Lean Manufacturing essay

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Lean manufacturing is the process of improving methods in a company in order to eliminate waste but companies do fail to become lean because they don't have an environment that is suitable to maintain and implement lean (Cox & Blackstone,2004). Toyota Corporation invented and mastered Lean Philosophy which other manufacturing companies are trying to adopt. Lean on the other hand is culture enhanced in the company and not a set of tools which most people believe. Therefore it is difficult to implement Lean Philosophy when a company has issues with the general morale of employees, product quality, equipment uptime, employee turnover because it will be difficult to shift the employees to a new way of conducting business for they will be constant fire fighting mode (Cox & Blackstone, 2004).

For a company to be prepared for Lean it must be able to fix the obvious problems first and most times the employers will know exactly what the problems and solutions are. Most companies don't have the time, incentive, or resources to problems for instance if an automobile is constantly breaking down because of a bad transmission (Cox & Blackstone, 2004). According to Toyota Corporation they do fix the problem by either repairing or making a replacement of the transmission. Therefore Lean Philosophy in the Toyota Corporation is not used to fix broken processes but rather as a way that will general improve the working processes that will eventually eliminate waste.

Toyota Corporation has developed a culture that first realizes that they have to value, nurture and develop their employees. Toyota Corporation has built a culture of people wanting to continuously improve and this in return has made the employees to be more engaged in their jobs (Cox & Blackstone, 2004). This in return has made the employees to feel valued by the company because they are rewarded and noticed for their contributions. Hence a successful Lean environment in any company cannot be maintained by the high employee turnover.

On the other hand some companies view their employees as an expense rather that an asset and when this takes place it's difficult to implement a long term Lean strategy. This makes employees of a company seek alternative employment and therefore for a company to sustain the long term lean philosophy require in their workforce they must make sure that they are engaged, loyal and consistent (Debusk &Rangel, 2004).

Good managers are coaches, poor managers are dictators. A good manager will believe in the team concept where every member of the team is important and his/her opinions are valued (Bovarnick, 2007). A good manager will value his/her employees and realize that for him/her to be successful, the team has to be successful. A poor manger will dictate to his/her employees, which creates havoc! A good, efficient, business unit with high employee morale will fall apart within weeks if a poor manager has taken over.

Poor managers fail because they don't have strong leadership skills. They lack people skills, communication skills, decision making skills, and delegation skills necessary to develop and maintain effective teams (Bovarnick, 2007). A strong leader must sell the Lean Strategy and realize that ultimately the employees as a team are the ones to make it happen. To become Lean is to become World Class. When walking into a facility that has an unclean, unorganized work environment, one knows he/she haven't walked into a World Class facility (Bovarnick, 2007). There is no need to look at the productivity numbers to determine whether or not the facility is World Class. If a plant is World Class, it looks World Class as soon as you walk into the door.

A Lean facility is thoroughly organized. Every process is clearly defined via standards. Production is operated via very clear Visual Management. A true World Class facility has the discipline to sustain organization. Outside auditors, potential customers and employees will be turned off if the work environment isn't clean and organized (Debusk &Rangel, 2004).
 Keeping a work area clean and organized is simple; however, many companies overlook this simple task (Debusk &Rangel, 2004).

Many of the decisions carried out by the senior management are rather implemented without questioning despite the consequences that will follow later. Hence, most of the times decisions are made by senior management without them fully understanding the issues and process. This makes the Lower-level managers ultimately implement ideas and strategies that are not based politics rather than logic making them to implement ideas even if they themselves do not believe in them. Thus it has created numerous problems which have proved to be difficult in implementing Lean Strategies.

Decisions should be made throughout the organization through effective communication making it the mandate of the senior management to not only sell their ideas but to be open to questioning and suggestions from lower-level managers. Therefore the senior management must understand the issues at hand and processes taken through effective communication with the managers at the different levels because they should work as a team rather than individuals for the common good of the company.

1. Who are the "coordinators" referred to in the article? What role have they played in educating Toyota's workforce in promoting the TPS (Toyota Production System) philosophy? Why are they so hard to replicate?

Toyota on the other hand is re-evaluating some of its fundamental operating strategies for instance it does not focus on machines or high speed information technology but rather its employees who are instrumental in making the company  a manufacturing powerhouse during the past 25 years. When Toyota first began opening factories in the U.S. in the mid-1980s the Japanese managers were commonly known as coordinators. This led to kicking off its dramatic global expansion because most of the important people who were running the new plants weren't top executives, but in midlevel (Womack & Jones, 2003). These coordinators were experts in Toyota's Lean-manufacturing philosophies and techniques. Hence they were commonly referred to as the Toyota Production System, or TPS and the coordinators who usually had 20 or more years of experience, usually shunned classrooms. Thus the coordinators' did train American shop-floor managers and the hourly associates by aggressively looking at the issues directly on the assembly line.

Over five decades is when the principles behind Lean production started to take shape. This initially began with efforts in the 1930s by Kiichiro Toyoda who was one of the company's founding fathers. Toyota system on the other hand took its current form under the leadership of Taiichi Ohno during the 1950s (Womack & Jones, 2003). Taiichi Ohno was a legendary Toyota engineer who drew inspiration from a trip that he made to the U.S. where he did watched how a supermarket stocked its shelves by a just-in-time delivery of goods.

There are seven forms of muda, or waste, in any process according to Mr. Ohno and while he trained recruits who were to join the Toyota's elite Operations Management Consulting Division, he told them that they had to watch that job until they could identify how an issue could be improved. Hence a trainee would stand for nearly a day before he was able to satisfy Mr. Ohno with an answer.

Toyota factories achieved huge gains in efficiency and productivity when Mr. Ohno began applying his production approach full-scale. Toyota did established a reputation for bullet-proof reliability that made efficient production to an obsessive concern for quality and in turn made it to have a huge competitive advantage. Lean production was a deeply entrenched way of life at Toyota by the late 1980s. Thus the lean production was governing just about every aspect of its corporate activities.

2. According to Hajime Oba, what is wrong with Detroit's approach to Lean? Based on your understanding of American auto manufacturers, do you agree or disagree?

In North America Hajime Oba, a retired TPS guru who still works for the company on a project-by-project basis likens the system to a form of religion because the managers in Detroit's Big Three auto makers, according to him do  use Lean techniques simply as a way to slash inventory (Womack, et all., 1991). Hajime Oba relates this to as creating a Buddha image and thereafter forgetting to inject soul in it. Toyota over the years has discovered that its corporate faith was getting watered down (Womack, et all., 1991). This can be seen when Toyota began to spread its operations world-wide while it hired generations of employees ever more distant from Mr. Ohno. Thus Toyota's massive factory in Georgetown was the first plant the auto maker built in the U.S. from the ground up and it routinely claimed the top spots in J.D. Power & Associates' which was a widely viewed quality survey for cars that were sold in the U.S. Georgetown has slumped after being named North America's second-best plant in 2001 behind Toyota's Canadian plant in Cambridge, Ontario (Womack & Jones, 2003).

Georgetown has faced one major issue which has been language because most of the Toyota-production-system masters speak fluently only in Japanese while their counterparts only that being the American employees speak only English. Lean production in Toyota has almost being impossible and has defiantly led to other problems because of the linguistic and cultural barriers.

As sales of Toyota vehicles in the North American market took off it brought another major issue that is time or the lack of it (Womack & Jones, 2003). A plant like Georgetown had to ramp up quickly to keep up with demand by promoting American shop-floor managers and hourly associates. This was contrary to lean approach where they first had nurtured them gradually in the Toyota manufacturing way and deepening their skills and knowledge before being promoted to managerial positions (Womack & Jones, 2003).

3. There is an old saying, "Haste makes waste." How does this apply to what is happening in the Georgetown plant? What is Toyota doing about it?

At Georgetown, trouble is seen when some hourly assemblers began ignoring standardized work processes and this is considered one of the biggest mistakes inside Toyota plants because of the impact on the accuracy and consistency of manufacturing. Lean-production masters in Georgetown have being lost due to age and as well as competitors (Womack, et all., 1991). One of them was Kazumi Nakada, a TPS master, who worked in tandem with Mr. Cho, did leave Toyota in 1995 to join GM ( Shirouzu & Moffett, 2004). According to GM this was a move which was meant to intensifying its efforts to catch up with Toyota in vehicle quality as well as to copy its manufacturing methods (Shirouzu & Moffett, 2004).

Without relying so much on Japanese TPS coordinators Georgetown's mastery of Lean production decided to launched an emergency 18-month project in 2000 (Womack, et all., 1991). This was a level where it could function where the plant's top management circles in that order would gradually back up the core of its front-line managers. The attempt has from that time where it has continued as a more formalized Organization Development Group.

When Mr. Oba, the TPS guru was recruited by Mr. Convis so that he could help implement the Georgetown project, there were many issues in hand. He found many shop-floor leaders did spend too much time in their offices rather than prowling the factory floor leading and coaching kaizen projects with assembly workers. Things did change when about 70 midlevel managers through projects at various Toyota parts suppliers for "real life" kaizen and the aim of this was to be part of the highlight the needed in order for them to learn more about TPS.

Georgetown in 2002, suffered one of the biggest blows in terms of quality for instance the plant began manufacturing a new Camry sedan in the fall of 2001. Thereafter buyers began complaining about the cup holders which interfered with the shift lever when a tall travel mug was placed in them and also the griping that was brought about by the car's spongy brakes. lack of testing caused the long skinny plastic strips that covered up weld marks on the car's roof to sometimes peeled off this concludes that haste makes waste ( Womack & Jones, 2003). This problems that rose did help send customer complaints about the quality of the new Camry soaring in the annual initial quality survey by J.D. Power despite only two years earlier the Camry was America's best vehicle in that segment ( Womack & Jones, 2003). This goes along way to show that Toyota lean approach had failed because of the haste methods of running the company for instance in 2002, the car had 117 problems per 100 vehicles.

Despite the fact that the number of customer complaints reducing  the Camry's initial quality ranking continued to decline for example in 2003 it was No. 7 and No. 8 in 2004, placing the car well behind its rivals ( Womack & Jones, 2003). Toyota is scrambling to take Lean production to a new level despite some rivals closing the gap in quality and efficiency.

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