Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Japan Lean Experience

This month I am putting together the final touches in preparation for my trip to Japan in April 2018, attending the “Japan Lean Experience” with my colleagues from Tokyo .

This will be my fourth week long homage to the spiritual home of Kaizen and Lean thinking, and I will be traveling with a small band of brothers from NZ seeking inspiration from the world’s leading practitioners of Lean Management.

Our variety of factory tours provide a perfect combination of education, exposure to best-in-class Lean practices, unique relationship building, in-depth tours, interactive discussion, and comfort.

In addition to the formal tours, there will be time to take in some sights and experience Japan culture and of course a ride on the bullet train!

The Shinkansen, or Bullet Train cruises at between 280-320KPH and is one of those experiences that is not to be missed. I confess that this for me is one of the highlights, and epitomizes what Japan is all about, efficient, reliable, high quality and on time!


Of course, we have the home of 5S, with everything in it’s place, and a place for everything, there is so much inspiration in their factories, offices and even around town!


Japan also has history and culture by the bucket load and there are some amazing things to see and visit whilst you make your way around.

I’ll be adding a few extra days to the tour and our group will take in some of the sights. A personal favourite is Kyoto, the ancient capital, and a deeply religious place.

It is also a place that brings home some of the things that mankind is not so proud of, the atomic bomb. I recommend a visit to Hiroshima for a poignant reminder of the horror of war and devastation it brings.


Finally, there’s plenty of great food to try and taste. I am pleased to announce that Japan has pizza and pasta and Hagen Daas ice cream, but the local cuisine is very special and well worth a try!

S A Partners will be running a one week study tour to Japan in the near future.

Dr Kano Would be Delighted to Travel Delta Airlines

I have recently returned from three weeks of sun and scenery in the USA, as part of my travels I took a couple of internal flights, on Delta Airlines to transport me in and out of Salt Lake City,  my starting point, then travelling up through Idaho into Yellowstone National Park.

So for those in the know…The Kano model is a theory of product development and customer satisfaction developed in the 1980s by Professor Noriaki Kano.

Kano informs us that customers are always looking for their needs to be fulfilled and certain features if provided can “delight” customers and generate both loyalty and that word of mouth experience that drives sales and beyond. He also adds caution that you also have to get the basics right and standard performance is expected

So in an example, it’s no good having a chocolate on your hotel pillow if the sheets are ripped and the wifi is so slow, you think you’ve gone back to dial up!

Anyway, back to Delta Airlines.

Their app was a dream and I managed to book everything very easily and I had all the details on my phone, plus when I arrived at LAX, I had a “nudge” from my Apple watch, sent from the app, to tell me where to find the bag drop. It also told me the wait time, which wasn’t great news as it was the 4th July weekend, but comforting, no less.

So once I had dropped off the bags, the tracking number loaded to the app and I didn’t need the little receipt, so one less thing to keep safe.

So here’s the extra delighter, although I’m easily pleased. My Apple watch gave me a nudge about 20 minutes later and I had a message from Delta, that my bag had been loaded safely aboard the plane! How cool was that!

So the flight was smooth and even though this was only a short domestic transfer, they had the full size touch interface screens at each seat and you could watch the latest movies or TV at no cost!

The final touch was whilst coming off the plane at SLC, my watch gave me a nudge again, and told me that my bag was safely in Salt Lake City and I’d find it on bag carousel #4…totally Awesome and a sense of relief combined…what excellent customer service!

By the way, Yellowstone was awesome too!


Hold the Date – 3rd Annual NZ CI Conference – 30th August 2017

Join us on the 30th August for the third annual Continuous Improvement Conference hosted at Massey University in Albany.

Building on the success of the past two events we are looking to bring you a great event, and a chance to network and learn from others

Our event also features the NZ book launch of 4 + 1: Embedding a Culture of Continuous Improvement in Financial Services by Dr Morgan L. Jones, Chris Butterworth & Brenton Harder

We are in the early stages of lining up a great selection of key note speakers and stream activities including additional speakers and workshop activities to make the day informative, engaging and fun. Our current line up includes:

Dr Morgan Jones – Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Paul Salmon – Lean IT

Chris Till – HR Institute NZ

Farah Palmer – Former Captain, Black Ferms

Adam Bentley – Countdown Supermarkets

Rob McGee – Auckland Leisure

We are finalising the full programme this month and aim to have the full details ready in early March.

So mark the diary and join us on the 30th August to join the throng!

Creating a Lean and Green Business System

Things that are good for the planet are also good for business. Numerous studies from the likes of the Economist Intelligence Unit, Harvard, MIT Sloan, and others indicate that organizations that commit to goals of zero waste, zero harmful emissions, and zero use of nonrenewable resources clearly outperform their competition.

Like lean thinking, greening your business is not just a ‘nice to have’; at least not anymore. It is now a key economic driver for many forward looking firms. This book is packed with case studies and examples that illustrate how leading firms use lean and green as simultaneous sources of inspiration in various sectors of industry – from automotive and retail to textile and brewing. Take Toyota as an example, the holy grail of economic efficiency for decades. This book, shows that Toyota tops the green chart too, describing Toyota’s notion of Monozukuri: sustainable manufacturing.

Creating a Lean and Green Business System: Techniques for Improving Profits and Sustainability offers opportunities for innovation that can simultaneously reduce dependence on natural resources and enhance global prosperity. It explores less understood aspects of lean and green – discussing their evolution independently as well as the opportunities that exist in their integration, highlighting the importance of a cultural shift across the whole company.

Outlining a systematic way to eliminate harmful waste while generating green value, the book explains how to:

  • Become economically successful and environmentally sustainable by adopting the lean and green business system model
  • Adopt a systematic approach to become lean and green, and develop your own roadmap to success
  • Use the cutting edge tools, techniques, and methodologies developed by the authors
  • Translate the techniques and culture that underpin lean into environmental improvements

Creating a Lean and Green Business System: Techniques for Improving Profits and Sustainability supplies a new way of thinking that will allow you to boost improvement efforts and create a positively charged work environment – while contributing to the long-term well-being of the environment.

Purchase this book.

Staying Lean: Thriving, Not Just Surviving

Staying Lean: Thriving, not just surviving has just been awarded a Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence 2009, in the Research and Professional Publication category. The book draws on the story of a multi-national company that has successfully implemented Lean in its manufacturing and commercial areas to help turnaround the organisation s financial performance.

The story is based around the Lean Iceberg Model of sustainable change and addresses the often invisible, and hard to copy, enabling elements of successful Lean Management in manufacturing organisations: Strategy and Alignment, Leadership, Behaviour and Engagement as well as the more visible features: Process Management and the application of Lean Technology, Value Stream Tools and Techniques. Staying Lean is designed to be used as a practical workbook to guide practitioners along their own Lean journey so that Lean becomes embedded in the organisation and sustains the performance improvements over the long-term; often enabling them to outperform low-cost economies and thus compete in a global marketplace.

Purchase this book.

Creating World Class Suppliers: Unlocking Mutual Competitive Advantage

This text examines the competitive advantage for manufacturing and service companies achieveable through forging innovative relationships with suppliers. This text contains international examples and outlines methods, tools and techniques for managers to implement supplier development strategies. Cases include Marks & Spencer, Mercedes, Digital, Harley Davidson and Motorola.

Purchase this book.

Toyota Supply Chain Management: A Strategic Approach to Toyota’s Renowned System

The Toyota Production System is the benchmark used throughout the world for “lean” thinking. Now you can model your own processes after those of the company that “wrote the book on supply chain management.”

Written by two experts on the subject, along with a former Toyota senior executive, this book details the most celebrated supply chain operation in the world to help you form an integrated, synchronized system that will be the envy of your industry.

You will find key insight into the logic behind every point of Toyota’s supply chain, along with both the tactics and strategies you can use to build an outstanding system of your own. Toyota Supply Chain Management explains how to achieve balance and efficiency by focusing on variety, velocity, variability and visibility.

The authors provide valuable insider tips and offer hands-on guidance for improvingproduction and operations in a variety of industries, including health care, insurance, banking, credit processing, and retailing.

With careful attention paid to every aspect of the subject—from principles and theories to operations and best practices—Toyota Supply Chain Management is the most comprehensive, insightful guide to forging a world-class supply chain system.

Purchase this book.

Lean in the 21st Century™ Blog Series The Principles of the Lean Business System: #6 Partnering

As you may have read in my previous blogs, Lean is rapidly evolving. It is moving past the traditional tools and one off events stage. People are also challenging whether the original concepts we learned about in the last century are really right. One of the most serious mistakes that organisations make is to only look inside their four walls and not at the wider supply chain, both towards the customers and suppliers. As it happens this supply chain area is where my career started in industry before moving on to the University and consultancy world. My early research (captured in the book ‘Creating World Class Suppliers’) showed that the management of the supply chain may be the most important element in achieving competitive advantage.

I believe it is a more holistic or systems based approach is needed, balancing traditional hard methods within multiple processes as well as a range of enabling mechanisms within the strategy deployment, leadership and engagement areas of work. In other words the secret lies in thinking about Lean less in simple cost reduction terms and more as a way of thinking, behaving and improving, impacting on every aspect of work inside a business. I call this a Lean Business System.

So how do you go about developing this modern lean approach? Those of you that read my previous blogs will know that I believe the starting place is not copying some exemplar such as Toyota who almost certainly is in a different industry, faced with different circumstances and at a different stage of its evolution. What is needed is to start from a simple set of Lean Principles that can be applied to any industry and using this to guide your journey. Having learned from 25 years of application of lean I have defined 8 such principles: the 8Ps of the Lean Business System.

This framework helps companies in any industry, and at any stage of Lean maturity, to reflect on how they are deploying Lean in their business. It helps to take the focus away from point-kaizen activity towards a more contingent approach, a more aligned approach, a more human approach and ultimately, a more sustainable approach. Indeed it is part of a move to Lean becoming a cultural journey towards everyone in the organisation actively working towards a fully aligned ‘tomorrow better than today’ system.

No company or organisation is an island and to create a world class organisation usually requires the creation of a world class supply chain. Indeed, the leading practitioners of Lean worldwide such as Toyota and Tesco have also heavily focused on creating a high performing supply chain.

Indeed, when I compared the relative performance of Toyota’s Japanese supply chain with a comparative one in the UK I found that the management of the supply chain was Toyota’s key competitive advantage. As can be seen below, based on comparative productivity figures for the whole supply chain, the major competitive advantage did not lie at the car producer but more at the 1st and 2nd tier suppliers.


The Competitive Gap When Partnering

The question is, why? After three months of extensive research I discovered that the reason was that Toyota invested a huge amount of effort into partnering with their suppliers. In doing so they made dramatic improvements to their performance. Not only that, but Toyota had also taught their suppliers how to do the same using an approach they call Kyoryoku Kai or Supplier Association.

Unfortunately, although this inter-company development and coordination is at the heart of a true Lean Business System there are few companies in the West outside of the automotive industry that have got anywhere near achieving the type of results we see from Toyota in Japan. One of the main reasons is that insufficient focus has been given to the Partnering Principle in traditional Lean businesses.

For further information about this blog series or the accompanying webinar series please contact Dr Donna Samuel, the series manager.

Inalfa extend their Lean Enterprise

S A Partners have been working with key client, Inalfa Roof Systems, for the past 4 years in manufacturing sites in Europe, North America, Mexico, China and Korea. Inalfa recognises that almost 70% of their final sales costs reside in its’ bought-in materials and components. They have thus taken the bold step of spreading their best practice learning throughout their supply chain.

In 2013 they will work closely and collaboratively with their top 15 critical suppliers. This latest development takes the initial form of in-house accredited training followed by on site workshops and on-going mentoring of projects.

Inalfa Workshop in action
Inalfa Workshop in action

All suppliers attending the training receive a certificate of accreditation by Cardiff University’s Lean Competency System.  The training is highly oriented to delivering practical benefits.Typical benefits that have been achieved to-date include: transport reduction of 20%; packaging cost reduction of 15%; quality defects rates retuned to zero; and, a 20% reduction in labour content for a production cell.

Inalfa team receive their certificates
Inalfa team receive their certificates

The Inalfa programme is set to run over the next 3-5 years with S A Partners providing expert diagnostic support, mentoring of Inalfa coaches and formal accredited supplier training.