Our Community Mission - Helping the Automotive Industry

DOING IT RIGHT! This blog is a community work focused on improving the automotive industry, specifically, but it is a "melting pot" of ideas that will help ANY enterprise. The "founding" authors have a combined total of 152 years of experience in improving quality, productivity, costs, and the Quality of Work Life on the plant floor for General Motors, Ford Motor Company, DaimlerChrysler, Honda, Toyota, and many others. Collectively, we have seen "Best Practices" at individual plants and headquarters around the world. And it amazes us how little these Best Practices have been taken up by other plants and other companies. The very things that would have averted the current crisis in the American automotive companies are already in their possession; in one form or another and in one plant or another, they have what it takes to win. Dysfunction in their cultures appear to prevent the deployment of the best. There are still "chimneys" in these companies that have endured all the "chimney breaking" programs of the last two decades. There are still "buzzword societies" flourishing within the companies. And we still see punishment meted out for unpopular successes and failure rewarded. This blog is NOT an indictment of the industry. This IS a collecting place for the Best Ideas for fixing what ails these companies! It is our hope that the best thinkers in industry will contribute their Best Ideas in one or more of our categories here and that the whole will be much greater than the sum of the parts. ......................................................................................................................................... This blog is copyrighted. All rights reserved. Small segments may be copied for either news articles or scholarly papers.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Immense Power of Real Time Information

There is a little-known source of tremendous savings AND competitive advantages that few manufacturing companies have exploited: the marriage of real time information systems and the World Wide Web. Oh, sure, the auto companies have their own flavors of Instant Messenger and they have internal web sites and pages with key business information, etc. And that has probably helped, but it is NOT, NOT, NOT what we're talking about here.


Imagine a simple computer screen with a turning image of the world (like Google Earth). Click on a country and all your plants are highlighted. Click on a vehicle assembly plant and see real time product flow, by model, on the plant floor (using simple, moving, color coded icons). Move an arrow backward OR forward in time and see what was running when or what WILL run, when. Have the system show you where there are mis-sequencing of parts to any/all stations, have it predict this in the future based on contents in the supply chain and logistics routes. "Show me where my racks are, both full and empty!" Click on a car and see where the engine and transmission were built. Go look at those plants' real time product and material flow.

Different views: Quality, Variety, Income, Inventory, Impending Problems.

We manage our manufacturing capacity, today, using historical, report-based systems and databases. It's like driving looking through the rear view mirror because the windshield (what's coming at you) is blacked out! You can see history (or at least a report of it) but you are blind to any bend or obstacle in the road!

It is no wonder that plant managers build inventory as a security blanket. All inventory except that which supports J.I.T. delivery is a "Cost of Imperfect Information" and human insecurity. With perfect information, people are not afraid to drain down the inventory costs and return that money to capital and income.


Lean Manufacturing, according to the "gurus", depends, first, on being able to "see." It is a mindset, a way of thinking -- so that you "see" "muda" (waste). But you must have eyes to "see."

In manufacturing, we've taken away the peoples' eyes. Just how far up or down an assembly line, whether for trucks or transmissions, cars or engines, can the Operator see? In fact, our processes are really designed for them to see ONLY the work piece, parts, and tools at their station.

With a simple computer screen, we can show every Operator "what's coming at them", in real time; show them where potential disruptions are going to occur; show them where the changeovers are; basically, we can give them back their eyes.

Consider that we have spent untold billions of dollars on Management Information Systems which will tell a manager he had a problem last shift or an hour ago. Yet we have spent little or nothing on keeping informed the only people who can PREVENT or CLEAR the problem - the Plant Floor Operators!

I happen to be an admirer of one of the U.S. automotive C.E.O.'s. He has spearheaded the proliferation of Andon in the companies he has served. Andon is a step toward giving plant floor people their eyes. Lean initiatives that Support the Operator with Status at a Glance, Binary Communication - THAT is what we are talking about with real-time screens. Simple, color coded icons flowing across the screens "in synch" and in real time with what's happening on the floor.

And consider the "High Value" problems this sort of system can address!

What if you could take 20% or more out of your inventory and never replace that money?

What if you could look forward to see where and how the current plan may fall short?

What if you could see that mis-builds were about to occur and prevent them?

What if your stamping plants knew which empty racks were where instead of reacting to shortages?

If you can get, as World Class history has shown, a 30% to 40% increase in throughput doing these things, don't you need 30% fewer plants? Or, better yet, couldn't you use this lean capacity to win back market share and grow rather than shrink?

We think this is an untapped source for hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of dollars in saved costs and, potentially, increased income.

Some leaders? Premium freight; unplanned changeovers due to shortages or late-breaking customer plant changes; inventory reduction; First Time Through Capability increases and banishment of the yard hold; reduced warranty cost.

All accomplished by simply giving your people back their eyes!


Ron Kyslinger said...

The vision is quite simple and vividly clear to some of us that have practical experience applying the concept. But, unfortunately, appears to be very difficult to "sell" to the Executive Management that often get blinded by the "status quo" middle management politics that fogs their view of what "can be" in favor of "what currently is."

While the concept of "giving the operators back their eyes" is crucial, it appears that we must find a way to "give the Executive Management back their eyes" to see through the smoke and fog of the politics and be able to visualize how this one concept could truly change their bottom line, and change the face of the industry.

As you well know, “giving the operators back their eyes” makes them more effective as it empowers them to take action on their environment and actively affect the output of their respective areas. Likewise, we need to “give the Executive Management back their eyes” so that they can become more effective in taking the appropriate actions to actively affect the output of their respective businesses.

I encourage others to add to this discussion such that we can collectively find the means to unlock this very powerful concept and witness the outcome of its widespread implementation.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!