Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Japan Day 4 - HOKS Part I

On day 4 of the Japan Kaikaku Experience, our group traveled to the northeast coast of Kyushu Island. We arrived bright and earlier at HOKS, a $50 million printed circuit board manufacturer, just in time for their daily 3S self-action. It is called self-action because it is voluntary and unpaid, relying on your self motivation and a little peer pressure to contribute.

Everyday, the entire management team at HOKS arrives 30 minutes before the start of the shift to engage in exhaustive 3S (Seiri - Sort, Seiton - Straighten, and Seiso - Shine). The shop floor employees come 10 minutes early to clean their areas. All of this is done outside of company time. Not all the 3S activities are limited to this daily ritual, every 2 weeks the plant production is shutdown for 1 hours for more 3S which is on the company clock with full pay.

The entire plant is cleaned top to bottom with some tasks completed daily while others have a rotational schedule. The 3S activities include cleaning floors, windows, desks, racks, lights, hallways, toilets, company cars and the outside grounds. Even the public street in front of their building is cleaned by the HOKS employees as a sign of good will in their neighborhood.

At HOKS, they believe that 3S is the key to their success. It instills discipline in their employees and helps sell their company to potential customers. The reason it's a 3S activity versus 5S is that HOKS believes if you vigorously attack the first 3S daily, by default, you have achieved all 5S. (Simple.) They do have a 5S goal but concentrate on improving the behaviors needed to be successful versus driven by the target goal or numbers. If the correct behaviors are solidly in place, the numbers will improve.

To really embrace this focused 3S culture, our group was invited to join in on the fun. Each of us were paired up with a HOKS employee and given a 3S cleaning assignment. My assignment was to trim the front hedges and clean up the clippings as seen in the picture. I definitely worked up a sweat by the time I finished but there was still time for more 3S. I quickly moved inside the plant and wiped down all the desks in the production control department with a little time left to sweep the floor. You certainly can accomplish a lot in 30 minutes when you put your mind (and muscle) to it.

Even the president of the company, Mr. Manabe, participated in the morning 3S period. On that day, his job was to clean the administration office floor by getting on his hands and knees with washrags in each hand. Talk about "Leading by Example"!

This is no ordinary 5S program and is unlike anything I have ever witnessed. When they first started this radical 3S regime, there was resistance and it was mandatory, driven down by management. After the routine was established, it moved to a self managed effort but constantly supported by management and a sense of pride in their company. And I love their company slogan on self-change, "If I change, our company will change!". Great words of wisdom on organizational change.

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