LEARN THE TECHNIQUES USED IN JAPANESE FACTORIES

By
Wu Siu Yan
21 Oct 2002



(Note : this is written with parents of home-schoolers in mind, but may be useful to parents in general.)

Their factories are very efficient. They have many techniques worth learning from, that may be used at home.



  1. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

    It is frustrating and a waste of time if we want something and we do not know where we have put it.



  2. Standardization of Procedures

    In production, there are often problems from somewhere. They write down the steps to tackle each problem, (e.g. hand-movement of each assembly process; how to entertain visitors from abroad; how to do preventive and periodic maintenance on each machine; ..... )

    STEP 1 ....
    STEP 2 ....
    STEP 3 ....
    ....
    ....

    And they refine and update such procedures in light of on-going experiences.

    Quality of a product does not come from final inspection, final statistical analysis, but perfection in all manufacturing procedures (including design).

    We may use it at home too, e.g.

    Changing napkin

    STEP 1 ....
    STEP 2 ....
    STEP 3 ....
    ....
    ....

    Preparing a certain dish for dinner

    STEP 1 ....
    STEP 2 ....
    STEP 3 ....
    ....
    ....

    Running a home is not easy. Home-schooler parents have additional responsibilities : they have to teach and coach. And repetitive jobs may weary us and tire us out.

    To write down the steps to handle the tasks can make our jobs more efficient and less wearisome (No need to write down the steps for EVERY task; only write down the steps for the tasks that weary you, tire you out. Add to the list of tasks when need arises. If your memory is good, there is no need to write down, but a notebook is always helpful).



  3. No brain power is left to waste.

    The workers are encouraged to form "Quality Circles" (voluntary, usually one hour a week during work time). They discuss the problems of production and make suggestions to management for improvement (e.g. how to cut down certain hand movements, or make change to the hand-movement; how to use less parts and yet achieve the same functionality of the product, ...)

    First they would write down the list of problems (white board is useful); no comment is made at this stage.

    Next they pick out one or two problems that may be solved in that week. They use a diagram to write down all the possible causes of that problem (that diagram is usually called a "fish-bone" diagram because it resembles a fish-bone).

    Then they discuss the possible solutions (brain-storm the problem). Every solution is welcome, and they would not laugh at "silly" ideas (they target at the problem, not at persons. They would not make people "lose face", or make them ashamed of their ideas.)

    Then they implement the solution themselves. Or if it involves management, they would make suggestions to the management. If the change is so radical, meeting of "presentation of suggestion to management" is called for (Final approval of the change rests with management, but the management welcome all suggestions).

    We may use this at home too, all members of the family join in a "Quality Circle" to discuss problems at home.

    Do not think your children cannot contribute valuable ideas, because TV, books, internet, ... teach them a lot. Even if their idea is silly, it still can give valuable input to you, and you may think of better ones because of it.



  4. How to arrange the fixtures to save walking time around jobs.

    When the McDonald brothers first started their hamburger business, they priced their hamburger so low that it attracted a lot of customers. Why were they able to compete with others at such a low price ? Because they used the "factory-line" production technique pioneered by Mr. Ford, the famous car manufacturer.

    They would enlist all their workers. They cut cardboards (or similar signs) to represent every fixture used in the shop : the ovens, the dispensers, the storage refrigerator, .... They put them in the garden, and simulated performing various tasks. They found out the best position for each item, one that minimizes the time of travel.

    If your kitchen is LARGE, perhaps you may learn from the McDonald brothers, to place the various things in places that facilitate your working.

    (Note : The McDonald brothers later sold the business to Kroc. It was Kroc, who adhered strictly to his four principles "QSCV" (Q = Quality, S = service, C = Cleanliness, V = value), that made McDonald the worldwide business of today. CLEANLINESS is vital if we, or our children, are not to become sick, much more if customers are concerned.)



Jack Welch, the retired CEO of GE, is a firm advocate of "Boundaryless", a term he invented, meaning : GE would learn from the best of the world, would forsake the "not invented here" precept.


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