How Would an AI Bot Explain Lean Manufacturing to a 5-Year-Old?

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I saw a story on the NBC Nightly News last night about the ChatGPT / OpenAI tool, and they used examples of asking the AI bot to explain concepts to a 5-year-old.

After asking a similar tool to explain Lean in healthcare, I posed this question (it was more of a command, I guess):

Explain lean manufacturing to a 5 year old

“Lean manufacturing is a way to make things in a factory or workshop by using fewer resources and making fewer mistakes. It helps us make things faster and more efficiently, so we can save time and money.

One way to think about lean manufacturing is to imagine a assembly line in a factory. Imagine that the assembly line has a lot of workers, and each worker has a specific job to do. In lean manufacturing, we try to make sure that each worker has everything they need to do their job, and that they don't have to wait for other people or things. We also try to make sure that the workers are not making mistakes, so that we don't have to stop the assembly line to fix problems.

Overall, lean manufacturing is all about finding ways to make things better, faster, and with fewer mistakes, so that we can create high-quality products in a more efficient and cost-effective way.”


I appreciate that the bot emphasized quality, not just efficiency. It surprised me that, speaking of mistakes, the bot made a grammatical error — saying “a assembly line” not “an assembly line.”

I noticed that the bot didn't mention safety. Sigh. In my LinkedIn post about that, there was an interesting exchange:

Tony Nieto wrote:

“They haven't programmed AI to process feeling yet. Without that added code(s) of programming I doubt AI will consider the safety aspects of people as part of lean manufacturing. I hope those code's already exist but just haven't made it to all lean manufacturing.”

My reply:

“The problem is that the AI is pulling from what's written on the internet and, sadly, most humans aren't paying enough attention to safety and its foundation in Lean. Any human who visited a Toyota plant would understand that.

Is the human problem one of ignorance or a lack of feelings?”

So I tried again with the bot:

Explain lean manufacturing to a 5 year old but include the importance of safety

“Lean manufacturing is a way to make things in a factory or workshop by using fewer resources and making fewer mistakes. It helps us make things faster and more efficiently, so we can save time and money. But one of the most important parts of lean manufacturing is making sure that everything is done safely.

Safety is very important in a factory or workshop because there are often lots of machines and tools that can be dangerous if they are not used correctly. Lean manufacturing helps us to make sure that everyone in the factory or workshop is following safety rules and using the right protective equipment, like hard hats, gloves, and safety glasses.

Imagine that you are building a toy car on an assembly line. You have a job to put on the wheels, and you need to make sure that you are using the right tools and following all of the safety rules. If you don't follow the safety rules, you could get hurt or you could accidentally damage the toy car. That's why it's so important to always be careful and follow the safety rules when you are working in a factory or workshop.

Overall, lean manufacturing is about finding ways to make things better, faster, and with fewer mistakes, but it is also about making sure that everyone is safe while they are working.”


So there was a noticeable emphasis on safety. But, it seemed like the AI was blaming workers for not following safety rules. I tried again with a tweaked request:

Try again but try not to blame workers for not using safety equipment. The focus is really on managers providing the right safety equipment and managers prioritizing safety.

“Lean manufacturing is a way to make things in a factory or workshop by using fewer resources and making fewer mistakes. It helps us make things faster and more efficiently, so we can save time and money. But an important part of lean manufacturing is ensuring the safety of everyone in the factory or workshop.

To make sure that everyone is safe, it's important for managers to provide the right safety equipment and to prioritize safety in all of their decision making. This means that they should make sure that all workers have the protective gear and tools they need to do their jobs safely, and that they should also have clear safety rules and procedures in place.

For example, if you are building a toy car on an assembly line, your manager should make sure that you have the right tools and that you know how to use them safely. They should also make sure that you have the right protective gear, like hard hats, gloves, and safety glasses. This will help to prevent accidents and injuries in the factory or workshop.

Overall, lean manufacturing is about finding ways to make things better, faster, and with fewer mistakes, while also ensuring the safety of everyone involved. It's important for managers to take the lead in this effort by providing the right equipment and prioritizing safety in all of their decisions.”


That's more like it, the emphasis on safety starts with leaders, whether the late Paul O'Neill as CEO of Alcoa or leaders at Toyota today.

I thought I'd ask one more related thing, since Toyota talks about the importance of psychological safety (and O'Neill talked about those concepts too):

How would you explain the importance of psychological safety in a factory to a 5 year old?

“Psychological safety is the feeling that you can be yourself and express your thoughts and ideas without fear of being judged, rejected, or punished. It's important in a factory or workshop because it helps people feel comfortable and confident, which can lead to better communication, collaboration, and problem solving.

Imagine that you are working in a factory and you see something that you think could be improved. You might be afraid to speak up and share your idea because you think that your boss or coworkers might not like it, or that you might get in trouble for suggesting something new. But if the factory has good psychological safety, you would feel more comfortable and confident speaking up, because you know that your ideas will be heard and respected, even if they are not always used.

Overall, psychological safety is important in a factory or workshop because it helps people feel comfortable and confident, which can lead to better communication, collaboration, and problem solving. It's important for managers and coworkers to create a supportive and inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas.”


That's a good explanation, again intended for a child. But there is a nuance around the idea. The factory might have an “average perceived level of psychological safety” but it really varies by individual. It might be “generally safe” from a psychological safety standpoint, but it might not feel safe for ME based on my own interactions with my leaders.

But yes, higher levels of psychological safety will mean more people speaking up about ideas, which leads to more improvement and innovation, which leads to success as an organization (and this would be true in healthcare, as well).

OK one last try for real:

Try again with the nuance that psychological safety is an individual perception or feeling. The factory might be generally safe from a psychological safety standpoint, but some individuals might feel unsafe based on how their boss treats them.

“Psychological safety is the feeling that you can be yourself and express your thoughts and ideas without fear of being judged, rejected, or punished. It's an individual perception or feeling, so it's possible for a factory or workshop to be generally safe from a psychological safety standpoint, but for some individuals to still feel unsafe.

For example, if you are working in a factory and you have a boss who is always yelling or criticizing you, you might feel unsafe speaking up or expressing your ideas. You might be afraid that you will get in trouble or that your boss won't like your ideas. But if you have a boss who is supportive and respectful, you might feel more comfortable and confident speaking up, even if your ideas are not always used.

Overall, psychological safety is an individual perception or feeling that can be influenced by the environment and the people around you. It's important for managers and coworkers to create a supportive and inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas, and where everyone is treated with respect and fairness.”


Good bot!

How can we create higher levels of safety — physical AND psychological safety — in both manufacturing and in healthcare?

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