Lessons Learned from 2014 Lean Manufacturing Study Tour
Interest in lean manufacturing, and the potential benefits of improved productivity, quality, safety and employee welfare, has been growing over the past decade within Australian and New Zealand industry.
Those of us who were fortunate to be present at the ANZCCJ’s 2012 Gala Dinner will recall the excellent address given by Sam Walsh, CEO of Rio Tinto, on lean mining, and the application of lean principles within the resources industry. Sam spoke of the laser-like focus that Japan’s automotive industry has on value and efficiency. He also impressed upon the gathering that this same focus, together with a concentrated intent to eliminate variation and waste from every stage of production, was applicable to a wide range of industries.
The Australian Industry Group Lean Japan Tour was held during the 18th through 24th of May in Tokyo and Nagoya, with the aim of showcasing the rich history that Japanese industry has in the fields of lean manufacturing, industrial engineering and continuous improvement (kaizen). The tour has been an annual initiative of the Australian Industry Group and ANZCCJ member Shinka Management for the past eight years and is designed to provide companies with lean training and first-hand experience of the world-class application of lean manufacturing within Japanese industry.
This year’s tour group comprised 13 industry professionals from Australia and New Zealand. During the week-long study tour participants learned about the implementation of lean manufacturing and kaizen in some of Japan’s top companies. Participants experienced seminars on lean manufacturing and operations analysis, and several factory tours.
The factory tours and reception provided by the host companies throughout the week were excellent. Isuzu Corporation (Metal One Group), which specialises in the process and sales of cold rolled steel was a standout in terms of the company’s dedication to employee welfare and motivation, and their efficient use of space within their service centres. The tour group was impressed by the level of excellence on display in terms of productivity and organisation within Isuzu’s immaculate Gifu Service Centre.
Inoac, a world-leading innovator and producer of polyurethane, plastic, rubber and composite materials, was another standout visit. The company provided a warm reception, and led the group on a tour of the company’s Anjo plant prior to a discussion with several members of their senior management team regarding their production management systems and kaizen activities.
Two days of the tour were dedicated to lean training at a Toyota Group lean training centre. The group developed their understanding of the Toyota Production System (TPS) during their stay, and in addition to classroom and hands-on training, experienced TPS in action on the floor of a vehicle assembly plant and through visits and management discussions with two Toyota Group suppliers. The application of Just-In-Time manufacturing, visual management, supplier development and kanban systems were all covered.
The tour also included visits to two multinational companies applying lean principles within the food and beverage industry. Kikkoman, famous for its excellence in R&D and innovation in the production and distribution of soy sauce, was the tour group’s first visit. In addition to a plant tour, a management discussion was held with Kikkoman staff presenting on two of their recent kaizen projects.
ITO EN, the world leader in production and distribution of green tea products, was the group’s final visit. The tour included ITO EN’s R&D and quality control labs, tea processing and packaging, and their new coffee roasting facility for their Tully’s Coffee brand. The group met with representatives from ITO EN’s production division responsible for administering the company’s kaizen and employee suggestion schemes.
In addition to learning about Japanese management philosophy and productivity practices, the tour group spent the week immersed in Japanese culture, received training on Japanese business etiquette, and experienced local food, drink, entertainment and customs.
The group was joined by Misako Kitaoka, Executive Director, and Andrew Peyton, Executive Council Member, who represented ANZCCJ at the farewell dinner for the tour group. The participants were delighted to have representatives from Austrade and ANZCCJ member company WINTEX join us on the evening as well.
The tour was led by lean consultants Shinka Management, in conjunction with the Australian Industry Group and Simply Lean Business Solutions. A second Lean Japan Tour is scheduled for this year, to be held during the 9th through 15th November 2014. For further details see the Lean Study Mission page.