The link above is a column in a Wisconsin newspaper. He visited a plant “a few months ago” and is just now writing about it. I guess the lead times in newspaper columns are that long?? Or, the writer is a slacker.
Not surprisingly, the columnist writes about Lean tools — that's what you can see when you tour a factory, 5S (or 6S*) and kanban. It's hard to tell, without talking to people and asking questions, if a Lean mindset is taking hold. Posters aren't a good indicator, necessarily:
“Ongoing awareness: From the moment I walked into the reception area, I began to see signs of lean â€” literally. They have 13 large posters that illustrate some concepts or principle of lean. They are visible examples to their employees and the visiting public (especially their customers) of what lean is all about.”
The problem with posters is that they might just be platitudes that management isn't willing to support, such as “Quality is YOUR Job.” Posters might just be empty slogans or platitudes that end up discouraging and frustrating employees, as Dr. Deming warned.
It's a fairly unremarkable column, but what made me take notice was the reader comment at the bottom of the page:
Yay, lets go lean. Lets use use, manufacturing processes innovated by Toyota 30yrs ago, because that will make us a world leader today. American manufacturing executives in general are ruining our juggernaut, by continuously playing second fiddle. But hey, turning a blind eye and patting ourselves on the back are far easier then actually putting the nose to the grindstone and becoming an innovator. I mean look at Henry Ford, his foresight and hard work did absolutely nothing for himself, or the country.
I can understand the commenter's point about “let's think for ourselves and not just copy others.” Not a bad point, at all. It's ironic that they mention Henry Ford, since the man and the company were indeed an inspiration for Toyota… and now we're all learning back in that direction.
* I don't like the “6S” terminology that adds “safety” to 5S. Not that I'm opposed to safety, far from it. I just don't like calling it out as a separate item. Safety should be incorporated into all we do, every day.
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