For one in St. Louis, it meant leaving the cover off an electronic temperature controller.
For others, it’s meant gathering employees from the chief executive on down for what’s known as Kaizen events — based on the Japanese word for continuing improvement.
What do these seemingly unconnected efforts have in common? They are approaches to what is known as lean manufacturing — or, more recently, lean production — aimed at streamlining production processes, enhancing employee engagement and increasing profits.
Take, for example, Watlow, a 96-year-old family-owned business in St. Louis, that designs and manufactures industrial heaters, temperature sensors and other components of thermal systems. It was founded in 1922 (making heating elements for the shoe industry) by Louis Desloge.
In 2006, with Peter Desloge, the third-generation chief executive in charge, Watlow adopted lean production principles.
“A competitive environment forced us to figure out how to lower our costs while also better engaging our people.” Desloge said, adding that Watlow chose the lean route because the approach doesn’t only reduce costs and drive productivity, but also “increases value to our customers and engages everyone in the business to eliminate waste.”
For example, the company discovered that it had been supplying a customer in the transportation industry a temperature controller with an unnecessary part. “When it got to their facility, the customer was taking the cover off because they had to install it in their machine. We realized we could ship without it and eliminate both the effort on our end as well as for the customer.”
In the world of lean production, these microdiscoveries can be as important as the big picture.
The approach has its roots in the vaunted Toyota Production System developed in Japan in the late 1940s, which was aimed at streamlining processes to eliminate waste, improve productivity and, ultimately, grow profits. Known as either the TPS or Toyota Way, it advocates for “an organizational culture of highly engaged people solving problems or innovating to drive performance,” according to Jamie Bonini, vice president Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America.
Roughly 40 years later, the term lean production was coined by John Krafcik, who is the chief executive of Waymo, the autonomous driving car company that was spun off from Google. Krafcik was part of a team led by research scientist James Womack, who became a founder and senior adviser to the Lean Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit based in Boston. Its approach, which differs in some ways, focuses on eliminating waste, rethinking workflow and improving productivity, from entry-level employees to high-level executives.
“When we came up with the name lean production, what we meant was the complete system,” Womack said. “What the world heard was factories. But the frontier has been outside of the factory world for the last 20 years.”
Whichever term one uses, the goal is to improve the production process, said Rachna Shah, a professor at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
But not all companies have the same success because there’s often a lot of starting and stopping. Without working on the streamlining continuously “in a disciplined way over the long term, you cannot have the same levels of improvement in productivity,” Shah said.
Those who do persevere often become evangelists, like Jim Lancaster, author of “The Work of Management.”
Lancaster is chief executive of Lantech near Louisville, Kentucky, whose products include equipment that customers, like food manufacturers, use to stretch-wrap products. His company began to take a lean approach after it lost a court battle over a patented process and competitors undercut the company’s prices.
But Lancaster found that the lean approach worked only for so long “because of the natural deterioration that can occur. People change, tools get dull and an engineer may change the design without preparing others on the line.” Profits from newer products, while meaningful, were offset by declines in its base business.
As a result, he said, the company needed to refocus on its original lines and bolster its processes. “It sounds boring, except for the bottom-line impact,” he said.
Sometimes, seemingly tiny changes exemplify the lean approach. Marc Braun, the president of Cambridge Engineering, a manufacturer of industrial heating and ventilation technologies in Chesterfield, said a new entry-level line employee, Justin Meade, realized he was wasting time each hour just to discard trash.
Meade, who had little technical training, came up with the idea of attaching a trash can to a chair to cut 15 steps. Over the next six months, he continued to make more revisions, with the help of other employees, to devise an even better version. The result: shaving an estimated 70 minutes from a 90-minute job, Braun said.
Most lean aficionados use Kaizen events that bring together employees at all levels to work and correct a problem. Watlow, for example, holds about 60 a year, Desloge said.
Those who adopt a lean system say they want to reduce waste but not reduce the workforce. Desloge said he “focuses on areas where we need more capacity. We will not let anyone go as a result.”
Toyota is focused not only on its own workforce, but also on using its methods to encourage job growth generally in North America and for philanthropic efforts.
About 20 years ago, the company set up the Toyota Production System Support Center, a nonprofit that aims to help small and midsize businesses, as well as other nonprofits, like the New York Food Bank. The beneficiaries need not be in Toyota’s supply chain. Instead, the company hopes to help smaller companies throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico streamline their operations and, in the process, retain and perhaps increase the number of jobs.
Bonini, who leads the company’s North American efforts, said the organization had worked with furniture-maker Herman Miller, theater-seating company Irwin Seating and Ace Metal Crafts Co., among others.
Jean Pitzo is the chief executive of Ace Metal, based in Bensenville, Illinois, near O’Hare International Airport, which fabricates components for food-processing equipment.
Ace applied to the Toyota center and was accepted in 2014.
Bonini helped the company with the welding part of its business, which was often a production bottleneck. They worked on streamlining, eliminating waste and improving employee engagement. Pitzo said her business had grown 30 percent.
But, Desloge advises, don’t try lean processes on your family. “When people understand lean, they will frequently bring it home, suggesting to their husband or wife that there’s a better way of loading the dishwasher,” he said. “That typically doesn’t go over very well.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.