Mar 7,2008, Steed, Andy (my partners of lean implementation) and me visited a milk products company in Japan. The company located in Yokohama of Japan with historical operation. Before we arrived the factory, the guide of the visiting explained a little bit of the background and news of the company.
Personally, I felt that the visiting for this company is not related to lean manufacturing. Also, I believed that trip is arrange by the tourist agency or Japan government by the relationship of benefit. However, after the visiting, I still found something useful for the lean implementation, even lean thinking. Simply say, I got some thinking of the attitude to face the problem.
The web-link od Snow Brand http://www.snowbrand.co.jp/ (this is more details for the company and absolutely not a advertisment.
According to introduction of the guides, we understood Snow Brand faced two serious problem before and the affection still existing right now,
1. year 2000, the milk they produced caused more than 10000 people food poisoning. Nobody explain what is the root cause and as my understanding, it may be caused by human mistake in process or maintenance. The result is the company stop producing milk.
2. year 2002, there was a affiliated company of Snow Brand sold a beef with incorrect labelling. The marked the beef was domestic goods but actually it was imported. The domestic produced beef was much expensive and better than imported. The problem was affecting her honesty and the image of brand name.
Once we sat in the conference room, the guide of the company introduced the problem they have before. I can say the they faced the problem nakedly in front of us. One of my colleague asked a question, "why you not consider to quit the market and use another brand to operate?", the answer was, "we liked to face and solve the problem! it was agreed by all employee in the company." Wow, what kind brave attitude they had in front of trouble?
It is a culture different between China and Japan. Japanese encourage brave, enjoy challenge and they never give up. For Chinese, they more prefer to escape. When we hold the kaizen projects, how many time we heard the member to give themselve a excause to stop the improvement action? "It can't be worked!", "if we did that, there is another problem on...", ...etc. The point of your member wanted to tell you is that, we do not like to face the problem. All of this, it is the attitude problem and culture problem.
I am sure that if the situation of Snow Brand happen in China, the company will stop for a moment to change it brand name and start to product again in short moment. Actually, the critical problem of quality is stll not fixed. The story would be happened again and again.
For improvement project, the most important thing, is the attitude of facing problem.
1. Brave to face problem, (it proves the value of you to exist)
2. Enjoy the challenge, (it helps you to grow up)
3. Never give up, (It is the main factor of success, no matter how much you pay on the job, once you start to think to give up, you lost everything you have paid.)
The visiting of Snow Brand looks no relation to lean, we can not find any lean concept in such material and process flow. However, we found a important and useful attitude for everything you want to success. It is a good lesson for me.
And finally, I bought one to share with my sons, so far so good...