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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Japan Lean Tour Fall 2013: Video Project

 One of the responsibilities for the Japan Tour is creating a summary video of the week. Steve has done an amazing job creating this video below:

 We took Japan by storm with our Flash Mob renditions of "Eye of the Tiger". Here are a few links to flashmobs we did this time:
Here are a few reflective insights received from Ian, a current Blackbelt who has just returned from Japan:
Reflections on Japan
A few days have passed now since I departed Japan and I’m finding this to be like ‘stepping back’ from a fine painting.  Up close you see the brush strokes and the attention to detail, from a distance you see the composition and how the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
It's easy to get mesmerized by technology, particularly in a land so abundant with the latest and neatest. But that is not the story, nor the lesson; what’s behind the obvious is what is important.  Here are a few observations:

• The planning, design, training and discipline that go into a system/process before it is ever deployed is at a level far beyond our norm – in other words, there is a process for implementing a process, starting with fully understanding the problem to be solved, not just the symptoms.
• Where we see management as non-value added and have flattened the layers over the past two decades or more, the Japanese have not because they understand the power of leadership.  The ratio of management, as well as the number of layers, is greater than it typically is in North America. For example the car companies we visited typically have one Team Leader for every six operators and one Area Leader for every 3 Team Leaders.  Every manager is considered to have two jobs: Manager and Leader/Mentor.  An individual who cannot do the latter is not suitable to be a Team Leader not matter how technically competent they might be.
•  The power of absolute adherence to standards took me by surprise.  As a Quality Assurance manager and current Greenbelt, I am no stranger to the concept of standards and standard work.  I see now that when standardization is taken to absolute levels, just how effectively it permeates the workplace and becomes self-sustaining.  The enemy of any process is entropy. Entropy increases exponentially as the process moves away from ideal. 95% adherence is not nearly good enough – there is too much doubt but when, for example, absolutely everything has a parking spot, when just one thing is out of place, it is obvious to everybody that something is out of the norm and bears action.  If five things are out of place, that certainty that something is abnormal starts to erode. 
It’s also easy to see that there are cultural differences between Japan and North America, including in the workplace and almost as easy to use those differences as an excuse to aim lower or use alternative methods.  One has to be pragmatic but one also has to challenge paradigms.  A greater degree of respect for others is evident everywhere in Japan and this translates to diligence, alignment, and focus. It is easy to slough this off as not being the way things work in North America but isn’t it really a Leadership issue and not a shortcoming of society and our employees. 

Monday, November 25, 2013


Miyajima is a small island off the city of Hiroshima. David Chao recently visited the beautiful island as part of the site check for an upcoming Executive Japan Program. This program will cater to senior executives and leaders who are looking for something deeper and more reflective than our traditional Japan Lean Program. Stops will include Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Osaka and Nagoya.

Congratulations Greenbelts!

Congratulations to our last Service Greenbelt class of the year!
The class celebrated their graduation last week Friday at the Lean Sensei training facility in Vancouver.


New graduates with proud sponsors.

Darryl and Dave, Greenbelt alumni guest speakers depart words of wisdom to the new group of Lean Greenbelts. Inherent with Greenbelt certification is the responsibility to be change agents of corporate transformation... and slowly the world.

Dave, Jeanette, Guntis, the class representatives at the graduation ceremony.

Congratulations to our class medalists. The criteria is equally weighted in terms of teamwork, leadership, assignment and exam results and delivery of the final presentation.

Fantastic job!

Gold: Jeanette                   |          Silver: Carla         |             Bronze: Kelley 

Congratulations Greenbelts!
We will leave you with the class' term project, a video encompassing the essence of their Lean Greenbelt experience in an entertaining manner.

Lean Apprentice - Greenbelt Service Vancouver Fall 2013 from Lean Sensei Leanbelt on Vimeo.
Get the tools and skills to make your workplace efficient and solutions focused. Register for Greenbelt certification at
The next Greenbelt class will be in 2014 commencing January 27 for Operations and February 17 for Service. Go to our website for more information.

Photo of the day

Mini Sensei is travelling from Fukuoka to Hiroshima today on a bullet train, reaching speed of 300km/hr!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

$150K ROI - Greenbelt Value Innovation

Great job Greenbelts! I'm sure our host company is very pleased with your work.
One of the Greenbelt teams brought about 5,850 hours ROI, equivalent to 3 full time annual salaries of $150K during the Value Innovation kaizen.

The Value Innovation kaizen opened the last module of Service Greenbelt. Today, each member of the class presented their learnings and achievements in the presence of their peers and sponsors.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Last Day of Value Innovation Kaizen

Today is the concluding day of the Greenbelt Service class' Value Innovation kaizen.
Value innovation is about improving customer experience. The class projects involved processes where the external customer has multiple interface points. 

The next challenge for the Greenbelts is their final presentation with the attendance of their sponsors and the final exam.
Good luck Greenbelts!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tokyo Motor Show

David at the Tokyo Motor Show, staying on the forefront of all things Toyota and lean.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Corporate Social Responsibility

These days more and more organizations and consumers alike are attuned to the importance of exercising corporate social responsibility. Toyota steps out of the box again and went beyond donating a hefty cheque, Toyota shared what they do best- kaizen.

Engineers from Toyota conducted a kaizen at a soup kitchen in Harownlem, bringing the wait for dinner from up to 90 minutes to a mere 18 minutes.

But it doesn't stop there, in Bushwick, Brooklyn, volunteers pack boxes of supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Needless to say timeliness is crucial. Boxes that once took 11 minutes to pack is down to 3 minutes!

In our own small part of the world, being lean helps us exercise corporate social responsibility by reducing waste (both in tangible and intangible forms), improve processes and motivate and empower people.

Reflection: What do you do to help your company exercise corporate social responsibility?

Full article:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Post Japan Tour Visit to Kyoto

Many Japan Lean Tour members went onto Kyoto to take a break and enjoy the beauty of ancient Japan!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 4: Complete!

The Fall Japan Tour 2013 is finished! It has been an eventful 4 days and we wish all the Blackbelts a safe journey home. 

Hana-San took great care of us.

The last day was a wrap-up and the Blackbelts visited both Toyota and Mitsubishi. At our first stop, Toyota, we had a tour of the highly automated assembly and welding areas. It was an amazing experience to see the Toyota Production System right at the Gemba. Afterwards,  we visited the Toyota Kaikan museum to get a sense of all the innovation going on at Toyota these days. 

After a traditional "Kaiseki" style meal at a traditional Japanese restaurant, we finished up the tour at Mitsubishi.

 Imai-san, a worker who has been with the company for over 30 years, took great care of us. The Blackbelts received green tea to quench our thirst for the long Gemba walk ahead. We were really able to feel his warm enthusiasm and passion for serving the customer. After the incredible plant tour we were sent on our way to the final farewell dinner. 

A big thank you to everyone that helped in making this tour what it is, as well as to the Blackbelts for working so hard and keeping an open and curious mind to Japan and Lean culture. 

Until next time! (Of course, that will be Module 4!)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Day 3: Japan Lean Tour Fall 2013

Day 3 of the Japan tour is complete!

Today the Blackbelts moved from Tokyo to Nagoya as we passed the halfway mark of the trip. The theme of today is "Takumi" which means mastercraft or expert. 

Our first stop was the Nissan Yokohama plant, where Nissan engines are created in a highly automated environment. 

Here is a passage written by Darryl, one of the Blackbelt participants:

Today the Lean Blackbelt tour had the opportunity to visit Nissan's Yokohama Engine plant. Yokohama is steeped in history, having been Nissan's headquarters from Nissan's inception in 1933 to 1968. It is now an engine manufacturing facility, producing engines for cars ranging from the crossover Juke to the high-end GTR sports car. Yokohama is highly automated with more than 1500 robots and PLCs driving production with not a lot of humans to be seen. The handcrafted GTR engines, by contrast, are assembled in a clean facility by master technicians called Takumi. Nissan has only four Takumis who personally oversee the production of all GTR engines and stamp them with their own name badge.

Three Lean concepts noted today were visual display, kanban, and kaizen. Every station has a green/yellow/red light on it. If there is any bottleneck causing production problems, an audible signal sounds and the light turns yellow or red. Anybody looking at the floor can quickly pinpoint where the problem is if production is halted or delayed. If we look at our production floor, can we easily determine where the bottlenecks are?

The second concept noted is kanban. Nissan Yokohama almost exclusively relies on a pull system to keep its highly automated production line supplied. When the front tray is empty, the empty is pushed back for an employee to refill. Though my company has installed point of use (roto) bins for high-use DND parts and vendor-managed-inventory (VMI) on our floor, where are other opportunities to utiliza pull system? One example noted at All Nippon Airlines was the use of kanban for engine oil on the production floor.

Lastly, Nissan Yokohama has five people committed to making kaizen (small change). They produce innovative products for error-proofing process (E.g. a pneumatic system for picking up hard to pick-up pieces of paper) and work on process improvement. The guidelines they have for improvement are four-fold:

1) Safety
2) Quality
3) Quick
4) Cheap

I think these are great, simple criteria for any company to adopt for evaluating candidates for kaizen.

After the Nissan tour the Blackbelts took the high speed "Shinkansen" bullet train to Nagoya to visit the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology. 

A traditional Japanese bento lunch on the train.

And with that, we are onto our fourth and final day! Stay tuned for more....