Agile Factory

Lean Manufacturing - APICS discussion

Eight Conditions for Flow Production

6th condition

From: Norman Bodek
Sent: March 27, 2005

Dear Group,
I do thank those who sent me emails in appreciation of this series. As I visit manufacturing companies in America I am aware of the need to more thoroughly understand the fundamental principles of Lean manufacturing. It is primarily the unending elimination of non-value adding wastes and continuing to involve all employees in those improvement activities. Workers have so much talent that is never tapped into.

Lean is not just a set of tools to be used infrequently. It is not just six-sigma, or 5S, or SMED, etc. it is the relentless quest to be the best. You do everything, everyday necessary to remove those wastes. Mr. Ohno was ruthless in this quest. Shingo’s favorite words were “Do it!” Neither one would accept any excuses that it couldn’t be done.

Ohno would teach very simply lowering the water – reducing your batch sizes to one piece flow. I have seen people reduce the batch size then stop. I still see test inspection. Only zero defects is acceptable. You must find a way to 100% inspect every singe part.

We only call it the “Flavor of the month,” because we do something then we stop. You must be relentless.

We are using a section of Mr. Hirano’s new book with Eight conditions for flow production·"one-piece flow". The conditions are directly from Hirano, the comments are mine. Please continue to give me feedback.

The first five conditions were:

Condition 1: To lay out facilities in the sequence of processes

Condition 2: To make facilities small and exclusive use

Condition 3: U-shape line·parallel line

Condition 4: Working by standing

Condition 5: Multi-process operation·multi-skill operator

Condition 6: To bring up the degree of processing one by one

As the old saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day,” requires us to develop detailed plans with careful measures to see that we are improving every single day. Everyone should have daily improvement goals. Everyone should be part of improvement teams. I think it is a shame that we have not fully understood or adapted quality control circles. There is enormous power in team activities and it helps make work so interesting.

This past week I ran a series of Quick and Easy Kaizen workshops for around 200 workers both salaried and hourly. In each workshop, I asked the attendees, “What is your favorite day of the week?” I taught in total close to 200 workers that they are empowered to make small continuous improvements at their job site. Most people like Friday, a lot like Saturday, a small amount like Sunday and only one out of the 200 liked a week day. We spend a good part of our lives at work and look forward to the weekends – crazy. Every day should be the best day of the week. And the feeling does come when we are being creative, being productive at work.

Okay, to bring up the degree of processing one by one means you look at making those daily improvements. How many of you run your shops on “takt,” time?

I remember on one of my visits to Citizen Watch in Japan seeing many before and after pictures on set-up changes. Pictures would show how they went from 65 seconds to 30 seconds, from 45 seconds to 22 seconds, from 18 seconds to 9 seconds. Improvement activities were made visual all over the plant.

The fundamental difference between batch production and "one-piece" production is to bring up the degree of processing one by one. In the case of batch production you look at the degree of your lot size while in "one-piece flow" you look at the degree of processing one by one toward the finished work. You look at each machine and see how you can eliminate all defects; improve those machines so that they never mal-function; slowly eliminate the need for the person to be attached to the machine by passing the person’s function to the machine; and even see how the machines can fix themselves. You also look at each person to improve their motions; use both hands instead of one, reduce movements, eliminate extra steps, and allow the person’s intelligence to be responsive to changes and potential problems.

This past week I used a digital camera and took over a dozen pictures to use in the workshops. It was very powerful for people to look this way at their worksite. They came up with many improvement ideas. In fact, there was an avalanche of improvement ideas. Just as our new book says “All You Gotta Do Is Ask,” and the ideas will come flowing out!

Norman Bodek
Please do read my books The Idea Generator - Quick and Easy Kaizen, Kaikaku The Power and Magic of Lean and our latest All You Gotta Do Is Ask. Go to