Kobetsu Kaizen™ is the first pillar of TPM. It is loosely translated as Self-Improvement or Focussed improvement. It is difficult to find the right meaning for the word Kobetsu. Japanese is written in two scripts – Kanji and Kana 個別. If written in Kana, the meaning would be house-to-house, door-to-door, each house. If written in Kanji, it would represent particular case; discrete; individual; separate etc., Since this pillar focuses on solving a particular type of loss, it is preferred to be termed as Focused improvement. Unlike the Autonomous Maintenance (Jishu Hozen) where equipment per se is addressed, Focused improvement (Kobetsu Kaizen™) is intended to prevent the accelerated deterioration of equipment parts.
The Kobetsu Kaizen™ (or FI teams) often face recurring problems in the performance of the Equipment. We all are aware that the objective of TPM is Zero stoppages (unplanned stoppages). The losses can be classified into two categories – Sporadic and Chronic. Sporadic losses indicate sudden large deviations from the standard. They are immediately addressed and arrested. Chronic problems indicate smaller but frequent deviations from the standards. They are not immediately addressed and gradually we all accept them as a part of the process and start living with those problems. While the sporadic losses are attacked, the chronic problems that results in loss of performance, quality and productivity does not seem to go away. It is a well-established fact that Chronic losses attribute to 5~10% of the total losses. Under such circumstances, achieving Zero Breakdowns becomes next to impossible.
Kunio Shirose defined TPM as not only a set of activities for restoring equipment to optimal conditions but also to create an environment to sustain those conditions. Focused Improvement is the process of applying systematic problem solving methods to manufacturing. It is all about the focused improvement of not only the equipment but also the processes as to reduce the losses in manufacturing. This is achieved by the collaborative effort of production workers and the maintenance team. The process relies on aligning the correct method to the correct scenario. When a known solution exists to a problem clearly demonstrated, the rigour and analysis to find this solution becomes unnecessary as the learning from the history can be used to resolve the problem and it is inexpensive to implement. If such a solution is expensive or difficult to implement, the rigour and analysis of the problem must be improved.
The methodical approach of resolving the problems in Kobetsu KaizenÔ has some similarities with the 5G approach. The five Gs are Gemba – the real place, Gembutsu – the real tools pertaining to the Gemba, Genjitsu – the real facts which can be obtained only from the Gemba, Genri – that explains the principle of operation and Gensuko – Standardization or Institutionalization.
Gemba: The first “G” is called the Gemba. Gemba is a combination of two Japanese words Gem and Ba. Roughly translated Gemba means a “raised podium or raised platform”. Just as a raised platform draws attention of one and all, the Gemba should draw attention of one and all. Or in other words, Gemba means the real place where the value is added, where the problems are resolved, where the work is happening. The Gemba is the location where the incident actually occurred…..at the SOURCE of the problem, which may not be where the majority of the losses occurred. Whenever there is a problem or an abnormality, the first thing we need to do is to “go-to-the-Gemba”! It is especially important for the members of the team that is assigned to resolve the problem. Everyone needs to have the same perspective and knowledge of the current equipment areas that are being investigated. During the visit to the Gemba the remaining 4 “G” should be considered by the team.
Genbutsu: The second “G” is known as Genbutsu. This is also termed as Genchi Gembutsu loosely translated means “go & see”. The use of M or N in Gemba, Gembutsu does not matter considering the phonetic issues. While at the Gemba, the team should examine the equipment parts and materials that were associated with the problem or the failed equipment. At times, there could be instances, where the problematic parts would have been removed (as to keep the line running) even before the team arrives on the Gemba. However, the team should insist on all the parts pertaining to the place for a detailed study which could explain how the failure had happened.
Genjitsu: The third “G” is Genjitsu. Genjitsu refers to Data and Facts around the area of concern. In this step, the team must gather all the data available about the 4Ms precisely say, process, equipment and materials before and after the condition of the problem. These data will assist the team in linking the facts behind the evidence that the team sees and what had happened. While collecting the data, ensure the team includes the variable control data from the line, collect the real-facts after having informal chat with the Gemba-owners at the time of the failure or problem occurred
Genri: The fourth “G” represents Genri. Genri refers to Principles. Prior to attending to resolve an abnormality or a problem, one should be aware of the principle of operation. This would help the problem-solvers to do the root cause analysis in the right perspective. This is because, knowing the operational principle would help the team discriminate the current condition from the ideal condition. The gaps will be clearly seen without which, at times, the problem-solvers will be groping in dark and could be misled too.
Gensoku: The fifth “G” is Gensoku. Gensoku refers to Standards and parameters. There could be a possibility that the equipment failed because of deviations from the standards – more importantly the method-standard. The Gemba-owner might be unaware of the Standard Operating Procedures. The One Point Lessons were not made or not providing clarity. The standard parameter chart was missing and the operator had set wrong parameters. In short, the actions or wrong-actions of the operator might lead to the problem. Verifying the Standards, SoPs, OPLs, JI (Job Instructions), EIS (Element Instruction sheets), enables the team identify the origin of the problem. Once the problem is resolved, the team should also ensure that the standards are revised accordingly as to prevent the recurrence.
Utilizing the “5G Principles” will enable the leader to conduct the root cause analysis (RCA) in the right perspective. To be precise, this 5G methodology is well adapted in QRQC (Quick Response Quality Control) popularized by Valeo Engineering that harps on Rapid problem solving by Gemba-owners. As a result, the process will be more stable and working on the line will be less problematic.
As and when we face problems or abnormalities, all 5G’s should be used however, the 1st G – Go-to-Gemba must always be studied to ensure all our assumptions are correct. The use of Gembutsu, Genjitsu, Genri & Gensoku to resolve problems is purely based on experience. The study of Gembutsu and Genjitsu has to be systematic. This has dual benefits, the first one that provides a common methodology across the organisation on how the data and facts are collected, recorded and used in root-cause-problem-solving. The second benefit is such systematic approach of collecting data & facts brings in a common understanding of the problem across the organization. This is followed by the 5W1H approach.
The other 2G’s, Genri & Gensoku can be studied if experience does not reveal the causes of the problem even after the 5W+1H problem statement is made. The root cause of the problem will be found only when we find the immediate cause. Once the root cause is found, the solution should be implemented as to eliminate the cause without which we will not experience the benefits of Kobetsu Kaizen. The practice of Kobetsu KAIZEN™ has always yielded results. The added advantage is the 5G approach quashes the division in organizations created by opinions as it is focussed on Data & Facts. Problem solving becomes more structured with revision of standards happening as the team learns from the problem-solving exercise. Let us adapt this 5G approach in our problem solving too. Happy problem solving!
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