How winning companies are using AR and IoT to power productivity and build strong, efficient business cultures.
“Lean Management” is derived from Lean Manufacturing, a term synonymous with the Toyota Production System and the concepts espoused by its architects at Toyota Taichi Ohno and the post war industrial engineer, Shigeo Shingo. Since 1990 when James Womack authored the seminal book about these concepts: “The Machine That Changed the World”, nearly every major manufacturer has adopted some form of this management philosophy which targets the Voice of the Customer and eradication of the 7 different types of waste in business processes that deter companies from delivering goods and services to their customers most efficiently. Lean concepts have been transformative for industry and service sectors alike – largely because of their simplicity and every person appeal. Lean promises an unbroken value chain that strengthens businesses and the relations they have with their customers and suppliers. It’s a beautiful vision founded in efficiency and simplicity.
Simple yes. Just like swinging a golf club.
Editorial note: There are 29 million golfers in the US according to Statistics Brain Research and the National Golf Foundation but only one Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, or Brooks Koepka. In much the same way Golf has allowed the Scots to torment everyday golfers with a fleeting vision of perfection, so too have the Japanese in their vision of a perfectly Lean Enterprise. At least the Scots paired the golf with Scotch whisky so there was appropriate balance when perfection is not reached.
For many, the Lean ‘journey’ has taken mystical shape full of coaches, mentors, and yes, ‘Senseis’ all intended to guide the hapless organization along their journey. Some, where the head and heart are in accord, make fantastic transformations. But, there are a lot of duffers out there as well and that’s the nature of it. As one can imagine, this has been a boon for consulting firms like Hamilton Cornell Associates. We take large transformations with large bold challenges and small pockets of opportunity and attack them with equal vigor.
It is an incredibly enticing idea… the Lean organization. Sifu Fong Ha, the famous Chinese Internal Arts practitioner, wrote the book: “Yiquan and the Nature of Energy: The fine art of doing nothing and achieving everything” and in it he titillates us with the notion that
“at the end of technique is skill and at the end of skill is spirituality”.
A beautiful thought that brings me to thoughts of the Bishop’s Epic Golf Game on Caddyshack. That notion keeps golfers coming back day after day and certainly keeps conscientious managers working toward continuous improvement.
At the core of the Lean philosophy is workplace organization. It is only intuitive that a well ordered workplace is one that produces better results. A worker who is trained in an ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ environment is likely to be more productive. This type of workplace organization is the precedent to race winning pit stops or the Top Chef kitchen that Gordon Ramsay rants about. Heck, there is even a guy who teaches Lean Management principles by showing his students how to toast bread in a well ordered kitchen.
The problem with all of this is the seminal challenge in consulting; winning the hearts and minds of the hopefully willing participants in the process. As The Yiquan master, Fong Ha reminds us, “We can only benefit from teachers as long as they manifest those skills or attributes we seek.” So it goes in Lean transformation and the constant siren of the consultant or coach
“Nurturing Team players and building culture takes time”.
We know that the challenges to build a winning culture in a large, social organization can take considerable time. Additionally, the design and management of efficient workplaces can take considerable time. In both cases, there are many potential pitfalls and the tendency to return to old, less efficient ways is a big challenge. As they say, it’s best to teach a man to fish and hope that he falls in love with the science and the process of the activity. So to, for business.
So, what is different? What can you do to become Lean, to reinforce Lean practices, and to build a culture that will perpetuate winning ways?
Exciting new technologies built around Augmented Reality, Machine Learning, and the Internet of Things are leading the way into significantly higher and more sustainable levels of productivity for those companies who embrace the future of Lean. This indeed represents a new iteration of Lean thinking that has shown great promise for progressive companies.
A leader in this field is Parametric Technologies Corporation (PTC). PTC, a world leader in Computer Aided Design software who is moving ahead into the rapidly growing world of Augmented Reality (AR). This means that Lean lessons on workplace organization and efficiency can be embedded into things in the factory (or virtually any workplace) that will bring about assisted and measured execution of a whole variety of efficient best practices. Those who in any way were caught up in the cultural explosion that was Pokemon GO will instantly appreciate the way that animation on top of real life can provide a new and rich perspective that enhances user experiences that can error proof work, and that has the potential of building strong efficient work cultures through standard practices. PTC has industry leading products that are the type of thing that allows us to create:
Smart, Learning, Intuitive Manufacturing (SLIM).
We and our clients have been impressed with early results.
AR and the Internet of Things (IoT) that continues to connect more and more of the things in our everyday lives has created great opportunities to program efficiency into everyday work. By embedding data virtually or actually into things, factories become smarter as do the workers who work there.
As far as Lean Management practices goes, this is a game changer. Standard work, work instructions, work dependencies, error proofing, material requirements and virtual Kanban, and a variety of other productivity enablers can now be automated and intuitive. Early successes in this field have been found in the Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) areas and in workplace organization around 5s and 6s associated with Lean. Smart reference for the workplace can now be found intuitively and efficiently on assets or at work cells and can present themselves digitally or graphically on smart phones, tablets, or heads-up eye glass displays and can be the most efficient way to train new hires and to reinforce business practices.
AR tools have helped industrial companies speed onboarding and improve the ‘speed to perform’ by as much as 50% according to the experience of certain PTC customers. These tools are becoming increasingly affordable and their functionality already second nature to the user.
As industry has put much more information in the hands of workers who are closest to the work they perform, many have struggled with the influx of increasing amounts of data and its integration into core operating systems and business infrastructure. The good news is that in parallel with the development of really interesting AR tools, is the advent of platforms like UMAJIN that create digital solutions in the cloud enabling data integration and flexible innovation on top of infrastructure!
This means, in typical Lean fashion, that smarter factories and workplaces can be engineered inexpensively and without a wholesale interruption of the core business systems. With available tools and a good Lean 2.0 strategy, your workplaces can indeed become smarter, learning enabled, intuitive, and highly efficient.
When your virtual caddy reads the topography, definitively helps you select the club, gives you weather adjustments, advises you on foot placement, and gives you the very best personalized Butch Harmon tips, all you will have to do is swing the club. Good luck.