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Zero designers for standard products (things you should never forget when using IT).

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

This time, I would like to talk about Kaizen case studies of a standard design team and a custom design team for a particular product design.


Let's aim for zero design person-hours if it is a standard type. It is a principle to introduce IT after improving the current work method.


The design drawing is already completed if the customer chooses a model set as the standard product type. Still, if the customer requests a particular specification, we will create a new design that satisfies the customer's request.


Its mission is to customize the primary product, even though it is a custom-made product.


Two teams share these two types of work.

This time, the spotlight is on the standard design team.


Even though we call it a standard model, if the same customer specifies a product with the exact specifications, we will use the model number we previously designed as the standard.


Unlike automobiles, the products targeted this time do not have all the models available at the time of product development.



When we receive an order for a product with repeat specifications from a customer, we add a new design while assessing differences in specifications based on that product. The standards are the standard specifications.


When there is a request from the customer, we investigate the history so far, create a confirmation diagram, present it to the customer, and ask the customer to fill in the detailed request on the confirmation diagram. It's the way it used to be.


It is the preparatory work for the design.


They didn't have much of a concept of standard specifications in their actual practice.


In reality, the person in charge and the team leader decide whether it is a repeat order, and it takes about three hours in total, including clerical work such as registration in the system.


After that, it takes less than 10 hours to create a confirmation drawing to be submitted to the customer.


Anyone who hears this story wonders, "Why is it taking 13 hours in total for a standard product?"


Looking at it objectively, this kind of question immediately arises, but for those who have been doing this work for many years, it is a regular job.


If you repeat the same way for many years, you will get used to it and your comfort zone.


This way of doing it will improve your performance because it's a skilled routine, but on the other hand, if you try to do something different from this way of doing it, you'll feel uncomfortable, or something doesn't feel right.


This skilled routine was their comfort zone.


When you're in your comfort zone, the negative side is hidden by the scotoma, and you can't see the outside.

So a scotoma is a psychological blind spot.


Initially, in Toyota-style Kaizen, this is called "prejudice", and it is the standard of the kaizen process to notice this in the early stages of Kaizen and overcome it.


In the Toyota style, the word "disrupting the status quo" is often used.


This case is no exception, and from an objective point of view, this three-hour preparation work may seem like a waste of time, but the person concerned cannot notice it due to the effects of the scotoma.



In addition, our brains do not receive information because the RAS (reticular activation system) filter in the brainstem blocks what we think is irrelevant to us.


In other words, the RAS works so that people only receive the information they perceive to be relevant.


In Kaizen activities, we first visualize the current situation. It is called "omotehyojun" in Toyota.

It objectively records what is happening in as much detail as possible.


In this activity, I was able to get rid of the scotoma by creating a standard and objectively looking at what the people involved were doing.


I can see the waste.


The purpose of this preparatory work is to distinguish between standards and non-standards.


Therefore, if you think about "what is necessary", you can eliminate this waste.


If the standard judgment criteria are clarified, salespeople may be able to make judgments.


During business negotiations, we can obtain only the necessary information from sales if we find out that the product is standard.


You have to be careful.



It is an example from another design team.


At that team, we wanted to eliminate waste in our daily work, so we thought about using IT.


We thought our work would become more manageable if we introduced a commercial efficiency system.


However, if you take a closer look at the current situation, you can still find some redoing of the work.

It was "as expected".


If you introduce an IT system, you can usually get the correct answer if there is no mistake in the initial input information.


Is there a problem of miscommunication between the customer, the salesperson, and the designer?


The information provided by sales is insufficient, so we are making additional inquiries to the customer.

In the first place, the information from the customer is incorrectly conveyed, and he often makes mistakes, such as rewriting the drawings later.


In general, if an IT system is introduced, they can obtain correct answers if they can input accurate information at the time of initial input.


It happens often.


In this case, the point is to break the habit of confirming customer requests using confirmation diagrams as a starting point.


Again, it is essential to collect a record of the current redo, grasp the cause of the redo, and remove it in advance.


If you rush to IT quickly, you will be hindered by the same redo and mistakes as before, so please be careful.


Finally, this Kaizen aims to target standard products with zero designers.

However, Kaizen does not end here.


For example, if there are 50 standard products per month, 13 hours ✖️ 50 cases = 650 hours

It will be a calculation that floats for 650 hours.


It is essential to do more value-added work in these 650 hours.

Don't just end up with waste.

Kaizen, the custom design method

Focus resources on developing new products

Cost reduction of existing products, etc.

There are many ways to add value.


The starting point of Kaizen is to eliminate jobs with little added value and allocate resources to jobs with added value.



Below is a summary of the critical points of this Kaizen case study.


  1. Distinguish between standard products (including options and choices) and custom-made products

  2. Improve standard products so that they can be printed with the push of a button

    1. Visualize the current state and extract problems

      1. Redo self-blame (lack of knowledge, mistakes, etc.)

      2. Redo responsibility for others (delayed information, incorrect information, etc.)

      3. Long lead times due to poor planning, etc.

  3. Digging deeper into the causes of the above problems

    • Cause of lack of basic knowledge

      1. How do you teach?

      2. Are you leaving it to someone who does not know?

      3. Can you recognize what you don't understand?

      4. Is it an environment where you can ask what you don't understand?

    • Cause of error (If replaced by machines, human error will decrease, so there is no need to spend time on analysis.)

      1. Are there design procedures in place?

      2. Customer information is not communicated promptly.

      3. Correction of customer information (mistakes in sales, miscommunication)

      4. Eliminate or reduce checks (inspections)

      5. Write down the reason for checking - is there?

        • (With IT, human error will decrease, so there is no need to spend time on analysis.)

        • get rid of the boss's approval

        • Write down why you need approval - yes?

        • Doesn't your boss control how you work? Stamping is not management

What should be done next after standard Kaizen is completed?

  • Enhancement of custom-made product design

  • Move from passive to proposing.

  • Are you listening to your customer's needs? Our company is more professional in product functions, so we will proactively make proposals.

  • Establishing a custom design process

  • How to check missing information through sales

  • Establish the necessary information acquisition → design concept → detailed design → drawing process

Etc. There is no end to improvement.

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