"This plant was really quite remarkable because everything they did was at the highest level of quality. They were incredibly efficient at the way they did everything," Paul Akers.
"But the thing that got our attention, was the quality of the concrete work. Now, a lot of the components they were making were huge pilasters, columns, and floor systems, but yet they were concerned about the most minute details. They had people filling small, little, tiny cracks, or a small void, and then they would go over it and sand it. They are very attentive to details.
Hi everyone. Paul Akers here, and welcome back to the American Innovator. In 2016, I took the BI Group from Kazakhstan to a precast concrete factory down in Kyushu, Japan. Now, accompanying us on this trip was Mr. Amezawa, the former president of Georgetown, Kentucky in the United States, and vice president of Lexus in Kyushu, Japan. Now, this plant was really quite remarkable because everything they did was at the highest level of quality.
Their kaizen activity was really remarkable as well. They were constantly making improvements. They were incredibly efficient at the way they did everything. But the thing that got our attention, was the quality of the concrete work. Now, a lot of the components they were making were huge pilasters, columns, and floor systems, but yet they were concerned about the most minute details. They had people filling small, little, tiny cracks, or a small void, and then they would go over it and sand it. They are very attentive to details.
Now the question is, why? Why are the Japanese so obsessed with making sure everything is right and there are no discrepancies? Because when I asked the president of the company, "What is this all about? Why do you like such great quality?" He said, "Because when we produce great quality, the customer trusts us." And I realized one of the most important lessons I've ever learned in this precast concrete factory. Quality equals trust.
When the customer knows that you're always gonna pay attention to the small things, and you're gonna produce the highest quality product, they trust you. When they trust you, you have a long-term relationship with them. The Japanese are not concerned about a year down the road, or two years down the road, or their current contract, they're thinking 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years. They have a very long-term view of everything they do, and the way they support that is through the pursuit of quality.
Quality makes the customer trust you. When the customer trusts you, they're gonna wanna do business with you long term. So everywhere you walk around, you saw people doing things that, for most companies, they would never even bother. Look at, they're worried about the transition between the rebar and the concrete, when this is all gonna be buried in concrete. Nobody's ever gonna see it, but everything must be done to a certain level. Now this also comes to the next question, and that is, with the Japanese, there's something called Monozukuri.
And Monozukuri basically translates for us, into craftsmanship. They believe work should be meaningful, and work is really important. They have this elevated view of work. They think work is really important, Monozukuri. They believe that it requires your attention, your sobriety, your attention to detail. And if you do this, you're going to produce a quality product, number one, and number two, you'll win the trust of the customer.
So everywhere we went, we looked at their workmanship, and we said, "Oh my gosh, this is crazy. Look at the perfection that they're going to," and transitions were correct, laminations were correct, rebar was tied dead straight. I mean you look down, a laser had shot it in. All the relief work, when the molds came out, all the transitions were right on the money. When you went to their workstations, they were properly set up so the worker could work efficiently. Notice where the rebar is at the top, with gravity moving down towards him, so he sets the bent rebar down, then he walks over, picks up the next pieces he's gonna do. They're in the correct position, eliminating motion, transportation, very efficient. They're very aware, and they have a deep respect for resources and people. Great little innovation with this concrete clip that just clips on very quickly, very easily, which supports the rebar up off the floor, and the worker can very easily put this on. It's just really innovative, and we just kept looking around.
Everywhere we looked, we saw this intense quality, and this pride in workmanship, Monozukuri. It is just an awesome concept, and in their plants, you have to realize, these are 40-year-old plants, and they look new. They keep everything at a high level. They keep the rope tight. They're very concerned about maintenance, and about flow, and about evenness. If you have a workshop or a work environment that's deteriorating, then you can't create flow, and you're certainly not going to produce Monozukuri, a high level of craftsmanship. And everywhere you went, you just sat there with your mouth open going "Wow. These people are serious about quality." And it was everywhere, to the point where they were sanding the slabs. I was just like "No, this is impossible. Wow, how could they do this?" Even the little bit of flashing that came off from the pour when it's relieved from the mold, was so minuscule, it was paper thin. That's the preciseness that they maintain in their mold.
Next is one of my favorite parts, when they actually have to build an order. They have a water spire, that's a person who goes around and pulls all the necessary supplies just for that specific order, one piece flow. Gets everything put together in a kit, and then rolls that kit over to the area where they stage the tying of the rebar, and the preparation for the pour. Now, this is beautiful because it's really the Toyota production system. This is exactly what you see at Toyota, and here you're seeing it at this concrete plant. Now watch how effortlessly this woman does it. She grabs the empty bins, which she's gonna fill next. She rolls the cart into position, hits a foot pedal with her foot, right? Which then allows the carts that are very heavy and difficult to maneuver to roll off of her cart, onto the staging area so the next person in line can do it.
Next, we had a great breakout session from the president, and we gave him a Kazakh hat, which he loved, and we just learned so much. We're so grateful for everything we've learned from the Japanese. We've just been in an amazing experience. And as one of the girls said to me, there are three things you never get tired of seeing. Number one, water, fire, and the Toyota production system. When you see it in action, whether it be in a precast concrete plant, or at Toyota, it is nothing short of magic."
About the author
Paul Akers is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, speaker, & Lean maniac. He has written several books on Lean and he travels the world to educate & speak about Lean principles, Lean manufacturing and Lean Health. Paul has a weekly podcast called The American Innovator where he shares about Lean & his travel adventures. For more information on Paul Akers and Lean, visit his website. http://paulakers.net/
He is the founder and president of FastCap, based in Ferndale, WA. FastCap is an international product development company founded in 1997 with over 2000 distributors worldwide. At its core, FastCap is a Lean company, determined to continuously improve everything, everyday. FastCap's products reflect the idea that everything can be improved and the best ideas come from the shop floor. For more information on FastCap, visit FastCap's website. http://www.fastcap.com/ or Blog http://blog.fastcap.com/
For Spanish videos, visit our FastCap Spanish YouTube Channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCipv...
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