Monday, June 24, 2019

Lean Operations MDP experiential workshop

Taiichi Ohno, Father of TPS

Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify it's inefficiency - Bill Gates
It was great to be back at 91, Springboard, Koramangala, Bangalore on 22 June 2019 for a Lean Operations Experiential workshop - learning how to make operations efficient and less wasteful !!

This was being jointly conducted between Alliance University Bangalore faculty and, the online startup of Indian small and medium sector industries based out of Bangalore.

There were 10 excited and enthusiastic participants for the experiential Lean workshop (originally Toyota Production System, TPS). 91, Springboard is a great co-work space (click here) and is located in the center of Bangalore city, near Koramangala Forum Mall.

The workshop started with a brief explanation of the pressing necessity for organisations across the world to accept "lean operations" given the pressure to automate almost all industry functions.

Lean Operations history is synonymous with Toyota successes in Japan. Starting from the Toyoda textile loom company to the first automobile which rolled out of Toyota company in 1936, (click here for Model AA)  to the opening of the Toyota Motor Company in 1939, it was a quick and short discussion. The stellar role of Taiichi Ohno in shaping the Toyota Production System cannot be forgotten. According to the author, Value Creation, Standardisation and Continuous Improvement are the main pillars of Toyota Production System or the present Lean Operations.

At first in the organisation, process implementation happens haphazardly in the beginning. Over time, the processes get stabilised and then goes for improvement, optimisation etc.  It is then that gains accrue from the improvements in the processes on the shop floor.

Great Learning and enjoyment at 91, SpringBoard, Koramangala
Bangalore ..
We also discussed how Prof. James Womack from MIT started the idea of studying the Japanese Production system under a US govt grant of $ 5 million, which was disturbing the American car giants like GM, Ford, Cadillac and so on.

Then was born Lean Manufacturing concept that concentrated more on creating value to the customer besides reducing waste with a pull type of manufacturing aiming for unit lot size production, undergoing continuous improvement.

One of the most important Lean Tools is on Workplace Organisation, 5S. We started the experiential learning with the 5S Numbers game which everybody enjoyed, it emphasised the importance of workplace organisation and development and also on safety. Finding missing or displaced items is a major constituent of wasted time on the shopfloor. This concept was stressed by the game in the last phase. 

Industry participants appreciated the practical training
on all facets of lean at the workshop ..
Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a set of standard instructions at any work or process which helps to utilise resources efficiently and effectively on the shop floor. The SOP game which we played in a series of steps stressed on the importance of having good communication and coded instructions on the processes already implemented and followed before any work is finalised to be undertaken.

The Marshmallow game was played to understand the impact of teamwork and leadership on teams. The teams displayed great cohesion and understanding while paying this game.

Understanding the difference between Push and Pull systems is very important to understand Lean systems in detail. While Push systems are triggered by the forecast of the customer demand, the pull systems are triggered by the actual customer demand

The next game we played helped to understand the major concepts of Push and Pull type simulation of production, with some paper assembly of planes. The concept of Throughput time, Cycle time and Takt time was well explained by the game. In the practical demo, it was made clear how the Talk time gets changed with changes in the demand for the end product.

Even though we did not have a game on Poka-yoke, there was a good discussion on Poka-yoke and each team through an experience sharing session was asked to come up with minimum two or more types of Poka-yoke they have used in their day-to-day work life. The difference between safety concepts and Poka-yoke was stressed in this discussion.

Industry participants were elated at the experiential learning
Plan-Do-Check-Act is the famous PDCA cycle, also called the Deming cycle. The different phases of the PDCA cycle can be illustrated by playing the PDCA card game, (click here) which involved taking a pack of cards and dividing it among the teams asking them to stick to the objective of keeping the total sum value of cards with each team constant in multiple iterations. Each iteration involved Plan, Do, Check and Act. This gave the teams a good idea of the steps in the PDCA cycle.

The Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) game which was among the most interesting played highlighting the different nature of work processes took almost 45 minutes to complete.
Continuous Improvement is always better than delayed Perfection - Mark Twain.
The learning was good among the four teams and the winning team did the passing of the balls in a minimum time of 3.25 seconds. 

Lean principles were clearly communicated
to the participants 
The Theory of Constraints game was played with the help of the randomly distributed numbers and 2 production lines with five workstations each, each workstation having five machines and with infinite initial inventory.

The practical case necessitated explanation of how Tata Sons made use of Theory of Constraints in crossing over from $ 63 billion in annual revenue to $100 billion around the last years of the first decade of the 21st century. It was a great real-life experience and a great lesson to demonstrate the effectiveness of Theory of Constraints in a corporate environment.

The workshop had a mixed group of participants from the Computer industry and the hard core mechanical engg industry. The requirement or pre-requisite of Automation and getting ready for Industry 4.0 in the near future necessitates standardising and optimising processes in any industry around the world on standard lean principles. It requires the employees and managers getting hands-on experience on how to apply lean principles on the shop floor. The workshop had this focus firmly in mind and was helpful in preparing engineers from across domains with Lean Thinking.

The workshop ended with the sharing of the experiences and the distribution of certificates. The positive feedback received from the participants has motivated us to offer more such editions of this MDP on  a monthly basis in future for the benefit of the industry.



  1. Nice way of putting across the lean concepts through games and group exercises.
    It was a refreshing learning.

    1. Thank you very much Sridhar for those excellent comments. Hope you are able to put the lean concepts straight into practice on the shopfloor.

  2. Wonderfully wrotten Sir. It would have been a really interesting workshop for the participants. I felt like refreshing our main principlesof operations management aftwr going through the article.

    1. Thank you Nikhil. Wish you too were there .. regards

  3. Learning through simulational exercises is infact one of the best ways to learn.The lean management games conducted by Dr.Easaw is a wonderful testimonial. Through this insightful article, I have updated my reflections on lean.

  4. Thank you Aswathi. The world going for automation in full steam needs standardisation of work and optimisation of work processes so that the automated work also optimised through application of lean principles. All the more necessary to attend and benefit from such workshops ..


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