A Who’s Who of Japanese lean management gurus made training visits to the United Electric plant in New Hampshire during the 1990s when Bruce Hamilton was a manager there. Visitors included Shigeo Shingo, who helped disseminate the Toyota Production System, authors Shigehiro Nakamura and Ryuji Fukuda, and Hajime Ohba, who was director of the Toyota Production System Support Center. Bruce still recalls Shingo’s visit.
“The first thing he did was ask to go out to the floor. He started observing the work and asking questions,” recalled Bruce, who ultimately put those lessons into his very popular, internationally known training video Toast Kaizen, which marked its 20th anniversary last year.
Although they came from different companies and had different areas of expertise, the Japanese coaches shared a common approach to training. “There was a small amount of classroom work,” Bruce recalled, “and then a lot of time on the floor, which was great for us. It was the best opportunity we had to have some of the great thinkers of the time watch what we were doing and coach us.”
Alongside the growing activity in adopting lean principles back then, companies also were spending billions on “lights out” automation, often with little competitive advantage gained because the effort idolized technology while disrespecting people, Bruce said.
Those efforts at automation pale now in comparison to the promise of Industry 4.0. But it’s a promise technology may break again. “Rosie the Riveter is still an expense, but Rosie the Robot is an investment,” he noted.
Watch the interview with Bruce. Then make plans to take a deep dive into the latest applications of lean principles, including how they are intersecting with technology. Register today for the Lean Summit, March 27-28, 2019, Houston: https://www.lean.org/summit2019