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Blitzing To Disaster

What Happens When Kaizen Blitzing Replaces Strategy 

Aircraft Component Machining

Machined productsA smaller but well-known aircraft company attempted to implement Lean Manufacturing for their machine shop and subassembly operations. The Kaizen Blitz was their primary approach. They employed consultants  who came in with the usual panoply of edicts and pronouncements:

Machine shopThese edicts apply to many manufacturing situations including this particular manufacturer's subassembly cells. Indeed, the subassembly cells functioned quite well.

Things did not work so well in machining. Here, a very low-volume, high-variety product mix combined with the above beliefs brought the following results:

The overall result was layoffs, higher inventories, an unprofitable cost structure, management changes, and severe pressure from the corporate masters. The guiding beliefs discussed here derive from Toyota's JIT starting in the early 1950's. Such beliefs were useful for Toyota and similar manufacturers. They do not apply to all situations. 

A low-volume, high-variety machine shop is one situation where these guiding beliefs do not apply directly.


Home Water Purification Manufacturing

The company in this example manufactured a wide variety of commercial and home water purification products. Some were quite simple, others fairly complex. A wide variety of injection-molded parts were made onsite.

Over the previous several years, the company had initiated over 150 Kaizen Blitz'. Many of their cells and small production lines seemed well designed and effective but the overall funcioning of the factory was very poor. Management, it seems, were obsessed with the concept of the kaizen event and ignored many of the larger issues. Team development, Total Quality, Setup Reduction, Lean Scheduling, inventory reduction, and overall layout planning had been ignored. The results:

  • Good Productivity Within Cells

  • High Inventories

  • Complex Material Flows External To Cells

  • Messy, Fragmented Storage Areas

  • Quality Problems

In addition, many people in the organization were frustrated with the constant pressure for instantaneous results, the lack of important fundamental changes, and the diminishing returns from each subsequent Blitz.

The executive who promoted the overuse of the Blitz had recently departed. A Strategos consultant then conducted a 2-day seminar, Facility Design for Lean Manufacturing. The intent was to rationalize the macro-layout.

During this seminar, the managerial team also  began to think through their Manufacturing Strategy. They began to develop the fundamental skills and knowledge that would eventually lead to a highly successful manufacturing operation.

Other Kaizen Event Pages:

Is The Kaizen Blitz Right For You?

When Kaizen Replaces Strategy

 Kaizen & One Piece Flow

Rationalized Workcell Design

Workcell Design Seminar

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