About 10 years ago I was hired by a good friend of mine who needed some help and support in managing a small, car body replica manufacturer. I officially became the HR person but I was happy to accept all sorts of tasks as long as they didn’t get my hands too dirty.
After awhile my boss gave me a book by Shigeo Shingo and said: “This is fascinating stuff. I wish one day we started doing things Shingo’s way.” I said: “Oh, wow. Must be interesting.” and put the book on a shelf.
One day I grabbed Shingo’s book, blew the dust off and started reading it. The guys at the shop immediately realized that something scary must have happened to me. I started spending more and more time outside my office, mostly throwing away their tools that hadn’t been used for years. Hearing me use Japanese words probably didn’t help either. “Muda”, “poka-yoke”, “kaizen”… Needless to say, they worried that rather sooner than later things would need to change.
In about a month from the moment I started implementing Lean Manufacturing we increased our productivity by 80%, and 3 months later we reached 100% (yes, we started producing twice as many cars as we did before). And the workers soon started appreciating the fact that for the first time they were asked to use their heads, not only their hands.
I am still working for Kirkham Motorsports, managing our plant in Mielec, Poland. This site, however is my independent endeavor which allows me to share the basics of the fascinating Lean Manufacturing or the Toyota System.
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