44 | MARCH 2016 www.canadianmetalworking.com
BY MATT ELSON
Let’s get it out of the
way right now:
5S is not the
(TPS). Value stream mapping (VSM)
is not the starting point, and kaizen
is not a verb, noun, or event.
Many people mistake the individual tools of continuous improvement
as the most important part of the
program. This is reasonable, because
experienced coaches seem to focus
on the tools relentlessly. But in reality, they focus on forcing the learner
into a new routine.
The tools are just the most visible
part that we can see, and subsequently adopt. Personnel development actually is the central focus of
DEVELOPING A CULTURE
There are important technical
aspects to establishing and maintaining a culture of continuous
improvement. The approach is
similar regardless of the industry,
plant, or facility, and the concepts
are applicable equally in a custom
job shop or a plant with dozens of
As a practitioner of improvement,
you must understand when and
how to apply the tools in varying
On one hand, if your improvement
journey already is well underway,
On the other hand, if you are new
to TPS concepts—sometimes known
as lean—there is a recommended
approach, with associated technical
STABILIZE AND STANDARDIZE
The prime focus of this phase is
being active and stabilizing processes to meet customer demands in
terms of quality, delivery, and cost.
Shop floor kaizen activities typically
focus on these five areas:
1. Takt time planning and standardizing work, and using a cycle
time versus takt time graph (a work
2. Practical problem solving, which
also is sometimes called the 5 Why
Problem Solving system.
3. Continuous flow/one-piece flow.
4. Quality defect reduction by 80 to
90 per cent.
5. Improved delivery performance
to 90-plus per cent.
The focus should be areas of
the greatest business need, not
low-hanging fruit. The idea is to
make work easier for team members, while making improvements in
operations, which in turn help the
business. Most important during
this time is that you practice your
At this point in your transformation
journey, you have begun to con-
nect model areas together into an
integrated system. By focusing on
process level first (rather than the
big picture like in a traditional value
stream map), you get improvements
that help with organizational buy-in.
While everyone loves sticky-note-on-the-wall exercises, people are
really looking for ways to make their
daily lives better.
Connecting the various processes
into your value chain means implementing two well-known systems:
1. Just-in-Time (JIT). Using a pull
system to determine the quantity of
production (replacing what the customer consumes), and using heijunka
(smoothing by volume and variety) to
determine the timing of production.
2. Jidoka (built-in quality).
Building in quality at the source
means having the ability to stop and
notify when a problem (commonly
known as an andon) occurs, and having a support structure in place to
take action to solve the problem and
Another aspect of jidoka is the separation of human and machine work,
which creates higher team member
engagement and utilization.
An important note on these systems
is making sure you have the process
nailed down manually before ever
attempting to apply automation like
software. If you can’t manage it with
a simple piece of paper and pencil,
adding the additional cost and effort
of software will likely make things
Once these management systems
are accepted in your organizational
culture, you can apply technology to
reduce the cycle time.
THE FOUNDATION FOR IMPROVEMENT: AN
INTEGRATED ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
Understanding how each continuous improvement tool
is part of focusing on the big picture