In a few weeks I will have a new book published titled JIT IS FLOW. The following is the foreword to the book:
Foreword to JIT IS FlOW
IS FlOW reminds me of a brief interchange with a Toyota veteran in the late 1990s. After a long
career beginning in 1946, he retired, having lived through the development of
the system described in JIT IS FlOW. He could not remember any milestone events,
but knew that from the outset the objective had been to make maximum use of the
Toyota had, its people. Making material flow quickly through production was only one aspect of the system. Fast, visible flow made people watch quality constantly and generate improvement ideas frequently. Thinking at work is necessary because conditions are always changing, and the parts of the system reinforce each other to speed learning as things change. Finally he noted that despite going to factories every day, he could never fully understand the system. “Every day I learn something new about it.”
That is the spirit of this book. Hiroyuki Hirano and Makoto Furuya, the authors, obviously have long first-hand experience with the Toyota Production System, both using it and coaching it. Their explanations are both simple and profound, the mark of deep experience. Readers new to the system will easily grasp the basic ideas, while those that have worked with it a long time will spot insights that had not occurred to them before. Like Alice in Wonderland, readers are apt to learn from it according to the experience they bring to the reading – and perhaps see something new each time they re-thumb it. That makes JIT IS FlOW a book to keep on the shelf.
This kind of insight is difficult to convey in one’s native language. When it is translated from Japanese, something is inevitably lost, but the translation of JIT IS FlOW crosses that divide pretty well. For example, the passage in Chapter 5 on “People Love Making Things” was obviously hard to express in English. The gist of it is that full engagement in process improvement requires that people love what they do so much that they can’t wait to come in each day and try some different idea. They do not work just for the money. Some, if they did not need money to live on, would come to work every day because they like the challenge. It becomes a vital part of their life.
When hiring people, love of the work is a difficult selection criterion to apply, but it is worth the time and patience to try. For most of us, the notion dawns slowly that this system of work is really about the development of people throughout their working life. When developing people, each person is discovered to be an individual; no two alike. That is why leadership of this kind of working system is specific to each site, each one having unique problems, processes, and especially, people working there. The system principles may be general, but applying them is a new learning exercise every time.
So take your time mulling over Hirano and Furuya’s thinking. Take it in sips, reflecting on your own experience while digesting the essence of theirs. As a leader of process improvement, you too should come to truly enjoy learning something new every day.
Robert W. “Doc” Hall
Editor-in-Chief, Target Magazine
Association for Manufacturing Excellence
Robert is also the author of Driving the Productivity Machine: Production Planning & Control in Japan, Attaining Manufacturing Excellence, The Kaizen Blitz: Accelerating Breakthroughs in Productivity and Performance and others.