The best busi­ness lessons are learned first-hand

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - NEWS -

There is no bet­ter way to im­prove un­der­stand­ing than to go di­rectly to the source – and the source of the hugely suc­cess­ful Lean Think­ing is Ja­pan. Toy­ota de­vel­oped it to drive their global suc­cess and the rest of the world is still striv­ing to learn from its ex­am­ple.

New Zealand’s own mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar con­struc­tion com­pany Calder Stewart is just one lo­cal busi­ness look­ing to learn from the Ja­panese Lean ex­perts. HR man­ager Denise Cooper re­cently re­turned from an in­ten­sive tour of Ja­pan fo­cused on learn­ing more and see­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion of Lean Think­ing across a range of in­dus­tries.

“We be­gan im­ple­ment­ing Lean Think­ing prin­ci­ples into our busi­ness two or three years ago, and I ac­tu­ally thought I un­der­stood the prin­ci­ples. How­ever af­ter ev­ery­thing I saw and ex­pe­ri­enced in Ja­pan, I now re­alise that my un­der­stand­ing was very lim­ited – and a lit­tle knowl­edge can be a dan­ger­ous thing.

“In the com­pa­nies we vis­ited, ev­ery­one lives and breathes Lean Think­ing. They don’t get up in the morn­ing and go to work and do it for part of the day. It’s part of their mind­sets, it’s the com­pany cul­ture.”

Hosted by Sim­ply Lean Busi­ness So­lu­tions and Shinka Man­age­ment, the six-day tour in­cluded a se­ries of lec­tures, work­shops and fac­tory vis­its, in­clud­ing ex­ten­sive train­ing ses­sions at Toy­ota’s ded­i­cated train­ing cen­tre, which pro­vides train­ing for Toy­ota em­ploy­ees in the prin­ci­ples and ap­pli­ca­tion of the Toy­ota Pro­duc­tion Sys­tem (Lean Think­ing).

“Lean Think­ing philoso­phies cen­tre on de­liv­er­ing qual­ity goods and ser­vices at the best price, quickly and ef­fi­ciently, by iden­ti­fy­ing prob­lems and em­pow­er­ing em­ploy­ees to cre­ate in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions to elim­i­nate waste,” says Peter Cox, di­rec­tor of Sim­ply Lean Busi­ness So­lu­tions.

“Lean is ap­pli­ca­ble be­yond just man­u­fac­tur­ing. It’s about busi­nesses be­ing clear about what their cus­tomers value and de­vel­op­ing a cul­ture where ev­ery­one is fo­cused on elim­i­nat­ing waste from all pro­cesses so they can de­liver true value.”

Cooper says one of the key prin­ci­ples she saw value in was the adop­tion of a more col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach rather than the tra­di­tional com­mand and con­trol man­age­ment model.

“Giv­ing peo­ple on the ground more au­ton­omy and power to en­gage has so many ben­e­fits – more of­ten than not, they are the ones who have the so­lu­tions to a prob­lem and this frees up se­nior lead­ers to fo­cus on more strate­gic is­sues. So­lu­tions also af­fect ev­ery­one in the food chain and of­ten peo­ple on the ground are in the best po­si­tion to see how.

“In Ja­pan, they rely a lot on vi­su­als. In one fac­tory there was a huge white­board show­ing the is­sues and the coun­ter­mea­sures, vis­i­ble to ev­ery­one. This makes it trans­par­ent and is much more ef­fec­tive than a long bor­ing meet­ing in­volv­ing se­nior lead­ers who then rely on in­ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels to spread the mes­sage.

“At ev­ery busi­ness we vis­ited, the staff demon­strated a huge amount of pride in their fa­cil­ity and pro­cesses. Es­pe­cially at Me­tal One, which is part of the Isuzu Group, ev­ery­one was beam­ing; there is a real team spirit be­cause ev­ery per­son has a sense of be­ing part of the process and there­fore has pride in the end prod­uct.”

Cooper joined 12 other Ki­wis on the tour as well as par­tic­i­pants from Aus­tralia and Europe, and like the oth­ers, she has re­turned with a clear ac­tion plan to har­ness all she and those be­fore her have learned.

“I’m not the first from Calder Stewart to do the tour. The com­pany has recog­nised the ben­e­fits in that we can all work from the same page now.

“The visit made all the light bulbs go off in my head. I knew the prin­ci­ples and I knew the the­ory but now it just all makes sense, now I can ap­ply what I know and make real im­prove­ments to the busi­ness.”

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