Kamishibai is a form of storytelling using visual cards/boards. This originated in Japanese Buddhist temples in the 12thcentury, where monks used emakimono (picture scrolls) to convey stories with moral lessons to a mostly illiterate audience.

Now it is being used as a management tool for performing audits within a manufacturing process. As part of the Toyota production system (TPS), Kamishibai boards are used as a visual control for performing audits within a manufacturing process. A series of cards are placed on a board and selected at random or according to schedule by supervisors and managers of the area. This ensures safety and cleanliness of the workplace is maintained and that quality checks are being performed.

Most of the organizations begin with their Kaizen/Lean journey and often struggle with sustenance part. The biggest challenge for organizations is how to sustain the improvements that they have begun to see. There are various improvement tools like 5s, TPM, TQM, Kaizen, Lean, Six sigma etc that can easily improve the business both short term & long term. But the bigger challenge comes when setting up processes for long term. Most of the organizations set up ‘audits’ of a new process or system and believe that this will ensure sustainability. It can definitely help provided it is done on regular basis & correctly. Processes are set up; standardized work job instruction sheets/cards are created to show how the process is to be done. Supervisors then train the worker on new process using the job instruction sheets and then an audit system is put in place to make sure that the workers or operators are doing or following the process correctly. Many processes are being set up within this format using Lean tools, however, at some point the organization will realize that something is missing and that is when Accountability comes in picture. Who is auditing? Who is checking the supervisors, managers? to make sure that they are doing their part as per the process.

That is when organizations realized & started using Kamishibai cards as part of their audit process. Kamishibhai was used in the context of the TPS for the first time from a Canadian former Toyota manager during a LEI seminar. In TPS Kamishibai are 21st century equivalent of audits of the KAIZEN™ culture. At one point, this systems management tool was a closely guarded Toyota secret.  Only within the last few years have American companies started to realize the potential of using Kamishibai boards and cards to manage a system in a factory.  Kamishibai cards are like cue cards or work instructions for auditing a process. The Kamishibai board is a visual management tool like hour by hour production status boards are for supervisors and line managers. If hour by hour boards are used during the shift and on an hourly or bi-hourly cadence, Kamishibai boards are used for weekly, monthly and even quarterly audits. Kamishibai prevents “breakdown maintenance” of the Lean system itself through audits, just as in TPM the regular equipment checks prevent machine breakdowns due to machines wearing, overheating, etc.

The standardized approach of the Kamishibai board and audit routine minimizes difference between the individual preference, style or attention to detail between managers. This reduces variability in outcomes of audits between different people.
Let me describe the basics of a Management Kamishibai Card.  It is an 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper (not laminated) that is intended to be very flexible and changeable.  First, fold the paper lengthwise down the center  so that you have one 4.25 by 11 sheet of paper, and then open it back up so that the crease is on top (like the roof of a house).  This is the “front” of the card.  On the left side of the front, you should divide it into 4 or 5 quarters.  Each quarter represents a time of the day.  First quarter is the first few hours after you arrive at work.  The 2nd quarter is the hours before lunch.  3rd quarter is the few hours after lunch, and the 4th quarter is the few hours before you go home.  You can also have a quarter for either overtime, or weekly / monthly tasks.  In each of these, quarters should go the “systems” that have been set up as part of your Lean implementation. 

As mentioned earlier the Kamishibai card needs to be flexible so that the manager, supervisor can add items to your card as needed and remove items from the card once you feel the process is under control. Once you feel the process is under control you can also reduce the no of audits from daily to weekly to monthly and so on.

Many organizations also think that Kamishibai card is like a to-do list. Actually the front left portion of the card can be used as a to-do list however that leaves out one of the most important reasons for this list and that is creation of dialogue between the members of management and operators. During the discussion if the employee comes out with some idea manager should document that on the back side of the card and do whatever they can to implement that idea. We have already talked about the front left & back left side (to record the details from the front left side).  Now let’s discuss the front right side.  This side is extremely flexible.  You can use it as a place to document projects that you need to perform follow up activities on an infrequent basis.  If you use it for this, then you would have project #1 on the front, “work on identifying root cause for case defects from machine 567”  If you perform some work on that project during the day, it should be recorded on the back right side of the card. 

Few reasons to implement Kamishibai cards are to begin to standardize work, to add accountability into the system and also to establish much needed positive dialogue between members of management and the operators that actually do the work. And all this greatly helps to sustain Kaizen/Lean implementation.

Self discipline by the management to use it correctly can make it happen. Part of the management routine in a Lean organization is to audit existing standards so that any deviation can be addressed and KAIZEN™ action is taken. The Kamishibai is a way to make adherence to this process visual on the gemba.

Kamishibai is incredibly simple to use, and also delivers some amazing results. It can be used to great effect to create habits & drive behaviour. They are low cost & quick to implement.

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