Gemba Walks & IPS

“What is Lean?”, is a question many people ask me. The conventional answer is, ‘ lean means systematic identification and elimination of waste’.  But, Dr. Jim Womack, who coined the term Lean has revised his definition of lean as “a daily practice of conducting experiments and accumulating knowledge”.  Over the past three decades, Womack has been travelling round the world conducting his own experiments as well as observing the experiments conducted by others in their Gemba, their workplace.

“As C. Narasimhan, the former head of the operation (at Wabco-TVS) and the force behind the transformation, remarked during my tour, ‘Why do ‘catalogue’ engineers fancy machines that immediately need kaizen in order to work properly in their context? Why not just build them right from the beginning?’ And this facility has just done this, with many examples across the operation”. So writes Jim Womack in the 2nd expanded edition of GEMBA WALKS

Published in India by us at Productivity & Quality Publishing Pvt. Ltd., for the Lean Management Institute of India, Gemba Walks offers insights, thoughts, and inspiration for every lean practitioner.

What Womack encountered at Wabco-TVS (now Wabco India Limited) with Narasimhan, wasn’t just an adoption of an efficient production system, but an adaption of the system to best suit the culture and context. In Made in India for Make in India: Indian Production System, also published by us, Narsimhan discusses the challenges of adopting the global systems in India, and shares strategies that can help turn these challenges into successes.

In the chapter on Total Lean Manufacturing ⁃ Lean Machines, Narsimhan writes:

“Machines have been the most neglected resource … as far as improving cost efficiency is concerned.  The focus has been how to eliminate waste and poor efficiencies through process re-engineering and save money.  As far as machines are concerned, we have focused on its output only in terms of productivity, quality and downtime.  We rarely consider the following questions:

  • Is the machines’ design optimally suiting our purpose?
  • Are all peripherals useful for us?
  • Is there an alternate solution available for the same?
  • Is it operator friendly?
  • Is it TPM friendly?
  • What will be the running cost?
  • Are we paying the right price?

Traditionally, a machine manufacturer sells a standard or a catalogue machine that has many unwanted elements not really required. They do not make build and design all peripherals in a machine; instead, assemble standard systems that are available outside.  They use such systems or components keeping high buffer safety margins, resulting in over capacity peripherals….  Term such machines as FAT Machines. These add to the cost of the machine. In addition, these machines run at a higher operating cost, as they consume more energy and consumables. The cost of maintenance is also high.”

Narasimhan advocates a company design its own peripherals:

  • Lean Electrical System
  • Lean Hydraulic system
  • Lean Coolant System
  • Lean Lubrication System
  • Lean Pneumatic System

He describes each of these peripherals in detail along with the benefits of lean machines such as reduced energy, oil, coolant, lubrication consumption; space saving; easy maintenance, etc. Narasimhan also provides a useful checklist for factors to be considered while buying a new machine.

 That we struggle with the applications of recommendations from global instances to our manufacturing industries, should not deter us from adopting these systems but push us to adapt them into home-grown systems that are tailor made for India.


Do we need Forklifts at all?

 Forklifts in Manufacturing: Less is More to Eliminating  Buy None 

When one talks of productivity, it is important to carefully consider how to define productivity, then how to measure it, and finally, how to achieve it. Productivity does not simply mean to produce but to produce in abundance.  In the manufacturing sector, one of the key elements is material handling. Whether the material movement is done manually or through an automated process, it presents challenges to workers and management. Forklift management, is one such challenge.

With forklifts, it is hard to know if you have too few or too many or just the right number. Irrespective of the number, it is important to keep track of what each forklift is doing always. Especially, because the operational cost of a single forklift is much higher than its cost price. For example, if a forklift costs Rs. X, the operational cost can be as high as Rs. 1.5X per year. And despite this excessive cost, it is common that managers are not aware of how many forklifts are being used simultaneously, or if the forklifts are being used at capacity.

In, “How Many Forklifts Is Too Many?” (published in MHLNews), Dave Blanchard writes how everybody seem enamoured by the latest material handling equipment. He refers to the ProMat Show 2017, which may result in nearly $5 billion worth of material being purchased by end of 2018. This purchase includes forklifts, one of the most popular displays. But what remains unanswered is whether the company knows how exactly the workforce is going to use the forklift. For some reason, forklifts attract less scrutiny than other heavy equipment. It seems like one would figure it out before buying one, but it is hard to accurately calculate the expected usage. And this ends up costing companies, a lot of money.

Typically, the Operations team and the Finance team approach things differently. Operations teams don’t like to work overtime, for example, and Finance teams focus on negotiation lowest monthly costs. It is pertinent that companies get a better handle on leveraging data to maximise utilisation. Getting rid of just a single underutilised forklift, and all the related costs with it, can result in huge savings that can be used elsewhere. A good guideline, when it comes to forklifts, is, ‘Less is More’.

This high-costing forklift management holds true for India, too. The Indian government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign aims to facilitate investment and build the best in manufacturing infrastructure. But adopting production systems from other countries and implementing them in the Indian environment, does not easily translate to success. Many are still struggling. Applying recommendations from global instances in India, brings a new set of challenges. What India needs is a home-grown system that is tailor made for India.

In his book, ‘Made in India for Make in India’ (published by Productivity and Quality Publishing Private Limited) the author C. Narasimhan takes the ‘less is more’ strategy a step further to recommend that the use of forklift be eliminated. Talking of Integrated Inventory Management, he says, ‘forklift is an enemy of flow and it is essential to eliminate fork trick in production’.

Made in India for Make in IndiaThe book suggests that in the course of eliminating forklifts, we can implement other creative ideas for material handling. This doesn’t mean we simply eliminate forklifts from some parts of the shop floor, but we must study all the places where they are used. An integrated approach to this is necessary, where forklifts can be replaced with other material handling principles such as gravity flow, pneumatically activated pick and place devices, rollercoasters, and re-engineering layouts to avoid lifting.

Material handling is an importance section in any manufacturing unit. We, in India, have been traditionally weak in parts handling and logistics, and it’s time, to revamp this. The sweeping idea of eliminating forklifts may seem ‘too radical’; however, it is capable of bringing a sea of changes that will go a long way for ‘Make in India.

Daily Management

A group of us,  which included Mr Mohanakrishnan, author of THE WAY TO THE PRACTICE OF  TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT were chatting over a cup of coffee the other day. The talk turned to the subject of how important leadership  is in the next of manufacturing enterprises.  And Mr Mohanakrishnan observed effective use of Daily Management can help the leader to lead better.  He went on to say that many people stayed on in an organisation happily accepting a lower pay because thy were very happy working under good leader.  In his experience those leaders who effectively used the principles of Daily Management were successful in nt only retaining talented employees but also loyal, committed team members.

Mr Mohanakrishnan has elaborated on this discussion in his new started blog:  In this blog he says: “Daily Management, if in place, ably supports strategic breakthrough efforts of the company. How? It is the clear understanding of roles and responsibilities enables everyone to “own up” the actions required for making the strategic dreams to come true.The changes are managed with least “side effects” without arguments and acrimony! He went on to say that people stay on happily in an organisation, if they are provided stress-free working environment. Even higher pay may not entice them to leave the organisation.Companies that practice Daily Management offer clarity to employees in terms of their roles and responsibilities and such clarity effectively dispels stress.

Thus Daily Management is the mid-way link between standardised work practices at the operating level and breakthrough efforts of long term implications. Daily Management is the meeting point of bottom-up improvements and top down challenges.”

In his path-breaking book, THE WAY TO THE PRACTICE OF  TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Mr Mohanakrishnan defines Daily Management  as ‘the process of accomplishing one’s roles and responsibilities – efficiently and effectively.’

He has devoted an entire chapter to Daily Management in his book.  He has also explained concepts like Managing Points and Checking Points daily PDCA and rotating PDCA and related the to the work of the Top management, middle management and down the line people elaborately.

A few years back, we at PQP published an entire book on the subject of Daily Management.  Written by Prof Yukihiro Ando, a Japanese TQM Cosecant and Pankaj Kumar, Head of TQM at Tata Steel, DAILY MANAGEMENT THE TQM WAY  as name makes it abundantly clear addresses the topic of Daily Management thoroughly.  This book is based on a “Daily Management Workbook” prepared by Pankaj and his team  to help in the deployment of Daily Management all the functions and locations of a mammoth company like Tata Steel.

Together, the two books will provide you with the know what,know why, and know how of DM, if implemented with rigour and focus will help ever leader achieve success along with happy and loyal team members.

Mercedes Benz……. Continuation of my previous blog

Last week, I had blogged aout the growing sales of Merced cars in India.


Sunday New Indian Express reported – in a small report – Ashok Leyland sold 7878 Commercial Vehicles in November !  A mere 53% increase YoY !!!


If vehicle sales drop, or if there is even a minor blip in the IIP, we will see Screaming headlines in Newspaper – not only of the pink variety – and TV anchors of even mainline TV channels would have shouted themselves hoarse.  But an important news of a big jump in sales in a sector that is supposed to be facing a slowing market, seems to deserve only mere mention  at the bottom of the page !  Strange are the priorities of some people.


Anyway, if we re-look at this piece of news, one thing that comes to mind is that the market seems to have shrugged of the impact of high interest rates, and there is greater demand for transportation !


In a similar vain, another piece of news on Monday quotes an Audi official saying their sales are on course and that they are confident of achieving the target.

This brings me back to what Eli Goldratt said in 2009, some parts of the economy is affected, but it doesn’t mean there is a recession.  Lets focus on producing more, selling more and creating more wealth which alone in the the long run will ensure peace and prosperity for every Indian.



Shigeo Shingo and his Revolutionary SMED

A Revolution in Manufacturing

It is rightly said “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”. This is what led Dr. Shigeo Shingo, a manufacturing expert who served as consultant in TOYOTA and several other Japanese Companies and is widely known as the father of Toyota production, to think of a methodology that can reduce, if not totallyeliminate, any  wastage in the manufacturing process.

Dr. Shingo, rated as the 2nd best industrial thinker of the 20th century, after Henry Ford, introduced the methodology of SMED – Single Minute Exchange of Dies.  This method is also called, “Quick Change Over (QCO)” which solved a very major problem of changing the dies for TOYOTA in the late 1950’s. The dies on the large- transfer stamping machines that produce car vehicle bodies must be changed for each model which took a minimum of twelve hours and a maximum of three days to complete earlier. Shingo improvised his QCO methodology and placed précised measurement devices and installed the die against the measurements recorded for each model die. This process of quick change over and accurate measurement cut down the lag time to mere hour and a half.   Later, under Dr Shingo’s guidance the Toyota Manufacturing team, led by Taiichi Ohno, were able to bring it down further to under 10 minutes !  Today, they easily do it in abut a minute !  

Dr. Shingo has introduced many methods for improvement in the manufacturing process and was the author of many path breaking books in the field of industrial manufacturing. His book “A Revolution in Manufacturing: The SMED System” explained the QCO methodology in detail and is being used world over to save time and wastage. A similar example is of a motorcycle factory that makes mudguards by pressing the metal sheets. In this case too, the die in a mammoth press machine has to be changed for each model. This process of changing the die and starting the machine for the next production took almost ten hours. With the adaptation of SMED methodology and further consultation with experts and reworking the system, the chagover time between the production of two models of mudguards reduced from 10 hours to 2 hours and further to just 1minute 22seconds.

Another great piece of work by the effective implementation of internal and external setup methodology devised by Shingo and explained in detail n the book cited, is the Aravind Eye Hospital at Madurai in Tamilnadu, India. Aravind is the largest provider of eye care services and trainer of ophthalmic personnel in the world. Generally, 1 eye surgeon can perform 5 cataract surgeries in a day. The Aravind eye hospital with its aim to eradicate needless blindness adopted the internal and external setup methodology. It made several changes in their setup like placing multiple operation beds in a large hall, 1 surgeon was allocated to only 2 patients to be operated consecutively, also 2 helping nurses and 2 running nurses were appointed for both the patients. Today 1 surgeon of the Aravind Eye Hospital can perform 25 cataract surgeries in a day without compromising the quality. There is a case study based on Aravind Eye Hospital at the Harvard Business School that discusses the effective implementation of processes to ensure that quality and quantity are maintained at the Aravind Eye Hospital. The hospital earns a surplus every year in spite of performing nearly 70% of its surgeries for free.

All these are the perfect examples of effective implementation of methodologies. Several companies worldwide are adopting Shegio Shingo’s process and methods to reduce the time and wastage of resources and improve the production capacity and results for their organization.