Japan Lean Experience – Tokai-Shin-ei Electronics

Back in 2009 I  kept a diary of my Japan Lean Experience and I recall that on our 4th day on the road, and after another great lunch at the Gozarase restaurant we travelled for about an hour to Ena-shi Gifuken, the home of Tokai-Shin-ei Electronics.

Tokai-Shin-ei design and manufacture printed circuit boards their factory is located in a small town in the foothills of the central ranges around Nagoya. Tokai-Shin-ei ‘s long standing President,  Yoshihito Takanaka, gave the initial presentation; he informed  us of his corporate philosophy, based on self discipline, employee involvement through Kaizen and a focus on customer value through Total Quality Management primciples.


During the Gemba tour it was fascinating, to see the high levels of workplace organisation and cleanliness. The 5S program was adopted in the early nineties, as part of Takanaka’s unique philosophy of developing self discipline across the entire work force which encouraged and sustained a highly clean and organized workplace.

TSK’s market is extremely competitive, and due to its remote location, they had focused on minimizing operating costs, by carefully maintaining and even improving the plant and equipment, to maximize the investment. The adoption of Autonomous Maintenance (TPM) has enabled machinery to last well beyond the normal expectations, hence maximizing the assets and return on capital.

One particular example highlighted during the tour was of a 19 year old machine, which has a normal life expectancy of 5 years!

The overwhelming impression of TSK is that of a dedication to Kaizen, they truly believe that everyone has a part to play in improving the operation for their customers on a daily basis. It is also important to remember that employing just over 100 people in this small town is a significant factor, they seemed proud of being able to withstand the years of fierce competition with one of the best reputations for quality and reliability.


5S is certainly a major contributing factor, and without doubt some of the best examples that you will ever see. This must see factory is an absolute highlight, and we are hoping to include a visit in our 2018 Japan Lean Experience tour!

S A Partners will be running a one week study tour to Japan next April.


TPM of a world class cyclist

Many of you will have seen the documentaries about Team Sky, following the record breaking Tour de France wins by Sir Bradley Wiggins win and Chris Froome. Team Sky take a holistic and systemic approach to looking after their riders and the team – it’s like applying TPM to people!

I recently read Geraint Thomas’ auto-biography which provides excellent insights into the Team Sky world of ‘marginal gains’ and the Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) of its world class riders.

Learning from experience – and especially mistakes is important in continuous improvement.  Everything is subjected to Plan > Do > Review in a systematic and systemic fashion.  The obvious areas for improvement are technological advances to materials, kit and equipment (e.g. bikes and helmets) and measuring and analysing rider performance, but personalised training plans, diet, clothing, bedding & mattress toppers, the team bus, warm down regime and recovery care are all subject to this scientific level of scrutiny.

Psychological ‘mind management’ support is available from Professor Steve Peters and the approach he has developed  – called ‘The Chimp Paradox’ – for example, time and effort lost on emotions and worrying is still a waste.

Famously, riders have stated ‘it’s not about the bike’ – the system that supports the world class rider goes much further than the bike.  Marginal gains come from everywhere. And many sports are now adopting this systematic approach to improvement!

So how do you look at your ‘production system’ and performance?  Any lessons from cycling?

Visit our events section to see what TPM workshops are planned.

Focus on Life Sciences: Industry & Business Magazine

S A Partners work with some of the biggest Life Science companies in the world.

The sector is led by John Quirke, Partner at S A Partners and Managing Director of our Ireland business.

John also leads on our Total Production Maintenance (TPM) offering and has recently co-written an article published in Industry & Business Magazine – Ireland, along with Peter Willmott, world renowned TPM expert.

The article is headed ‘Maintenance & Operational Performance as a Key Enabling System of Enterprise Excellence’, and looks at the evolution of true sustainable enterprise excellence in an asset based enterprise.

If you would like more information on the services we provide to the Life Science sector, or TPM, contact John Quirke direct, by e-mail.

Read the article in full.

Is the Effectiveness of your Equipment Assets your Weakest Link?

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Over the coming weeks we would like to share with you how Total Productive Manufacturing (TPM) is a key enabling tool to unlock the installed productive capacity of your physical assets by unlocking the potential of your people. We plan to do this through a series of 8 monthly blogs which will include practical interactive exercises and videos.

Two of the key outputs of this intention will be to equip you:

  • To gain a better appreciation that TPM is often a fundamental foundation of Operational Excellence and as such, is a key enabler to deliver the principles underpinning your own Company’s vision and aspirations, or for example- helping to deliver the principles embedded in the Shingo model.
  • To be better able to assimilate the likely resource commitments of People, Money and Time of running your own in- house TPM Program & how to prepare a compelling Cost / Benefit business case.

Where does your company fit in with the league table of TPM Maintenance?

Read the white paper and fill out the assessment form to find out where your company is in relation to the league table of  implementation.

Visit our TPM section for more information on what TPM is, and how we implement it, along with our Total Productive Manufacturing workshop page.

Do corporate wide Business Excellence programmes hinder local site based CI activity?

Could such programmes be seen as the ninth waste?

I have had the opportunity over the last twenty years to get first-hand experience of head office (corporate) driven initiatives to support continuous improvement (CI) activity across a diverse range of manufacturing, research and service organisations. In my experience very few programmes actually achieve their set objective of creating and enabling a culture of continuous improvement across a global organisation.

This must be a painful bit of information for many centrally driven programmes, but in my own, and many of my colleagues experience it is a reality. So why is this? Corporations spend significant amounts of money hiring the ‘right’ people for positions in global CI. Organisations develop very beautiful and comprehensive training material, they fly CI representatives around the world to attend conferences, carry out benchmark assessments and review site programme activity. But when I asked our team, from their experience around the world, what would be the level of successful corporate programmes? The answer is less than 10%! Yikes!

So why is this the case? Over the next couple of articles we will review some thoughts on this, but here is a flavour of what we see and experience.

Cultural Disconnects
Local culture can be overlooked or even ignored. It is often presumed that local sites will adopt corporate programme structure, standard templates, tools and ‘CI’ language. This can result in poor localisation of training materials and approach. In the worst example I have seen of this, a corporately chosen training partner showed totally inappropriate pictures during a training class that basically blackened the corporate CI efforts on site.

As regards CI programme implementation there will be cultural nuances both in language interpretation, approach and capability. In some cultures the idea of a team and who should be on a team can be a topic in itself. Gender and class issues, while politically may no longer be acceptable, can still have influence within a business often most strongly held within the very management groups you are trying to influence.

Skewed Strategies and NDS
Corporate and site strategies can be misaligned. Local sites very often have a very different agenda to the global business strategy. As more and more sites are pitted against each other in a global ‘benchmarking’ network. The strategy for the local site becomes very focused….Survival. This may or may not be in the best interest of the whole but it can drive particular behaviours at individual site level. The technical term for this situation is NDS or by its colloquial term the ‘nodding dog syndrome’.

WSWP – Syndrome
Inadequate benchmarking and understanding as to where the site really is on their CI journey. This is where NDS (see above) plays a part. In poor examples I have seen, the head office questionnaire (paper or online system) arrives and the site must self-assess where they are as regards the corporate benchmark. Maybe at some time in the future the site may be visited for a reality check, but this is generally too late to provide useful guidance and focus for the business. Programmes have kicked off, projects have started and teams are ‘engaged’ however, most of the efforts at best may save some cost but have no really strategic benefit to the business.

Here also is where another corporate maladies kicks in. Those tasked with flying around the world to carry out on the ground benchmark assessments can often suffer from WSWP syndrome or ‘world smelling of wet paint’. The thing about the olfactory senses is that the more they are exposed to a certain odour the less it is detected!

Wrong Measures
Corporate programmes measured by bums on seats or number of Greenbelts, Blackbelts, Bluebelts or whatever you’re having yourself! There is little or no focus on joined up enterprise performance and leading measures. There can be little or token focus on the key behavioural indicators ( KBI’s), which should be the focus of any programme looking to influence culture within an organisation.

Enforcing/Supporting/Enabling Silo Thinking
Reinforcing silo mentalities embedded in the business can also arise from poorly structured programmes. This confusion usually raises its head as overt or covert turf wars around continuous improvement programmes. Questions like what role the quality department play in process control and risk management and prevention? Or what role HR plays in management and people and leadership development? Or who owns the one source of truth as regards data? We see many programmes focused on operational performance with token attention to overall enterprise activities. If I see another sales office whose continuous improvement activity revolved around stationary management I’m going to vomit on someone’s shirt!

Lack of focus on leadership behaviour – Do as I say not as I do
Senior leaders are not checked on inappropriate behaviours at both peer to peer level and in their interactions at site level. The big wigs must walk the walk and talk the talk.
In a culture that fosters a relentless focus on continuous improvement in every aspect of the business as a leader you must lead from the front, the trenches even. Sure people will fire at you, but the bullets tend to be emotional and often personal. You may need to accept a few hits. The unhelpful possibly destructive culture and behaviour that you as a leader are currently faced with, did not appear all by itself. It has been allowed to develop and grow under your watch. A bit of humility in accepting yes, approaches and behaviours were wrong and that we must change our ways, can go a long way towards taking the sting out of some of those bullets!
Wrong Measures (again!)

Corporate programmes driven by savings targets to bottom line rather than acting as the touch stone for cultural and behavioural development across the organisation. Targeted savings that come about by eliminating waste in all that we do-by adding value though proactive involvement – is a far more powerful and sustainable route to survival.

No Systems thinking
Little or no focus on systems thinking. Organisations often get little or no guidance on what critical systems must be in place and what their particular ‘flavour’ needs to be in their given type of business.

Wrong People
Yep this is a reality, sometimes we have the wrong people driving CI. In the ‘old’ days corporations selected their best executives/managers to drive CI. These individuals were destined for greatness. Their time in CI would give them an opportunity to spread their magic across the organisation. What we sometime see now are individuals often set up for failure, frustrated and disillusioned. They see the issues, the disconnectedness but the drive behind the programme withers and they find themselves out on a limb unable to influence the organisation at the appropriate level. The individual’s past glories are forgotten and questions are asked (behind their back of course) as to why is the business supporting this expensive central CI function that’s not really bringing results? Executive CI recruitment is a busy market place.

About this series of articles
If Continuous Improvement mentality teaches us anything it is that we much see the reality of our current situation. We put the truth on the table however hairy and smelly it maybe! Unless we can do that, our continuous improvement efforts are another waste. They waste our time, our precious resources and most of all they waste the voluntary discretionary effort of every employee who comes in contact with bad programmes. This is the very thing, the magic sauce, that successful organisations know is the essence of true enterprise excellence.
Over the next few articles we will explore each of these issues in turn and consider ways to counter their impact and avoid the ninth waste of Lean. Where possible we will showcase good case study examples from organisations who have got it right and are willing the share their learnings.

Maintenance Outsourcing – Recipe for Success

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If your company is considering outsourcing some or all of its Maintenance requirements then perhaps the following thoughts may provide some useful pointers and guidance.

As companies focus on the integration of customer value into all aspects of their value streams, equipment maintenance soon crystallises into a key ‘Enabling System’ within the organisation. As such any attempt to outsource or modify ownership and control of such critical business systems must be approached with detailed consideration.

This paper is written by both Peter Willmott and John Quirke.

Why not view our Total Productive Maintenance page to view more resources such as videos and case studies find out more.

Is TPM really just a hidden agenda to get Operators to do the Maintainer’s Job?

The whole philosophy around TPM centres on Teamwork between the Operator and the Maintenance Technician for taking shared responsibility for the health and reliability of their Equipment Assets, so we need to view and consider both roles together in order to define who does what-and hence the why, when and how?

I encourage the analogy that healthy equipment is just like a healthy body. In this scenario the Operator is the Nurse of the Asset (the patient) and the Technician is the Doctor (and occasionally the Surgeon in an emergency).

One way of describing the TPM Journey and the way in which a Maintenance Technician’s use of time and skill sets are progressively developed more productively- is to use the figure below.

TPM graph highlighting the different areas of attention

Experience shows that before adopting the TPM philosophy, a Maintainer’s time and effort is typically spent as 50% Breakdown / Reactive ,plus 30% Planned Maintenance /fixed interval, plus 10% Condition based /Predictive, and only the final 10% as Proactive / Design out.

By adopting the TPM ‘ways of working’ this use of time profile progressively develops to a more ‘value adding’ / productive role- typically over 3 years- to one of only 10% Breakdown / Reactive ,plus 15% Planned Maintenance /fixed interval, plus 50% Condition based /Predictive, and the final 25% as Proactive / Design out. The figures are relative rather than absolute -but in both cases add up to a 100%.

The biggest changes are

  • Breakdowns become a rarity, because of the ‘100 year fix’ mentality – to not only solve -but also to prevent re-occurrence of the issue by using 5 why’s,FMEA and A3 Problem solving tools
  • M’s have halved- Why? Because improved reliability means we can both extend the interval between PM’s and take out unnecessary PM routines
  • Why?- because they have shifted to a condition-based / inspection routine regime (including selective use of Thermography, Vibration monitoring and Oil debris analysis tools) –but also recognising that the Operator is the best condition monitor ever invented using their god-given senses of look, listen, feel, hear and touch via the Front Line Operator Asset Care checks (Autonomous Maintenance) that they have developed.-where the Maintenance Technician now becomes the ‘teacher’ of the way to do the checks -and the Operator the ‘pupil’. As such Maintenance Technicians train and encourage the Operators to become ‘Equipment Conscious’ to improve their understanding of the typical Front Line Operator Asset Checks(FLOAC)
  • This means that 25% of the Maintenance Technician’s time can now be devoted to designing out the equipment weaknesses as the ‘Engineer’ he was indentured for -rather than the ‘quick-fix’ person he had become, by having a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to respond to the next ‘nasty surprise’ breakdown!

When I explain this I ask the rhetorical question –‘where would you prefer to use your skills?’- not in an arrogant way but by showing some empathy for their current daily hassle and miss-use of their capabilities
There’s a lot more detail of course –but this is the essence-and it’s worth reminding ourselves also to stress 3 factors that those Front Line Operator Checks.

a) probably don’t get done by anyone at the moment (so it’s not a hidden agenda to get the Operator to do the Maintainer’s job) and ….

b) do not involve using any spanners, screwdrivers- far less voltmeters !

c) are developed with both the Operator and the Maintenance Technician –Who also helps train the Operators to do carry them out via Single Point Lessons and Standard Work

TPM enhances -rather than dilutes- the skill sets of both the Operator and Maintainer.

Peter undertakes TPM workshops throughout the year in both the UK and Ireland with S A Partners.