After a couple of days in Japan, my body is just now catching up to the radical time change shift and ready for the next lesson in lean from Japan. On day two of our tour, we visited Matsumoto Kogyo which is Tier 2 automotive supplier to Nissan and Toyota making seat frames. Our group took a Japanese Sonic train from the train station followed by a short taxi ride to this 200 person plant. I still have not adjusted to riding on the left side of the road which caused some moments of fear as we turned into traffic.
Matsumoto is a 40 year old company with extremely diverse lines of business from automotive parts, construction industry, architecture design and even supermarkets (60% of their business is currently automotive). Even being a smaller firm by US standards, they are a powerhouse when it comes to innovation and creativity!
Some of the lean lessons seen here include applying standard work outside of the manufacturing shop floor. One example is in building innovative, custom machines, where standard work is applied to the Engineers time. Yes, an Engineer.
Typically, we plan (if at all) the Engineers time by the larger task like design a machine. It would be estimated for 1 week. Even though we plan 1 week, it may not take 40 hours or it may take 100 hours. We don't know until it's done. So we don't rush the engineer because this work is part science and part art form and we can not measure it.
At Matsumoto, that is not how it works. The Engineers tasks are broken into the standard tasks required to design a machine (in 12 minutes blocks). The key is to break down the tasks into these finite, standard tasks and making sure you have properly listed all of them. Then it's easy to plot them on a time line and allocate resources to ensure meeting the target completion date.
It's only the combination of tasks that is custom. With each time reduced to 12 minute increments, the tasks can be well organized, planned and accurate.
Not only are the Engineering tasks measured here, even the Sales department had standard work. (I'll save that one for a later blog).
The most amazing lean lesson at Matsumoto is found in their special machine building talent. I have never seen so many cool mechanical ideas put into cells and automatic assembly machines all in one place. All these fixtures and machines were designed and built inhouse using basic ingenuity. One very cool example is the use of a milled slot in a spotwelding fixture to guide the fixture over a specified path ensuring 100% repeatable location each and every time. The fixture glided on rails as the part passed under the spot welder and included spot location to designate a required weld.
A cool poke-yoke example at one of the workstations is the use of sensors across part bin openings. As the operator passed the beam to retrieve a part, this information was collected. When the operator moved the completed part to the next operation and if all the sensors were not properly activated, the next machine would not cycle preventing a possible failure to continue through the process.
Bottomline, none of these were expensive ideas to implement. All were designed and built inhouse using scrap material or low cost components. The only requirements were ingenuity, creativity and determination to find a way to make it work.