Content By Mike Micklewright

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By: Mike Micklewright

Industry 4.0 is the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. Also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it follows behind the previous three revolutions of: 1) mechanization, water, and steam power; 2) mass production, assembly lines, and electricity; and 3) computer automation. Industry 4.0 is also known as the “smart factory,” via the introduction of cyber-physical systems.

Working in a kaizen-centered culture requires the constant, everyday elimination of waste in the workplace. This transforms an organization into one that continuously improves and provides excellent results.

Through the smart use of cyber-physical systems and the careful planning and integration of these systems into a kaizen culture, an organization can and will leapfrog the competition in terms of productivity and quality improvement while gaining more flexibility and throughput.

Why? Because both Industry 4.0 and a kaizen culture are based on the same principle of waste reduction. This concept is also the “what” behind continuous improvement—i.e., the constant elimination of the seven process wastes: 
• Transportation
• Inventory
• Motion
• Waiting
• Overprocessing
• Overproduction
• Defects

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By: Mike Micklewright

Knowledge of kaizen theory, principles, tools, and experience in application are of course very important in leading successful kaizen events that drive real bottom-line results. However, equally important are the facilitation skills of the person who is leading the event and the team.

Leading a kaizen event, whether it be for value stream mapping, 5S, problem solving, kobetsu, or quick changeover, is often led by an individual who has the required knowledge or experience in lean or kaizen philosophy. Frequently, it is this same individual who will have a monumental influence on the kaizen event’s eventual and overall success, and whether the principles of kaizen gain a strong foothold within the organization.

The kaizen event leader is often the project leader. This is not necessarily a good thing, especially if the person doesn’t have the required facilitation skills yet still takes on the required responsibilities listed below.

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By: Mike Micklewright

Fake news has fast become one of the most popular new phrases of 2017. We see it in Western politics, we listen to our news channels debate what is fake and what is not, and we hear our late-night comedians pan fake news with politically motivated jokes every chance they get.

The questions that are important for us to ask include, “Is fake news just as prevalent in the workforce as it seems to be in politics, and if yes, what can be done to combat it?”

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By: Mike Micklewright

Quiz time: What significance does the yin and the yang have in discussing standardized training? I suggest that you pause and guess (and then read on for the answer).

OK, we all get it, standards are a part of our lives in the business world, and they are gaining more and more focus as companies become leaner. Some of you may be aware of, or use, any of the following terms:
• Standard work
• Standard work sheet
• Standard work combination sheets
• Leader standard work

Many of you are also familiar with management systems standards like ISO 9001, ISO 14001, or OHSAS 18001, which have the purpose of ensuring that all companies registered to these standards will have the basic foundational management systems to ensure quality, environmental responsibility, and employee safety, respectively. Many of these encourage the use of standardized processes, procedures, control plans, and/or work instructions.

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By: Mike Micklewright

When considering any effort toward performance improvement, you should always start by looking at the organization’s principles and culture, and making sure these are aligned so they not only permit positive changes to occur, but also ensure that the changes will be sustained over the long run. By “principles and culture,” I mean things like respect for people, fostering a no-blame environment, and reducing wastes such as excess inventory and duplicative systems that destroy flow across value streams.

Once the right principles and the right culture are in place, the quality improvement practitioner will want to move on to the tools that will guide and support performance excellence. There’s no shortage of tools to assist in pretty much any improvement job necessary, from 5S to root cause analysis to leader standard work and dozens more.

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By: Mike Micklewright

In October 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer. In November 2015, footage of the shooting was released and has been viewed all over the world. The footage shows an aggressive attack by a police officer, a supposed person of service to the community, as he shot Laquan walking away from him and then falling to the ground after the first two shots were fired. Fourteen more shots were fired into his lifeless body lying in the street.

In an understood code of silence, other officers on the scene claimed in their written accounts that McDonald had “lunged” at officers with a knife, causing them to fear for their lives. As is blatantly evident in the video below, this was simply not true.

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By: Mike Micklewright

I’ve made the point many times that the quality function and the lean/continuous improvement/kaizen function within an enterprise are really one and the same. Treating them as separate value streams with their own documentation, procedures, and goals is wasteful, short-sighted, and disrespectful of employees and customers alike. Why? Because all that duplication impedes the ability to create flow and add value, which are what employees and customers are most interested in, anyway.

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By: Mike Micklewright

To many people, the relationship between daily kaizen and statistical process control (SPC) might seem as remote as the relationship between a kangaroo and the past iconic American TV series Friends. And yet, a kangaroo and Friends have a commonality in that each contains a “Joey.” Daily kaizen and SPC also share a special commonality: principles.

Before discussing the relationship between a relatively new cultural habit (daily kaizen) and a relatively older practice that seems to have lost its popularity, sexiness, and appeal (SPC), it’s important to understand a bit of history and how the two are related.

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By: Mike Micklewright

Finally... the new version of ISO 9001:2015 has been released. I can hear many of you screaming, “Hurray!” Or not. More realistically, I’m sure many of you living in the kaizen world are thinking, “Yeah, so what? This stuff has nothing to do with real kaizen, and in fact, it often creates bureaucracy and more waste.”

I would argue that this might only be true because of the way an organization created and deployed its quality management system (QMS) and has nothing to do with living the spirit behind the requirements, which are just good business practices.

ISO 9001:2015 requirements don’t run counter to kaizen thinking

I say again: There are absolutely no requirements in the ISO 9001:2015 standard that run counter to kaizen thinking. (The registration process is another story that will not be addressed here.) Both ISO 9001:2015 and kaizen practices are built and based on the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) model as well as solid, proven business practices developed over the years; unfortunately, rarely have they been integrated together.

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By: Mike Micklewright

I mean it! If your company can’t master 5S, try “1S” and stop! Stop the entire lean transformation until 5S is mastered in at least one process-focused area of the facility.

It’s a tremendous waste for a company to spend thousands, if not millions, of dollars on a “lean transformation” only to see the old way of doing business resume because the company couldn’t sustain and build on the improvements it made.