Today we departed the hotel earlier at 6:50AM to take a 35 min travel by shinkansen (bullet train) from Nagoya station to Kyoto city (140 km west from Nagoya). The first visit was at OMRON KYOTO TAIYO, a joint venture between Omron Co, and the Social Welfare Corporation Japan Sun Industries. This joint ventures is focused on the role of both a business enterprise and a welfare corporation to create working opportunities for disabled people whilst guarateeing work stability and considering business management. They endeavor to build an environment where disabled people can find motivation in working independently. OMRON has approximately 200 people where 131 have physical, mental or emotional difficulties. They produce approximately 1,500 types of products, such as sockets, power supplies, sensors, timers and healthcare equipment in a wide variety and small-lot production.
Mr. Hiroaki, on his wheelchair, welcomed us and guided all participants to the meeting room where he presented the company overview, starting from the history of the company to explain the purpose and values of the company. In 1985, Mr. Tateishi and Dr. Nakamura founded Omron Kyoto Taiyo. Since its establishment, the company has remained faithful to its founding principles: working to create a better society.
The missions of the company are:
- Expand employment of disable people
- Keep QCD (Quality, Cost, Delivery) of products for customer satisfaction
- Contribute to society by sharing our know-how in employment of disable
Mr. Hiroaki explained that when there is a decision be made, they always check if it attends to those missions and principles. So, to improve lives and contribute to a better society, the point is how to provide jobs for disabled people? If people see how disabled people can work properly, then potentially other companies can hire those people too. But, to maintain the same productivity or even increase it, and keep high quality, how can the operations be improved?
The slogan “No charity, but a chance”, at the entrance of the meeting room was particularly meaningful, and explains all Kaizen implemented at gemba, focusing on built-in quality concept and 3 first “S” of 5S practice. The objective is to make employees realize that there are wastes around them, and think how to eliminate them.
Some examples of simple Kaizen, but effective:
- In the work areas, each lamp has a wire hanging from the roof with a small colored ball to be pulled to turn it on or off. Colors can be blue (which means always keep on), red (to keep always off) or yellow (to turn on as needed). With this standard, each change of lay-out of the working cells, the lights can also be turned on or off to suit the new configuration.
- In the elevators, each floor indicator buttons are colored, and at each floor, when the door is opened, we can see the tapes on the floor with the same color indicating the path. The reason for this is that a person with mental illness may have difficulty in making a decision, but can be very effective in fulfilling a specific task repeatedly, as long as there is no decision making. Material carriers are a typical example. When the material arrives, a person picks up the material and places a blue colored sticker on the box. The carrier, when observing the blue label, is instructed to go to the proper floor (by pressing the blue elevator button), and just follow the blue line of the floor. Very visual and simple.
In order to prevent the product defects, after each key process, there are inspections to avoid passing defects to next process. Also, skill certification test is conducted annually for the employees, challenging them to more complex tasks.
After witnessing this impressive, mission-oriented company with a very clear purpose conduct an abundance of simple, but great Kaizen, there is no excuse for any company not to do Kaizen!
Mr. Hiroaki gave a final message that he is open to other companies to visit Omron Kyoto Taiyo to see those Kaizen, and if any idea is useful and possible to be implemented in your company that will allow and help disabled people have a work, it will be very grateful.
Our minds were opened to see a different reality after this incredible visit. Afterwards we went back to Nagoya and at the train station, we took a traditional bentou box (japanese packed lunch). It was really delicious!!
In the afternoon, the second visit was to Maruwa Electronic & Chemical Co. When we arrived the management team was ready to receive us and we had a seat at the meeting room to see the company presentation before going straight to the gemba.
Maruwa specializes in manufacturing plastic and electronic automotive interior components for Toyota Motor and Toyota affiliated auto-body makers. The main product lines are overhead module, the front heater control panel and the rear heater control panel. Before, the old facility had the electronic and injection molding plants in separate areas, so there were many losses such as handling intermediate inventory, unnecessary floor spaces, etc with a lead time of 12 days. Now, in the new plant, they put in place the “flow” concept: nonstop from material to delivery. The main processes are material reception, molding, painting, assembly and delivery, working with Just-in-Time concept and Kaizen focused on eliminating muda and reducing lead time, which currently decreased to 4 days.
When we arrived at the shop floor, the first impression was shocking!! It was really one of the cleanest and well-organized injection molding plant we have ever seen! (You would guess that when we have just put on a lab coat before going to the gemba!)
In this visit we had the opportunity to see Kaizen implemented, like error-prevention of production instructions using QR codes, improving preventive maintenance activities, taking data of number of shots done by machine in percentage comparing with the planned preventive maintenance (PV) schedule. Maruwa also utilizes AI (artificial intelligence) data-mining approaches to collect several parameters of the machine when a defect part is produced, analyzing the causes and preventing new scraps.
In Assembling lines, to prevent human error, cameras are set to view the operators assembly movement. If the standard sequence is not followed, a big red “NG” appears on the screen, preventing defect parts.
At Shipping area, frequent deliveries are implemented to reduce inventory level. Before it shipped 4 trucks per day with 50 min for loading/unloading per truck time using forklifts and 56 hours of inventory in the plant. In order to reduce loading time, so they can have more deliveries, they changed the floor to low friction mat which reduces the load by 10 times (each pallet weighs 180 kg). With that, the operator just needs to push the pallet easily by hand and put in the truck instead of using forklifts (the height of the truck’s cargo bay was leveled with the shipping dock floor level). Now, they can ship 8 trucks per day holding 4 hours of inventory. Another poka-yoke (error proof) system was implemented with an E-Kanban system. Before there were human error issues sending wrong parts to the customer and with the new system there are no mistakes anymore.
The company is also testing technology of virtual-augmented reality, where you use a cool glass and according to the orders to be shipped, the program using AI algorithms shows the right position to put the boxes and make the pallet. Currently you need skilled operators that by experience knows how to pile the boxes in a way that it fits well.
Finally there was an impressive visual presentation of Quality Control Circles with an amazing number of Kaizen ideas, almost 100 ideas implemented per employee per year (the company has around 290 employees).
It was an astonishing variety of great Kaizen seeking waste elimination and preventing errors to be passed to the next process. One more day with great learnings and insights comes to an end. On the way back to hotel, Darril promoted a lessons-learned discussion with us to reflect and absorb what we have seen, heard, and learned today.
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