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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....

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