By Jon Miller | Post Date: February 23, 2006 6:07 AM | Comments: 5
The Director of Human Resources for one of our clients had an “ah-ha” moment about her role in supporting Lean manufacturing and how to combine kaizen with respect for people. After we benchmarked a company effectively involving everyone with kaizen, she asked us with great concern “How can we ask our people to ‘work smarter, not harder’ when in fact they will be working harder?”
At the exemplar kaizen factory we visited, workers were working steadily for 7 hours (shift of 8 hours minus breaks). At our client’s factory, the rules regarding breaks were taken more freely. Material shortages created ‘natural’ breaks in the production lines, and a certain amount of downtime due to chatting and socializing was tolerated during work hours.
As a result of these policies and conditions, the Director of Human Resources admitted that her workers put in closer to 6 hours out of an 8 hour shift. As kaizen activity improves material and information flow improved and steady one-piece flow was in place, the workers would be working 7 out of 8 hours.
Her point was that the workers aren’t stupid and would see the result of kaizen as working harder, not smarter. She believed in kaizen but felt it was not respectful to go forward with their Lean manufacturing education efforts without addressing this issue. I am no human resources expert so I had to think about this before giving her an answer.
The kaizen answer to this question is:
The company pays people to put in 7 hours of work out of 8 hours at the factory. Both sides need to honor this agreement. That should be non negotiable item. Management has set a false expectation that 6 hours of work is OK for 7 hours of pay, so the need to admit that they were wrong and correct it.
People will probably feel tired and bored after a week of working in the new way, 7 hours out of 8 instead of 6 hours out of 8. This is natural since they are taking fewer breaks and doing one more hour of physical work per day. Management should respect the intelligence of their people and apologize for this temporary discomfort.
The way to approach this situation is to see that it is a great opportunity for kaizen. As people will be very aware of work that is difficult, annoying, dangerous, or unclear it is the perfect opportunity to educate people about waste and how to get rid of it through giving their kaizen ideas.
The goal for the team leaders and group leaders at this factory is to get kaizen ideas out of people, no matter how small, before people get used to working 7 hours and it no longer bothers them.
The goal for the engineers should be to kaizen the work through the use of low cost automation (jidoka), mistake proofing (pokayoke), etc. so that it feels like you are doing 6 hours of work even though it’s 7 hours of work.
I’m all for hard work if “hard” means “challenging”. If “hard” means anything in the neighborhood of difficult, dirty, unpleasant, dangerous, boring, etc. then hard work is kaizen fodder. Do hard work once, complain about what makes it hard, stop complaining and do kaizen so it's never hard again. In a Lean manufacturing workplace based on TPS principles it’s not your job to do work that is hard – it’s your job to think of ways to eliminate what makes the work hard. That’s the challenge for our Director of Human Resources.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.