Norman Bodek has contributed several articles to Superfactory, including the featured article this month entitled The Fear of Change. Mr. Bodek has been in a unique position to meet, work with, and then translate the writings of some of the original masters of Lean such as Shigeo Shingo, Taiichi Ohno, and Hiroyuko Hirano. His first person accounts provide a fascinating insight into how they created change.
An example is this description of an exchange between Shingo and Ohno…
"One day in the late 1960’s Taiichi Ohno came over to Shigeo Shingo and said, “I want you to see if you can reduce the changeover time on this punch press from four hours to two hours. It is the only way that we can reduce our lot sizes.” Again, this was a magical moment. Imagine if your client or your boss came over to you and asked that question of you and you knew that it had always taken close to four hours to do that changeover. What would you think? Probably that the client or boss was a little bit crazy.
But, Shingo said, “Okay!” And then he sat, watched and studied various changeovers in the plant.
A few days later Ohno came over again and said to Shingo, “Two hours is not good enough we need to lower it to 10 minutes.”
And Shingo said, “Okay.” Dr. Shingo above all taught us to overcome our natural resistance to change.
Dr. Shingo then sat for days and watched changeovers taking place within the plant. And slowly the ‘mist’ lifted and he over time was able to accomplish Mr. Ohno’s wishes and reduce the changeovers to less than ten minutes.”
Here’s another excerpt, this time from his article The Ten Commandments of Kaikaku.
"I had been to Toyota many times bringing study groups to Japan. On one trip I went over to Taiichi Ohno and said, "I do appreciate the opportunity to visit Toyota with my groups but every time we come here we always see an old plant with old equipment. Could it be possible to visit one of your newer plants?" Ohno sort of scolded, looked strangely at me and said, "Bodek-san you do not understand the Toyota Production System, the newness of the factory machines has nothing to do with it." I learn the hard way.
I brought Dr. Shingo to many different American plants and on each visit instead of just learning from this great master the senior managers wanted to show Dr. Shingo how good they were. At McDonald Douglas and Dresser Industries managers there both insisted that Dr. Shingo look at their new machine centers showing off their million dollar equipment that was able to do quick change-overs. Dr. Shingo would just laugh and tell them how foolish they were to have spent so much money when for only a few dollars and a new understanding they could have accomplished that and much more."
And his article on The Gemba Walk vividly describes how a plant manager communicates important concepts to his team.
"During a trip to Japan, Ryuji Fukuda took me to the Meidensha Electric plant outside of Tokyo and introduced me to the plant manager.
At 11:00 a.m., he sat near the window in the center of the room to be able to observe everyone else. He asked me to join him on his daily walk, which he told me was the most valuable part of his job.
The plant manager said: “Norman, I select a different theme for every walk, and this morning I’m going to look at the quality charts to see if they have a real purpose for the company and for the employees, to see if people are keeping them up to date, how they’re used, who looks at them and when they’re looked at. I want to find out the real value of those quality charts.”