Top page > KASEI-JIN > File.1 Hiroko Itai

Seeking to integrate operations, improve efficiency, and control problems

Previously, I was leader of the Basic Packaging Group of the Fukuroi Plant’s Packaging Division, and currently I am the group leader of the “Quality A (First)” task force, which was launched in 2012.
“Quality A (First)” is a movement that seeks to improve workplace quality even further through quality management reform.  As the task force leader, I plan reform scenarios and topics and promote control of activities involving worksites.

When I was with the Packaging Division, I worked with team members to design an operation for approximately 10 months.  This involved integrating the operation, which had been split up among five groups in the division, and then arranging it so that everyone implemented it using the same methods.
The Packaging Division conducts a broad range of operations that ranges from filling containers to individual packaging and shipping.  It must handle with precision an endless variety of containers, packing materials, and lot sizes.  Prior to integration, each group conducted this particular operation with its own rules.  As a result, the following vicious circle emerged: An employee sent to help another group does not understand how that group works, so he asks the supervisor → The supervisor stops the operation to explain, which leads to lost time and higher costs → Because the supervisor provides instruction during operation, the method of instruction is incomplete and results in mistakes. 
Integrating the operation solved this workplace problem.  In addition, we standardized the integrated operation’s procedures and used them in training for new and transferring employees as well as regularly scheduled training for group members.  The integrated procedures were penetrated throughout the organization and helped reduce worksite problems.

In worksites of the Packaging Division, whether or not introduced operational designs are functioning effectively is appraised by a “zero complaints/problems” criterion.  If, after an operation is designed, all members have a basic understanding of “the purpose of the operation” and gain the ability to respond to irregularities, then they can perform the operation without mistakes under all conditions.  That’s the objective of the operational design we recently introduced; however, I do not think we can claim achievement just yet.
At the present time, operational reform is taking place as part of reorganization, and onsite members are revising the operational design accordingly to fit with the current Packaging Division.  I intend to support them.
Because the materials handled and products produced varied among the five groups of the Packaging Division, operational rules tended to become very complex.  So one very difficult task was coming up with rules that were simple and applicable everywhere.  Here, we worked with team members to survey current methods, common areas, and differing areas.  Then we set out to resolve each problem while conducting tests.
When we completed the rules, we conducted training for Packaging Division members, who numbered more than 200.  Then, after conducting a post-training survey to ascertain levels of understanding, we repeated training for those members who lacked sufficient understanding.  Such activities ultimately led to standardization.
There is no question that, when it comes to production processes, making judgments based on “Sangen-Shugi” (i.e., “go to the actual site,” “see for yourself,” and “understand the reality”) is very important.  Incidents that occur in the worksite and products that are produced are all results, and in all cases originating factors are found upstream.  While “upstream” includes development and design, I was attached to worksites of the Packaging Division, so I believe it is important to remember to think first about whether or not members who create the workplace environment and conduct operations are doing what is required of them properly. 
There are numerous questions that must be answered.  Are systems and rules matched to current worksite conditions?  Is the worksite understood and functioning properly? Are workers trying to do too much?  I believe systems and rules that only increase burden on the worksite end up increasing costs and causing quality to deteriorate.  Because worksites are places where many people work together, I believe that sharing objectives among many members, enhancing teamwork and implementing capability, and strengthening person-to-person ties with an eye to target achievement can prevent problems before they occur.
Quality cannot be improved without company-wide activities and relentless improvements.  Although modifying worksites to improve quality is very important, implementing reform takes energy.  Improving worksites requires saying things that go beyond departmental or divisional boundaries.  And the worksite will not improve if such activities are not taken to the company-wide level.  This is the most difficult part of quality management reform.
Right now, we are implementing management reform to realize ideal worksites.  Although we are still in the process of building the foundation for this reform, I must honestly say that envisioning the future is a lot of fun!  If onsite workers can work with energy and enjoyment...  That is our specific objective and an indicator of success, and it symbolizes a workplace where employees can thrive even if confronted with somewhat difficult problems.  Here, establishing unique worksite indicators and creating environments that are directly tied to success is important.  I believe that when we accomplish this, the workplace will become a place where members can work with enjoyment!  Even now, one of my tasks is to promote improvements by thinking, “If we can do such and such, the workplace will become even better!”  I believe that many members understand the need for improvement and will become motivated to help.  I would like nothing more than to help build better worksites together with members and experience the joy of success with them.
Going to the worksite, seeing conditions there, hearing onsite opinions, and ascertaining whether the worksite is in its ideal condition...  Until recently I was at worksites doing these activities, so I know that making judgments after hearing members’ honest opinions offers an important advantage.
When people are working very hard to accomplish the task at hand, they tend not to notice if their work environment is unhealthy, or, even if they do notice, they tend to think that nothing can be done about it.  I believe that “planning ability” is needed to properly ascertain actual worksite conditions and then create their ideal design.  And then I believe “driving power” is needed to promote activities that involve worksites.
In my current position, I come into contact with many production-related people in the company, and I am always amazed by the extraordinary knowledge and technical skills they possess.  I am impressed by how their knowledge and technical skills support manufacturing in today’s production process. On the other hand, I regret to say that there were many cases in which people think of their knowledge and technical skills as their own personal possessions.  How can we translate such personal knowledge and skills into organizational knowledge and skills?  I believe that higher organizational knowledge and skills support the stable generation of positive results and growth, and this makes the building of mechanisms toward this end important.  This will be one of my missions going forward.

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File.2 Skin Research Department
Hirotaka Takeuchi


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