Saturday, August 26, 2006

Why Japan

My 6 months of work experience with an automobile component manufacturer, plus a brief stint at a Public Sector Navratna, provided me a reasonably good opportunity to get accustomed with the concepts that made the country’s manufacturing sector stand apart of the entire crowd. Tools like 5S, TPM, TQM, Kaizen; just a few to quote here, lie at the heart of its success that helped the nation to establish global benchmarks in the industry. Undoubtedly, the subject here is JAPAN. Organisations around the globe are today trying to implement these tools and emulate the Japanese success model. Substantial amount of money is being invested for Japanese Consultants, to guide through the methodology and nitty gritties of these concepts.

If you ever happen to be in a Japanese partnered company, yellow striped floor & the hanging sign boards will themselves direct you to the destination, sans any assistance. Neatly stacked files, flawlessly oriented furniture, labeled equipment, attention seeking warning signs, clear and perfectly sorted table tops; well that is a way of life in any such company and is notoriously known as a 5S company.

In Indian parlance, 5S refers to sorting, sweeping, cleaning and segregating. This was infact the first training session I attended after induction in my first job. Barely within one month of joining, I realized Indian companies take too much pride in claiming itself to be a TPM or a 5S compliance company. With another month adding to my experience, I concluded Indians corporates are actually obsessed with something as rudimentary as sorting the stuff on your study table and putting the unwanted under cover. Precisely, this is something my mother (and infact everybody else’s) had always been trying to convince me when I was a kid.

My two months summer project at the above mentioned navratna was to assist in implementation of TPM. ‘Total Preventive Manufacturing’ or ‘Total Productive Maintenance’ even I get confused sometimes, but that is immaterial, trust me. What matters here is that a 'Totally Focused approach' to get rid of unpredictable breakdowns. I find the Japanese to be the most organised creatures on planet. TPM involves identifying the worst nightmare machines in your manufacturing facility. The first step is to clean, inspect and to lubricate the machines, meanwhile rectifying some minor flaws and identifying the critical issues. Followed by ‘Why-Why’ technique to reach the root cause of a trouble. The driving force here is the challenge, to make your machine ‘The Best’ and a benchmark.

I found, the Japanese begin with a target, set up practically achievable time frames and then they execute the action plan. I often hear people saying, a Japanese will start from home at 8:02 am and by the time he will reach the traffic signal at 8:07am , it would be green, thereby saving him one and a half minute. They are certainly not born like that. Indeed it is the self discipline inculcated within. It is not the jargon, but the self imposed discipline and commitment that made the small patch in south east , a cynosure on Globe.