Leader Standard Work and Kamishibai [Case Study]

case studySituation. A multi-national manufacturer was implementing a lean management system (LMS) in a phased manner within one of their facilities. The target facility operated four separate comprehensive value streams. The LMS implementation incrementally covered the first pilot value stream and then continued to deploy it throughout the remaining value streams. LMS elements included daily tiered huddle or reflection meetings, gemba-based leader standardized work (LSW), one-on-one coaching meetings, and andon/andon response.

Problem. Due the breadth of the value stream(s) relative to the number of processes, number of natural work teams, plant floor footprint and the like, the sheets that the senior leaders used to conduct their LSW became too large and too complex to easily manage. For example, the site leader needed to personally check the sufficiency of and adherence to operational standardized work throughout the plant. However, the potential targets to check were in the many dozens. To illustrate, just two of the many checks were: 1) check one operator within cell XYZ to ensure that standardized work is being adhered to and is sufficient – right steps, sequence, cycle time, and standard WIP, and 2) check ABC FIFO lane to ensure that the max level is not exceeded and materials are pulled in first-in-first-out manner. Even after spreading the targets over multiple days and weeks so that the site leader only had a handful to check per day, the sheets were several pages long and it became difficult to understand what checks should be conducted at what time.

Action. Leadership desired to maintain the underlying principles of the LMS, but needed to find a way to conduct the LSW checks so that they were less onerous. They adopted the use of a kamishibai board (a.k.a. “standardized work audit board,” or “K board”), a visual tool that captures each LSW check for a particular area on an individual card. Each card lists the condition to check on both sides. One side is green in color (normal condition), and one side is red (abnormal condition). These cards are pulled by a leader from a box or bin attached to/near the board. The leader then conducts the check. If it is found that the condition is normal (i.e., the FIFO lane quantity is below the max, materials are flowing first-in-first-out, etc.), then the card is placed on the board green side out. If there is something abnormal (i.e., the FIFO lane materials are being pulled based upon how easy they are to build downstream and not first-in-first-out). The card is placed on the board red side out with a written explanation of the abnormal condition. The area leader, with coaching from their leader(s), as required, will then identify the root cause and the countermeasure and record on the same board. These boards are refreshed periodically – often daily or weekly.

Results. By using the kamishibai concept, the company was able to simplify the LSW sheets, thereby reducing confusion and stress. Many of the items on the sheet were replaced with instructions to go to the kamishibai board in a particular area and then randomly pick two cards (for example) and conduct the audit. In addition, the kamishibai board made abnormalities even more visible to the various stakeholders and prompted more sustainable fixes. Related posts: Developing Leader Standard Work – Five Important Steps, Respect the Process

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Robert Drescher's picture

Hi Mark

Generally if Lean isn't being maintained than one has to ask the question why. Often the answer is not the one we want to hear, because it shows something isn't quite right.

Recently I toured a Toyota plant and got to talk with the people there. Good Standard Work instructions, create and follow a natural flow to the work, thus deviating from them will cause more problem, than benefit. In fact their new hires have to know the standard work instruction for their position by heart before they ever get to actually touch a vehicle.

Good 5S means everything is where a worker needs it to be so they can do their job right with the least effort possible, so they can focus on other issues like ensuring quality. At Toyota, because everything is so focused on ensuring that a job will be done right every time, not following proper procedures, becomes an easy to abnormality that gets caught instantly. Workers, Leaders, Managers, and Engineers work together to constantly improve everything, but always in a manner that makes it harder for an abnormality to exits, by making it easier for a worker to do their job right and to maintain proper 5S and to follow accepted Standard Work than to do something abnormal.

Whenever people work around the system as opposed to following it, it means that there is still something off with the process or system that needs to be fixed. Toyota has been fixing their processes and systems for decades, and they are still doing it, it is those abnormalities that often point to the very issues they need to address. But at Toyota an abnormality is not looked at as a problem that needs to be fixed, but instead as an opportunity to improve their process, so in fact everyone looks for them so they can be addressed instead of using them as a judgment system. Their managers audit, but they are also seen correcting things instantly themselves, when people see that happening doing things right becomes a way of life, and senior managers can instead focus on correcting those remaining issues that still need their involvement to be fixed.

Instead of having audits, they should be running improvement opportunity evaluations, the abnormalities that still exist and crop up mean there is still room for improvement. Instead of just giving people a green or red card, stop and discuss with them why the abnormality still occurs and gather their ideas as how to solve them.

Long before Toyota was even consider a major automaker, I went through a steel industry plant that painted the steel used for buildings. That plant was so clean you could have eaten off the floor. Nothing was ever out of place, and it was simply that way because the CEO wanted it that way, he walked his plant with a cleaning rag in his pocket, if he spotted a drop of anything on the floor he cleaned it, his union member work force all did the exact same thing because it was just how things were done there. If the boss cared about the conditions and safety issues that related to were you as an employee worked, than why wouldn't you as an hourly employee. The man that ran the factory created and environment that doing the right thing was just easier than doing anything wrong, it was a truly Lean company, before Lean ever exited. Any really good process will get followed simply because doing things right will always be easier than doing them wrong is, if that is not the current state in an organization than they need to do a lot more work.

Toyota focusses on making sure the proper state is the one that requires the least effort to maintain. Any truly Lean company will take steps to generate the required changes and improvements that following the proper required standard work will be the easiest way to get there job done, if the system allows for people to skip an item in the product production queue for another one that is easier there is still something that needs to be fixed. This quote "(i.e., the FIFO lane materials are being pulled based upon how easy they are to build downstream and not first-in-first-out)" shows me they have a lot of work to do on fixing how their process works, it should never be easier to pick any other job over the one they should do next.