Rubber the naturally occurring wonder material

Rubber is a naturally occurring winder material.

Some historians sa Rubber has been in use since 1300 BC ! Wow that’s a long long time

Rubber was originally found in South America

But it is the invention and subsequent growth of the automobile industry that gave a fillip to the use of rubber.

Today, rubber is an important raw material in the manufacture of automotive tyres, rubber sheets, mattresses, several bushes washers and other industrial products as well as adhesives.

Today it is grown mostly in Asia.  Currently Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, China, SriLanka and Vietnam are the major Rubber growing countries As the demand for Rubber grows, Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and some African countries may also become big growers.

Natural Rubber (NR) is a pure biopolymer since it obtained entry from a tropical plant.As it is an agricultural product, NR is renewable.  It is carbon neutral like all plant products.  With depleting oil reserves NR will assume greater importance.

I recently came across a rally high quality book about Natural Rubber titled: Chemistry, Manufacture, and Applications of Natural RubberDr Shinzo Khjiya who is Emeritus Professor at Kyoto University and Dr Yuko Ikeda an Associate Professor of Chemistry and Material Technology at the Kyoto Institute of Technology.  It is comprehensive book with each chapter being contributed by well known experts from around the globe.  Contributors includeDr K Cornish of Ohio State Univeristy, Dr J E Puskas of Akron Engineering Research Center, Prof P Phinyocheep of Mahidol University in Thailand, Dr a Kato of NISSAN ARC LTD., Japan, Prof T Nakao of University of Tokyo, A  B Nair & R Joseph of our own Cochin University of Science and Technology, and Prof Hashim of Universiti Kuala Lumpur.  The above name is only a partial list.

The growing demand for more sustainable materials has led to increased research on the properties of natural rubber. Chemistry, Manufacture and Applications of Natural Rubber summarizes this research and its significance for the industrial applications of natural rubber.

Chapters in part one explore the properties and processing of natural rubber, including the biosynthesis of natural rubber in different rubber-producing species, chemical modification of natural rubber for improved performance, and the effect of strain-induced crystallization on the physical properties of natural rubber. Further chapters highlight hydrophobic and hydrophilic silica-filled cross-linked natural rubber and computer simulation of network formation in natural rubber. Part two focusses on applications of natural rubber, including eco-friendly bio-composites using natural rubber matrices and reinforcements, soft bio-composites from natural rubber and marine products, natural rubber for the tire industry, the application of epoxidized natural rubber in pressure sensitive adhesives (PSAs), and the use of natural rubber for vibration isolation and earthquake protection of structures. Finally, chapters in part three consider environmental and safety issues associated with natural rubber, including improving the sustainable development of natural rubber, the recycling of natural and synthetic isoprene rubbers and of sulfur cross-linked natural rubber, and recent research on natural rubber latex allergy.

Chemistry, Manufacture and Applications of Natural Rubber is a comprehensive resource for academics, chemists, chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, and other professionals in the rubber industry, as well as those industries, including automotive, civil, and medical engineering, using natural rubber products.

With growing concern for the environment, and anxiety about the depletion and possible eventual exhaustion of Petroleum, the quest for naturally occurring, renewable materials is speeding up.  In this context, the importance of natural rubber will continuously grow.


The Need for Office Kaizen

Sitting late in my office on a rainy evening last week, I was putting the final touches on a book on 5S. At the end of a long and tiring day, the steady beat of the rain on the windows and the cool wind blowing through the door acted as soporifics. Yearning for a cuppa of something hot, I pushed my laptop aside to get up. Some books on the other side of the table tumbled down and followed by an avalanche of loose papers. All thoughts of a refreshing drink vanished as I stooped to recover the papers and books. This set me thinking.

I looked around at the other tables in the office. Like mine they too were piled high with books, though the staff had taken care to file the papers away before leaving. Clearly my office needed to be cleaned up. But was that enough? Would mere cleaning up solve the problem?  I realised that the problem ran deeper than that.

Where would the manufacturing industry the world over have been but for the productivity improvement tools emanating from Japan? Certainly industry in India would still be locked in the self defeating cocoon of low productivity, poor quality, and thin margin trap. In the last two decades, the need to survive and grow in a competitive global environment has impelled manufacturing businesses, to adopt several methods to improve productivity and reduce defects.

What if I adopted similar tools to improve the productivity in my office? Was this just my thinking, spurred by my angst at the state of my office, or was this a universal phenomenon? Did other offices too face such problems? What about the offices of businesses that had successfully adopted productivity tools? This is when I realised that I had the answer right in front of my eyes. Namely, the book ‘Office Kaizen’, by William Lareau.

‘Office’ implies any business process and function that is not a pure ‘factory’ task, such as assembling, welding, machining, fork lift driving and so on. The word kaizen is a compound Japanese word. ‘Kai’ means ‘little’, ‘ongoing’, and ‘good’, according to William Lareau.  The word comes from the Toyota Production System. In fact it is an integral part of 5S, lean manufacturing, reengineering and what have you.

Till now kaizen has been practised on the factory floor with great success. Flexible, synchronous, pull, and other manufacturing systems, have increased factory productivity dramatically. Inventories’ have plunged and lead times shortened by factors of two to ten. Marrying a very productive manufacturing system with an old fashioned office system is like fitting a motor car engine to a bullock cart. The engine works just fine but the cart can go only at its own pace. Result, there is a significant deficit in overall performance. Every business needs a strong back up from the ‘office’ side of the enterprise to reap the full benefits of improvements in factory productivity. In fact office organisation and productivity is essential if a business wants to be world class.

According to Lareau, Office Kaizen creates office and administrative processes and work groups that generate a competitive advantage, not compromise it. The business will reap advantages from several sides. Costs will decrease as fewer errors are committed. Planning and analytics will improve, since reliable data will be available quicker. This will help the business organise its entire production schedule better.

For businesses eager to improve their overall performance, ‘Office Kaizen’ provides the foundation for the next great step-wise competitive advantage.

The Power of A3

People throughout Toyota are taught PDCA (Plan, Do, Check Act) as a tool for problem solving and continuous improvement. Toyota learnt it years ago from W Edwards Deming. It has no become engrained in the corporate future of Toyota. A3 is a way to report the results of PDCA. It is now being called A# report. The A# is an 11 x 17 inch piece of paper. Hence the nae A3. The A3 management process is the core of the famed Toyota Production System, the precursor to Lean Management. The A3 Management system creates an uncompromising process and a mindset dedicated to continuous improvement by a rigorous deployment of PDCA.
A3 demands tremendous amount of discipline . It is a very powerful weapon in the armoury of Toyota. It is a secret of Toyota Diligent application of A3 dramatically improves the performance of the company and the morale of the people.

We have three important books on A3:
MANAGING TO LEARN: Using the A3 management process to solve problems, gain agreement, mentor and lead by John Shook
UNDERSTANDING A3 THINKING: A critial component of Toyotas PDCA Management System by Durward Sobek II & Art Smalley


GETTING THE RIGHT THINGS DONE : A leader’s guide to planning & execution by Pascal Dennis
Our award wining book, DAILY MANAGEMENT THE TQM WAY by Yukihiro Ando and Pankaj Kumar explains PDCA and rotating the PDCA and managing it.