iPhone time – time for emails and maybe a game of Words With Friends – while I stood in the lunch queue.  But there were no lines.  No waiting.  I watched intently as conference-goers streamed into the dining room and, hardly breaking stride, moved through one of four double-sided serving lines.

After lunch I asked Rachel Regan, LEI’s conference organizer, how they managed to avoid lines.  “Do you have a system?” I asked.  “Yes,” she replied, “we have a rule of thumb:  one two-sided table for every hundred attendees.”   She added, “We also try to choose meals that don’t require too much assembly, like sandwiches, because that can cause delays, and we keep the serving tables close together so there’s a better distribution of flow. The hotels like to spread the tables out, but people then tend to flock to the nearest table.  And we make sure that food is replenished frequently to avoid a line stop.”   Rachel thought for a moment and finally offered, “To be honest, we also had a little luck today because one of plenary sessions before lunch ended a little early and the other a little late, so this staggered the groups at the lunch line.”

I thanked Rachel for sharing her thoughts about the lunch line standardized work.  I thought to myself, “TPS works everywhere.”

This could have been the end of my post, but as luck would have it, the second day of LEI’s conference was opened by Jamie Bonini of TSSC co-presenting with Margarette Purvis, CEO of the New York City Food Bank and perhaps the most eloquent and passionate Lean advocate that I have heard in many years.   Her challenge: to reduce hours of waiting for food at their pantries.  Bear in mind, these are not queues of over-stuffed conference-goers like me waiting in a warm conference center.  The pantry serves persons with a critical need for nourishment, who stand in the cold, waiting to feed their families.  The pantries are their lifelines.  And as Ms. Purvis put it, “ They should not suffer the indignity of waiting for hours in line for a meal.”    Enter TSSC with an offer to help eliminate the pantry lines.  This compelling example of TPS employed for the public good is documented in the following link— many small changes for the better that came from the dedication of the NYC Food Bank staff under the generous guidance of TSSC. I encourage you to take a couple minutes to study it:   http://www.tssc.com/nfp-fbny.asp.   I thought to myself once again, “TPS works everywhere.”

Do you have a unique application of TPS that you would like to share?  Please comment.

O.L.D.

BTW: Speaking of conferences, don’t miss the upcoming 26th Internatinoal Shingo Conference, May 5-9 in Sandusky, Ohio.  I’ll be there and hope to see you too.

Stagnation Nation

Twenty years ago, I was introduced to a graphical method for, as it was put to me, “sharing what you see” with others. It was referred to as a material and information flow diagram, or M&I for short. Brian S., a consultant from TSSC who was assisting my factory, pointed to a diagram he had sketched earlier in the day and said “This is how we see the current condition of line X and I’d like to confirm it with you before we proceed.” I gazed at the drawing, a little reminiscent of a process map, but with symbols like striped arrows, and starbursts and, in particular, headstones.stagnation

“Headstones!” I exclaimed to Brian, “What do they represent?”

“Stagnation”, he replied, “of either material or information.” He continued, “like stagnant water: not flowing, smelly, a bad thing.” He pointed to a process box labeled ‘Assembly.’ “See here, there are eight days of queue in front of assembly,” he said. “That’s stagnation.”

The power of this graphically explicit M&I tool was immediately apparent. At a glance, the entire process condition from incoming purchased material to customer shipment was far more obvious. I studied the diagram, staring alternately at the piles of WIP on the actual floor and then back at the headstones before each process box on the M&I. “Hmm,” I answered as I summed up the days of inventory, “this looks like cumulatively about fifty-six days of inventory in queue across the entire process. Or should I call it “stagnation?”

“Call it inventory if you like, but it’s stagnating together with the associated production orders,” Brian answered.

“When will you teach me more about this M&I tool?” I asked.

“Wait a little,” Brian responded. “We’ll show you more when we think you’re ready.”

About a year after this early lesson, Learning to See was published, introducing the world to Value Stream Mapping (VSM). Perhaps the most significant technical method in the last 20 years, VSM has created the opportunity for its practioners to “see” their workplaces in a new way. Today the prescriptive VSM symbology, nearly identical to that in TSSC’s M&I method, has been copied into hundreds of derivative value stream mapping books and can be seen on the walls of factories, offices and clinics around the world. I wonder, however, why the judgmental headstone (stagnation) was replaced by a more nondescript triangle symbol (inventory) when the ideas were translated from Toyota to the rest of us.

“You can make your own symbols up,” Brian S. told me at a later time, “as long as you all understand what they mean.” But I think I’ll stick with the headstone rather than the triangle. Because fear of reducing inventory continues to be one of the biggest problems lean implementers face today, let’s make it as ugly as possible.

How about at your facility? Is it inventory or stagnation? I’d love to hear from you.

O.L.D.

BTW – There’s still time to sign up from my next free webinar on Tuesday, January 14, 3:00-3:45 p.m. EST. The topic is Value Stream Mapping: Mistakes and Faux Pas. Hope you can join me. Click here to read more and register.

Rowing II

Many managers ask me “How can I accelerate my company’s Lean transformation?”  My answer is two fold:  First get the direction right, and then get everyone rowing in that direction.

rowingOne of my posts from about three years ago (worth reading for context if you don’t remember it), entitled Rowing, relates a story about the second point, “getting everyone rowing.” The rowing analogy was shared with me (on a cocktail napkin) by Ryuji Fukuda, a Deming Prize Winner and author of Managerial Engineering (after 25 years, still one of the best Lean transformation books.)

Dr. Fukuda advocated that to get everyone rowing, it’s important first to provide full support for the “red-faced” employees, the ones who are already rowing, and second to find ways to engage those who are “in the boat but not yet rowing.”  As for the employees who are not even in the boat: Spending time with them is insulting to the employees who are already in the boat.

As a manager who spent far too much time trying to gather in “the lost sheep,” at the expense of the red-faced employees, this was an important lesson for me.

What was missing from the 1990 cocktail napkin rendering, however, was the “right direction” piece.   Today, many organizations provide alignment through a variety of policy deployment tools, town hall meetings, morning huddles and such.  But are these various mechanisms sufficient?  The Pied Piper of Hamelin, after all, provided total alignment for the town’s rat population, running them all over a cliff.  Taiichi Ohno, regarded as the primary creator of TPS (aka Lean), recognized that an organization’s philosophy must precede its strategy.  More recently that philosophy was put forth by the Toyota Production System Support Center with a further analogy:  True North – a set of fundamental guiding principles for transforming your organization.

So I’ve taken artistic liberty to add management into the boat. The red-faced manager at the helm is first making sure the boat’s heading is True North, and then doing his/her best to get everybody in the boat rowing in that direction.

rowing 2

True North is the theme for this year’s annual Northeast Region Shingo Prize Conference in Hyannis, Massachusetts.  It’s only a week away now.  Please don’t miss this very affordable opportunity to share with and learn from over 600 lean experts and practitioners how True North principles can transform your organization.

Check out the official daybook here and sign up today.  I’ll be looking for you  : )

O.L.D

Too Happy Too Soon

Our machine shop was assisted by Toyota Supplier Support Center in 1996 to reduce set-ups on our CNC lathes.  TSSC had already helped us in a downstream final assembly department, and now we were endeavoring to provide just-in-time delivery to that department from machining.  After some study we were able to determine that one lathe could produce sixty-six different parts for this downstream customer, nearly all that were needed.  [There is a prequel to this story regarding early struggles we had in machining before TSSC arrived.]  While there were clearly families of similar parts within this group, the challenge was to be able to run quantities of five to fifty pieces in the exact order of need, irrespective of ‘set-up efficiency.’  We were given a target by TSSC of 8 minutes per set-up, a daunting drop from our then current average of 90 minutes.   I knew we could do much better than 90 minutes, but I was privately skeptical of 8 minutes.

With TSSC’s help we analyzed current set-up activities in detail, breaking minutes down to seconds.  Simple preparation steps like bringing material to the machine and gathering tools had a big payback. These were the steps that companies often refer to as the “low-hanging fruit.”  Soon, set-ups were under 40 minutes.  We dropped lot sizes proportionately and, most importantly, on-time delivery for this machine shot up.  A machine that had always been behind, now had extra time available.  For the operators, who had been roundly criticized for an inability to get parts to assembly, this was a big deal — something that spurred them on.  We were like a football team that, after years of losing seasons, was now going to the super bowl!   When our teacher, Mr. Ohba, visited, he was pleased with our progress, but reminded us of the eight-minute goal, and challenged our operators to use their knowledge and creativity to find many small improvements.  Seconds mattered.

Three more weeks passed with operators chipping away at time wasters. Each time a set-up was made there were more ideas.  One operator suggested that tool holders, which were each mounted by four bolts to the turret, could in fact be secured with just two.  The remaining two holes were replaced with guide pins to make it easier to position the tool blocks.  We tried it; it worked. (The equipment manufacturer, incidentally, said it wouldn’t work.)  In the process of pushing the envelope on set-up reduction, we began to realize the possibilities for improvement were much greater than we had initially supposed.

By the time of Mr. Ohba’s next visit, set-up times were under 20 minutes with high reliability.  About this time, operators decided to expand the pilot project to an adjacent lathe, replicating many of the lessons they had learned on the BNC.  This seemed like a good idea to me also.  Why not deploy what we had learned?

On the day of Mr. Ohba’s visit I greeted him enthusiastically in our company lobby with the words, “Things are going well.  Set-ups for the BNC are now below 20 minutes and we’ve expanded the pilot to include our LN22.” The words had barely left my mouth when Mr. Ohba turned on his heels and headed out the front door.  “Good luck.” he said.  “You won’t be needing our (TSSC’s) help any longer.”  Flabbergasted, I followed him to the parking lot.  I could see that I’d made a fatal mistake, but had not yet figured it out.  “I’m sorry,” I blurted out.  “What have we done wrong?”

Mr. Ohba stopped, turned to me and heaved a sigh.  “You’ll never be better than 20 minutes,” he said. In an instant I reflected on the miraculous change that had occurred in our machine shop over the preceding weeks and realized that I’d inadvertently short-circuited that process.  I apologized once more, apparently with enough anguish that he reconsidered and followed me back into the factory.

TooHappyPicHad my mistake not been brought to my attention, I might very well have never understood the problem – and we would never have gotten to the eight minute changeover – which we achieved several months later.  The moral of this story is that managers like me can become mesmerized by early results – or sometimes intermediate results – and lose sight of the environment that makes these possible.   I was ‘too happy, too soon’, a behavior that plateaus individual and organizational development.

How about your organization?  Have you had a similar experience?   Have you ever been too happy too soon?

O.L.D.

Value Stream Wrapping

Gazing into a microscope as a college sophomore, I sketched the innards of a single-celled critter as part of biology exam.  I knew what I was looking for, but according to my professor, was a bit lazy transferring my observations to paper.  The result: no points for my illegible artwork.  I pleaded my case: “I’m not an artist.”

“Observation without sharing,” the prof replied, “has no value.  Practice your drawing.”

Thirty years later, I recalled the professor’s admonition as I stood in my company’s machine shop scribbling my first value stream map on a sheet of notepaper.    A few weeks before, our consultant from TSSC (Toyota Supplier Support Center), Bryant S, had given our improvement team a short tutorial on what he referred to as material and information flow diagramming, or M&I for short.  (M&I was Toyota’s name for what we now call value stream mapping.)  Drawing about half a dozen symbols on an easel, Bryant explained, “Here are few M&I symbols that you can use to share from a TPS point of view what you observe on the shop floor.  Take paper and pencil with you to the floor, and record what you see.  Your objective is to describe the current condition there in relation to the ideal TPS condition and then develop a realistic target and improvement plan that will fit on an 11×17 sheet.”  (Today this plan-on-a-page is referred to as an A3, a nifty way to capture and share what we see.)

My homework was to complete an A3 in my machining department using M&I diagramming. Regrettably, my artistry had not improved remarkably in three decades, so I cleverly (so I thought) transferred my observations to an excel worksheet using Microsoft drawing symbols to approximate the standard notation that Bryant had provided.  I anxiously awaited his return visit to show him my high tech rendering.

Bryant smiled when he first saw my handiwork.  “You should spend more time observing, and less time making it pretty.”

“I’m not an artist,” I pleaded, “and this is the only way I could fit my observations onto a single page.”

“If you can’t fit the key points of the observation on a single page,” Bryant responded, “maybe you’re missing the key points.  Keep it simple.  It doesn’t need to be artwork, but the process should follow a few simple rules.  It’s a means, not an end.  Bryant sent me back to the drawing board with advice:

  • Keep it simple – pencil, eraser, and a single sheet of paper.
  • Keep the TPS ideal in mind.  (He wouldn’t tell me explicitly what this ideal was, but based on hints, I took it to include perfect quality, exact quantity, lowest cost and immediate delivery.)
  • Take it to the workplace and observe directly to understand the gap between current and ideal.

Fast forwarding to 2012, I have a little better appreciation for the TSSC consultant’s concerns when I visit Lean ‘war rooms’ covered with VSM wallpaper: yards of paper roll and post-it notes; imposing but usually not illuminating.  A single sheet, yes; but a tad larger than A3 size.  Often key measures like Takt time or symbols like the push production arrow ( ) are absent, indicating a lack of interest in the TPS ideal.  How much of this scroll was written at the workplace, I wonder, and who goes to the war room to share?

I have an idea for recycling these scrolls (see right):

At the other extreme are the many computerized versions of VSM, offered as improved versions of the manual process. Today, there are hundreds of software tools designed to ‘streamline’ and ‘upgrade’ the VSM process.  Many have integrated other bells and whistles including hybrid VSM/process maps and statistical analysis techniques.  Not simple, not from the floor, almost never with the TPS ideal condition as a guidepost.  These souped-up versions of my 1996 Excel attempt run the risk, like PowerPoint presentations, of focusing resources on appearance over substance. They are pretty, but too often hidden away from most employees and the workplace, both during and after their creation.

Maybe I’m just showing my age, or maybe sometimes a pencil and an 11×17 sheet of paper is best.   What do you think?  Let me hear from you.

O.L.D.

BTW:  Speaking of sharing, mark you calendar for September 25-26, our 2012 Northeast Shingo Conference: Learning to Share.