I interviewed Pierce Regnier who discussed Manual Application of Cycle Time and Operation Disciplines.







It’s nice to speak with you today, Pierce, and I’m looking forward to hearing your views today on the topic of manual application of cycle time and operation disciplines. Can you first provide a brief background of yourself?


I started 39 years ago as a purchasing manager for what was American Hospital Supply Corp. at the time; they were a Fortune 300, I think; been out of business for probably 30 years. I went from there, from medical into construction equipment, and spent 35 years in purchasing materials management and supply chain operations with a few years of consulting and the IT enterprise arena. That’s my background. During that period of time, I’ve come up with personal philosophies and practices that I’ve applied myself as a manager and feel them out, and I like to voice them.


Thanks. Can you talk about why lean fails?


Well, I think the biggest single issue—I should interject that in my background, I worked with the actual engineers from Toyota Production Systems, who started their own consulting firm, Shingijutsu. Back in the late ’80s, they were in the United States working with Danaher Corp. and with United Technologies. I was working with Danaher Corp. at the time and spent two years with the original Japanese engineers every 90 days and then their subconsulting group, a time-based manager, who were from Connecticut.


Given that, I was around doing TPS when lean popped up, if you will. As time went by, I saw it as—I still see it—as a marketing program, so that anybody who buys the package, reads the books, and goes to the classes can implement, execute, and I beg to differ. Learning at TPS and learning about the heart and soul of success in TPS, I feel that we TPS proponents have a little bit more to offer for continuity and improvement than the market programs of lean.


Thank you. Did we cover, then, that first question about why lean fails?


I’m sorry. The reason it fails is because the learning and applying it, being certified and, therefore, being a practitioner does not include a study of the intangibles that are required to capture the hourly labor-based group and get their individual tasks and knowledge so they become a part of this continuous improvement and not just the continuing employee who’s learning a program. It fails because as soon as you walk away or, not the leader but the manager of these people, it’s just status quo. The term they would use is bought into, but, actually, what it is is become a part of something that helps them personally and individually, which is what Toyota Production Systems did.


The Japanese were, we talk about turnover, et cetera, and the Japanese didn’t have that. These were people who had less than a sixth-grade education across the board—the laborers in the ’70s and ’80s, and they were able to do some amazing things because of simple disciplines and the emotional lure or personal involvement under the implementing managers. I think that’s missing in a marketed lean package.


What is the solution?


Well, initially, the solution is to, I guess to simplify rather than to have this huge methodology of lean, with all of these different practices and levels and the upper management must be a part of it or it will fail. It has more direction toward what will make it fail than why it won’t succeed, to be avoided, than it does the practice of growing the people and developing simple disciplines and understanding each person’s feeling of involvement in their jobs.


A little bit difficult to explain quickly, but it’s, at heart, an emotional involvement. I think that the few lean programs that are successful maybe coincidentally have individual managers and leaders who know how to capture this emotional involvement or tie with the employee. Then, very simply, assign disciplines that make each job simpler. It’s a follow-the-rules kind of thing, almost like training a child, if you will. Sometimes I think, as a manager, I go to work expecting my boss to lead me as if I was his child.


Now you have simple disciplines and you have people reporting on a short-term, timely basis, and every individual has his own group of methods. It’s just like doing your job and getting your allowance, if you will. It’s all very simple from the standpoint of the employee, from the standpoint of the hourly or lowest level, the task person. And then up the ladder, there’s a pyramid of metrics that actually feed on each other. Six Sigma has a plethora of metrics, but they’re individually based so you can be successful in Operation 5, and Operation 6 can lose all of your value added in 5. There are no programs to show continual value. TPS does that automatically.


I hope I’m not getting off track, but that’s kind of the distinguishing feature. There’s not a complexity because it has to do primarily with the, I guess what we would call giving power to the employee.


Is there anything more you can say about how it’s done?


Let me go back. I guess the real foundation is terminology, defining terms. We all use continuous improvement, but do we really know of a practice, a series of practices, a system that has repeatability and reliability of tasks so that it is continuous, so it doesn’t have to be watched all the time in order to have it repeat itself and not get watered down or disappear or change direction? Probably not.


The contention here is that the key is to keep it continuous. How did you do it the first time? How long did it take? Where did you catch failure and fix the failure as opposed to having cause and effect, where you have to go back and look at the cause and how it happened? Now it’s happening again while you’re looking at it. It’s that poka-yoke on line quality and the mind-set of always doing it continuously.


The other feature of Toyota Production Systems that’s missing in today’s lean is the quality circles. Now, as those were written up originally, specifically for quality and improving the product, but the concept of 15 minutes every day to review how we followed our disciplines and how we kept our cycle times down as individuals gives you the ability to have this continuity. The other thing is the concept of 5s, which everybody is using today, was initially developed in Japan for the purpose of teaching discipline, not for the purpose of having a nice, clean workplace for you to now do * (9:30—unclear) but exclusively to show the benefit of discipline. Now you have the employees having their jobs easier, and they almost instantly learn this personal involvement with discipline makes their jobs easier, it makes their home and personal lives part of what they do.


That’s a reinterpretation of a lot of the features of TPS were brought into lean and misused. I don’t know if that helps. I know I got off the track here. It’s a big picture very simplified.


Thanks, today, for sharing on this topic. I’d love to continue our discussions if you want to go into some more detail on some of the points later on.


I’d like to very much. I hope that I’ve conveyed some information. I realize that I didn’t present it exactly in a linear, clear outlay, but I hope there’s enough information there to be a benefit to whoever listens.


Yes, this is going to be good.


Very good.




About Pierce Regnier



Pierce Regnier


Implement & execute supply chain disciplines


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