Best can be made a bit better: Kaizen shows us the way

The Share-to-Benefit forum, in its quest to learn, know and discover, trudged its way to Pune. This time the agenda was to take management lessons from an American company catering to the aluminium industry, Pyrotek India. Vishwanath Shetty, owner at PrintWorks and one of the pillars at BMPA’s StB forum narrates the takeaways of the day

28 Oct 2015 | By Vishwanath Shetty

Quite aware that it will be a tiring day, we StB-ians started early in the morning looking forward to a unique learning experience, this time from a company which has nothing to do with printing.
Pyrotek in Pune produces glass fabric baskets, which are used to filter molten aluminium to form aluminium blocks weighing three to four tonnes, each worth Rs 40 lakh. A smallest defect in the basket can lead to impurities in the blocks, resulting in disaster at the manufacturers’ end. So important are these baskets that one basket worth Rs 1,000 is insured for Rs 40 lakh.
The company practises Kaizen. In fact, the company was revived from the verge of closure thanks to such initiatives taken by the management. Kaizen came to their rescue and today Pyrotek is a living example of a successful enterprise.
The CEO, Kiran Deshapande and Pyrotek’s Kaizen consultant, Dr Govandiker, spent the whole day with us, sharing their valuable time and 
When they explained the basics of Kaizen, one thing was clear that Kaizen can be a handy tool for better management practices.
Kaizen breaks up into two Japanese words, Kai meaning change and Zen meaning good. The concept was introduced and improvised by Masaaki Imai in the early 1950s. It would not have been so famous had Toyota not introduced and applied the technique in their car factory and made a success of the same in their production systems in the 1970s.
Dr Govandiker said, “Kaizen advocates implementing small incremental changes on the floor and encourages continual improvement. The basic tenet of Kaizen is making small incremental changes on a continual, ad-infinitum (never ending) manner.”
5S Cycle of Kaizen - Sorting, Simplifying, Sweeping, Standardising and Sustaining
The 5S cycle is followed by the Deming cycle or the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) which is repeated cyclically
  • The next steps are establishing a Quality Circle and, finally, maintaining Kanban or a billboard which is related to just-in-time or Lean manufacturing
  • Kaizen focusses on constant elimination of “Muda” (waste)
  • Kaizen is successful only when everyone is involved, from CEO to the employees on the shopfloor.
  • It is widely applicable, team-based and cross-functional
  • Some pitfalls are resistance to change, lack of proper procedure, too many suggestions causing confusion, time-consuming for large scale processes
The Kaizen philosophy is: “We are never perfect. We keep evolving continually; improve the surroundings and manufacturing processes to achieve perfection.”
As they say, ‘best can be bettered’. Toyota pays credit of its success to the Kaizen philosophy. The policy is to ensure perfect products and ancillaries required on the production line.
Interestingly, zero percent of the finished cars were taken out of the production line to rectify the defects. This is because, they emphasised on controlling the delta factor (deviation factor) in specifications for all the original equipments supplied by the vendors. Each product was compared against the standard parameters. This eliminated the Quality Control Department that normally exists in all factories and the same can cost a bomb in terms of personnel and infrastructure. Make sure the products come with 0% defects. The concept of continual improvement can also be called ‘always on the way to perfection’.
Kaizen is not something new. Though Kaizen was introduced over 60 years ago, it became popular only when Toyota succeeded and made it popular. The basic principle to be applied in life is to try different things all the time and accept what is beneficial. This makes room for continuous improvement.
The concept can start with keeping the premises clean. To inculcate the habit and give it a booster shot, the CEO can sweep the floor with the workers and that makes the workers get serious.
The second part is mix up with workers and gets them involved in the process. “Having a cup of tea with a machine operator on the shopfloor makes him feel nice and they get rid of the phobia of talking to senior people. Once they get rid of the fear of participation, they start responding with their observations and opinions,” said Deshpande.
What we learnt at Pyrotek is to reduce the lead time for any work to be initiated. Once you work out the lead time required, plan to get all the pre-requisites to start the job ready. This avoids any sort of bottleneck, before processing a job.
One can imagine a real life situation in a printing firm where bundles of papers for the next job are cut and kept ready while the present job is still on the machine. This not only blocks your space, but also adds to your inventory. As far as possible, make sure you get the paper trimmed just before the job goes on the machines. The idea is to reduce idle time and optimum use of men and material thereby increasing efficiency.
A round around the shop floor at Pyrotek, one realises that there are several boards with employee’s suggestions to improve the overall productivity of the factory. Deshpande said, “It’s a major success in doubling production with less than half the employee numbers. A system in place catalyses or synergises the entire process, increasing productivity. Employees are given due credit to their suggestion implemented achieving better performance.”
Deshpande, Dr Govandiker and the StB members had tea with the workers, while chatting and joking with them during the tea break. That is a wonderful way to break the ice and cut the barriers between the senior management and the junior employees. This gives them a sense of elevation. On the weekend they all play game together. Men and women play the game together which ensures a better team spirit that gets carried to the work place.
Knowledge imparted and the hospitality extended truly reflects on their corporate culture. That is something for all of us to take home.  
We then discussed the production capacity planning. There are printing machines with huge production capacity, say 12,000 sheets per hour. If your punching, folder/gluer machines do not match-up to the same production capacity, it will lead to a bottleneck at the production line. In such a case we need to add more of cutting, punching and gluer machines to equalise printing and post printing capacities.
In the past, when we visited TechNova at Taloja, we have seen an encircled area in the factory that was left vacant thoughtfully. The vacant area was for anyone with an idea to come and stand.  The moment someone stands there, all the workers congregate around the person to listen to him. Everyone listens to the new idea, and if workable, they take a trial of the same. The results are announced and credit is granted as per the success of implementing such ideas.
More than just Kaizen, we spent time together to promote camaraderie. We StB-ians are all competitors and none of us look at each other like competitors. We share our idea and experiences together for the benefit of all. When we are out on a visit like this, we play games together, exchange ideas together. This way we get to know each other better. We become more sportive. Accept each other far more than the usual. We learn to joke at each other and also learn to laugh at ourselves at times. Travelling together and spending a day together was really a great experience in bonding.
Kaizen takeaway: “We must improve relationships on a continuous basis.”