Monday, 15 October 2012

A satisfied client

Was pleasantly surprised to receive this unsolicited testimonial from an appreciative client. Didn’t think of posting it here until now.

I should take this opportunity to share a bit about how I usually conduct my 5S training.

Besides helping the trainees to understand the meaning and application of 5S (through lots of practical examples), my primary goal is to help them to develop a keen eye to notice 5S ‘problems’. Very often, our senses become dulled with time, and we fail to notice how messy, untidy and dirty our workplace have become. To help my trainees to ‘recalibrate’ their eyes, I make them form teams and do an audit of their own workplace and assign a score for Seiri, Seiton and Seiso. I tell them, “from now on, when you patrol your own work area, you must put on 5S spectacles.”

Surprisingly, I find that their standards were often even stricter than mine! Maybe it’s because my own senses have become dull after visiting so many dirty factories.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Let’s bring back Operation Broomstick

Last Tuesday, a Canadian visitor wrote a letter to the Straits Times Forum. Unlike this other Canadian visitor, Mr James Cruikshank did not mince his words in describing what a filthy city we have become. Several other readers wrote expressing their agreement with his views.

Many years ago we used to have a Keep Singapore Clean Campaign. Later we upgraded it to the Keep Singapore Clean and Green Movement. Recently we further upgraded (that’s Singapore for you, we believe in continuous upgrading) that to the Keep Singapore Beautiful Movement.

As for me, I say, let’s bring back Operation Broomstick. What’s the point in trying to be green when you cannot even be clean? And if you are dirty, there no way you can be beautiful, right?

What is Operation Broomstick?

According to the People’s Association’s publication, Citizens, Conversations & Collaborations: Chronicles of the Citizens’ Consultative Committee:

“The Housing and Development Board launches Operation Broomstick in 1968 to clear housing estates of litter and rubbish, and CCC leaders are there to help get residents to take an active part in the massive nationwide operation – right down to elderly women with their own brooms.”

The second photo shows Health Minister Chua Sian Chin at MacPherson Estate

"PM Lee personally leads the way in a mass drive to spring-clean the city for the National Loyalty Week in 1959."

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Don’t waste just because it’s free

Wasted Today

I am one of those lucky Singaporeans who get not one, but two free newspapers delivered to his doorstep practically every day. From Monday to Friday, I get My Paper; and from Monday to Saturday, I get Today. In addition, I subscribe to the Straits Times.

It was raining this morning (Saturday) and as usual our free copy of Today was totally ruined by the rain as the delivery man didn’t bother to throw it further into our driveway. On the other hand, our paid copy of the Straits Times was nice and dry.

So why the difference? I can only surmise that the difference lay in the attitudes of the delivery men. In the case of the Straits Times, the vendor knows that if the newspaper was damaged by the rain, we would complain and he would have to make another trip and compensate us. In the case of the Today, he probably thinks; “Ah .. it’s free, so these people won’t dare to complain” .... and he is right.

Photo above - my neighbour's newspapers; below - ours.

Wasted toilet paper

The other day I had to use the public toilet in a shopping centre in the Bukit Timah area. To my horror, I saw that somebody had removed the entire roll of toilet paper – and these are the commercial rolls which are much bigger than the normal ones we used at home – and dumped them on the cistern. When I brought it to the attention of the toilet attendant/cleaner, he told me this was a common occurrence. “What to do? Free one; not their own money; so anyhow waste lor!”.

Sigh. How depressing to hear this. But never mind. Let me cheer you up with a joke.

Early in my career, I worked as an industrial engineer in Philips. We had many Dutch expatriates; but my boss was a Belgian. It was really fun to attend social functions with these people because they liked to trade insults/jokes about each other's country. I remember this joke told by my Belgian boss. He said; “If you drove from Belgium into Holland, how would you know that you have crossed the border? Well you can easily tell by the rolls of toilet paper hanging out to dry in the backyard. They use it at least twice, you know!”

Related post.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Sarawak Regional 5S Convention

Last Monday, 15 November 2010, I was in Kuching to deliver a paper at the Sarawak Regional 5S Convention (Konvensyen 5S Wilayah Sarawak). It was an eye-opener for me because even though we’ve had 5S in Singapore since 1986, we never organised a 5S convention. The biggest 5S event in Singapore as far as I can remember was the award-presentation ceremony for the Inter-company 5S Competition in 1989.

Organised by the Malaysia Productivity Corporation (Sarawak Office), this Regional 5S Convention drew a huge crowd of more than 250 participants. I should congratulation the MPC for having done such a great job in promoting 5S in Sarawak. The highlights of this convention were:

1) 5S Song by Sedidik Sdn Bhd (a Childcare Centre)
2) Performance by Sekolah Seni Kuching
3) Presentation of 5S Certificates to ‘5S-certified’ companies
4) My paper on “Issues of Sustaining 5S practices”
5) Presentation by Hospital Tenom, Sabah – “Enhancing excellenct service delivery through 5S practices”
6) Presentation by Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara – “Developing, sustaining and impact of Quality Environment Practices”
7) Presentation by Sarawak Land and Survey – “Organisational transformation through 5S practices”

5S Song by SeDidik Sdn Bhd

5S Dance by Sekolah Seni Kuching

Besides presentations by the four speakers, there was an exhibition by a number of 5S-certified organisations including an interesting one by Sedidik Sdn Bhd (a Childcare Centre). Personally I am very impressed by the work that MPC has done to promote 5S and the commitment shown by the award-winning organizations. Seeing the efforts and results of these companies, I think the MPC consultants have done a great job is teaching and guiding them in the implementation of 5S

They have correctly identified sustenance as a key challenge and I hope my paper has contributed a little to this very difficult topic. The key thrust of my speech was that 5S is above all a management issue and not a worker programme as many organizations mistakenly thought. As such the focus should always be on how to manage the programme in a structured ongoing manner, and I recommended that they adopt the PDCA methodology. Through a yearly repetition of the PDCA cycle, an organisation can assess its current situation, set appropriate goals, develop a good plan which is then implemented thoroughly and then the situation systematically monitored, reviewed and corrected if necessary. And such a PDCA cycle should be carried out at different levels of the organisation in an integrated manner - just like the way TQM companies implement Policy Deployment or Hoshin Kanri.
I also cautioned them that the one area that they must pay close attention to is the middle management. On there shoulders lie the heavy burden of leading the 5S movement at the operational level. They are also the ones most pressured for time. In many organisations, this turn out to be the weakest link.

As a result of seeing the huge efforts put in by the participating companies, I am alerted to one other danger. Fatigue or overload can cause the leaders at the front line to grow weary or even apprehensive of 5S activities. I have seen this happen in many organisations here in Singapore with respect to the Quality Circle movement. Still, with the PDCA approach, the management can look out for and manage this problem. As the 5S movement matures, emphasis should shift from ‘song-and-dance’ type promotion to incorporating 5S into the daily operational processes; in other words, Standardization.

Below are photos of some of the exhiibits

Friday, 14 May 2010

Lessons on Productivity from a humble bricklayer

Frank Gilbreth (1868-1924) began life as a humble bricklayer and rose to become the president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. (I guess in those days, they did not have an equivalent society for Industrial Engineers yet).

As an apprentice, he learnt his trade from a master bricklayer. Like Bruce Lee, he was not content to simply learn and apply. He observed and asked questions. He noticed that the traditional method of laying bricks had many unproductive movements. He also noticed that different bricklayers employed different methods.

Through careful study and applying an innovative spirit, he was able to eliminate many wasteful motions and simplify the method. This humble bricklayer taught the world a new discipline called Motion Study.

All the work that we do with our two hands can be broken down into basic movements called ‘motions’. For example, to pick up your pen to begin writing, you need to Reach, Grasp, Move, Position etc. Gilbreth named these motions, ‘Therbligs’, the reverse spelling of his name except for the last two letters. By careful examination of the work process, one can always improve the work method by Eliminating, Rearranging, Combining and Simplifying the motions. Subsequently, people like Ralph Barnes built on the work of Frank Gilbreth and came up with the Principles of Motion Economy. Such principles lay the foundation of Work Study and modern Industrial Engineering.

Like Bruce Lee, Frank Gilbreth exhibited the quality of a ‘kaizen mind’. He was:

a) Not satisfied with the status quo,
b) Always questioning existing methods of doing things,
c) Always looking for better ways of doing things,
d) Open to new ideas no matter where they came from,
e) Constantly coming up with new ideas and innovations.

Frank Gilbreth married a lady called Lillian; a psychologist. Together, the engineer-psychologist partnership gave the world many innovations. They had twelve children, six boys and six girls. When asked why he had so many children, Frank often replied, “Oh, they come cheaper by the dozen”. Two of their children wrote a book titled, Cheaper By The Dozen. They documented the ways his father applied the IE methods to manage their home. This book was made into a funny (black and white) movie which I saw many years ago.

An example of reduced motions

Nowadays, when we Singaporeans traveled in a bus, we would use an Ezlink card to tap on the card reader when we boarded the bus. It took only one simple ‘motion’. Compared to the previous stored value card of a few years ago, it was a significant improvement. You may say that the saving is only a couple of seconds; but applied to the line of passengers boarding a bus during peak hours, multiplied by the number of stations along the route and the thousands of trips each day, the time saving for the country as a whole is tremendous, don’t you think?

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Productivity and Bruce Lee

Last night I watched the final episode of the tv series, The Legend of Bruce Lee, a rather detailed biopic of the late kungfu superstar. His character and philosophy of life reminded me somewhat of the definition of productivity that I told you about (here) some time ago; namely:

Productivity is, above all, an attitude of mind. It seeks to continually improve what already exists. It is based on a conviction that one can do things better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today.

(From the report of the Rome Conference - European Productivity Agency, 1958).

If I asked you for one word to describe Bruce Lee’s fighting style, the words ‘fast’ or ‘speed’ will probably come to mind. But it wasn’t just the speed of his movements that made him such an outstanding martial artist. Apparently he went to great lengths to study the movements of the various fighting styles including his own original Wing Chun style. He meticulously refined these movements, cutting away the wasteful “motions”, as what we would call them in Industrial Engineering jargon. He even tried to combine a block simultaneously with a counter-attack.

People thought he was incredibly arrogant when he posted a sign outside his martial arts school saying that he would accept a challenge from anyone, anytime, any place. Actually his primary motive was to ‘upgrade’ and learn from his opponents. And after each encounter he would befriend his opponent and was totally open to share the secrets of his own craft.

Thus we see that this man was:

a) Never satisfied with the status quo.
b) Always questioning existing methods of doing things.
c) Always looking for better ways of doing things.
d) Open to new ideas no matter where they came from.
e) Constantly coming up with new ideas and innovations.

Such an attitude is central to the meaning of productivity and we would do well to learn from him. But one aspect of his character which we want to avoid is his stubbornness. He refused to accept advice from his loved ones to seek medical attention even when it became obvious that he had a serious health problem. The rest as they say, is history.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Contents of my book Ideas@work

These are the contents of my book, Ideas@work.

Part 1: Managing the Staff Suggestion Scheme
Chapter 1: What is a Staff Suggestion Scheme?
Chapter 2: The Role of the Suggestion Scheme Committee
Chapter 3: The Role of managers and supervisors
Chapter 4: The Role of the suggester
Summary of Part 1

Part 2: The 4 stages of making a suggestion
Chapter 5: Problem finding - How to Spot opportunities for Improvement
Chapter 6: Fact finding - How to Investigate Problems
Chapter 7: Idea finding - How to Get Ideas
Chapter 8: Solution finding - How to Write Suggestions
Summary of Part 2

List of Japanese terms used in this book
References and further reading
About the author