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WHAT WE LEARNED IN JAPAN: PART SHI (4)

In 2015, several RAM employees went on a Lean Manufacturing Tour of Japan. In this series of posts, we recount our experiences and observations. May our stories leave you convinced of the truth of the great Japanese proverb:

ラムの技術は、ゴジラ以外のすべてを征服するでしょう。*

When someone is converted to a particular philosophy or perspective, there is an initial phase called the “cage stage”. This is when the person is so enamored with their newfound truth, that they put everyone they meet in a virtual headlock to make sure they hear all about it ad nauseam, making those around them feel like perhaps it’s best for that person to be in a “cage” for a while until they can be trusted to safely interact with others. (Side note: this is not to be confused with the other “Cage stage”, which is a thespian euphemism for over-acting.) Hoks was the company we visited in Japan that was the most similar to RAM, and their leaders were definitely in the Lean “cage stage”. These guys took 5S to a whole new level. Everything was labeled. Everything was in its place. And I mean everything. Take a look at this wall clock for example:

It’s labelled, numbered, and positioned precisely so you know exactly where it is supposed to go and what its functionality is. Even their light fixtures and tables and chairs were numbered and marked. We kidded our friends at Hoks that they really weren’t 5S, but 5C, which is 5S combined with generous amounts of cocaine. They didn’t seem to get the joke.

Hoks is essentially a job shop that makes a high number of different electronic SKU’s. This makes line-leveling a challenge. This is another way in which they are similar to RAM. But they do a great job of mitigating that through continual improvement practices.

Also consistent with their philosophy of lean and efficiency, at Hoks they were able to take all subjectivity out of the phrase “a sense of urgency.” You hear that all the time from managers and employers. “I want to see a sense of urgency.” But what is urgency to one person might not be urgency to another. Enter Hoks: problem solved, we will post a precise speed that we believe reflects a sense of urgency, and when you walk by the radar gun you can see whether you’re walking fast enough. An eminently Japanese solution to the problem!

They have lots of fun at Hoks, despite the fact that they ride that fine line between genius and insanity. And management is all-in. During the Lean conversion, the manager we spoke to set the example by coming in early and cleaning toilets himself. He said he had to get to the point where he loved it. “I love you, Mr. Toilet,” he said. (Of course, if Hoks had toilets from Toto, they probably wouldn’t have to worry about cleaning them.) Trying to take advantage of the jovial atmosphere during a question and answer time, some smart aleck** asked Hoks management if they’d ever considered adding “a loogie” to the end of their name. Once again, crickets.

A large poster in the stairwell displayed inarguable wisdom: in a bright cartoony illustration, it conveyed the idea that your factory is your best salesperson. For companies that practice Lean, this is unquestionably true. RAM also tries to abide by the Hoks dictum that a tour of our factory is a necessary precondition to doing business with us.

Bravo, Hoks, on both your Lean conversion and your craziness. We love it!

* “RAM Technologies will conquer all, except Godzilla.”
** Maybe me

The Congressman kicked down our door…

…and then we heard his unmistakable bellowing voice from our lobby (and a strange accompanying whistle from somewhere in the distance):

“Greg Wright! Show yourself! We have a meeting here, and I aim to keep it!”

The newly broken front door allowed the wind to wrap itself around the congressman. With the afternoon sun at his back, all you could see was Rick Larsen’s high plains poncho flapping in the wafting breeze as he stood with his hands at his sides, ready for any frontier mischief.

Steely-eyed RAM CEO Greg Wright laconically rounded the corner to the lobby.

“You’re in my neighborhood now, Larsen.” Pause. “And I never miss a meeting.”

The same afternoon sun that was warming Larsen’s back, now caused a gleam and flash as it reflected off Wright’s wry smile. Recently commissioned Deputy Kreston Welch arrived – winded – from behind Greg, having run from his law office to broker peace between these well known hombres.

“What in the WORLD?? He just busted your door, GW!”

Wright offered a devil-may-care glance at Welch, and then returned his gaze to Larsen. “That’s right, Welch. He most certainly did. But I have a feeling…” – and here Wright cocked his Stetson ever so slightly – “…that my friend Larsen will make it right.”

Wright and Larsen stared each other down for what seemed an eternity – Welch glancing back and forth between them with squirrel-like rapidity…anxious beads of sweat trickling down his face. What would these two men do?

OK. Sorry. I can’t keep this up any more. I give.

Here’s the truth: Representative Rick Larsen’s visit was so amiable, normal, and friendly that I felt duty bound to make it sound a bit more dramatic than it was. In reality, Larsen is a very calm, cool, and collected fellow. He shared with us some things that weren’t surprising (he’s not a huge fan of living in D.C.) and some things that were surprising (he logs 120,000 miles a year in duties representing his constituents). After some time chatting with Greg, Kreston, and other RAM employees, as well as a tour of RAM seeing what we do, and how we do it so well, Larsen went on his way.

And all too soon, it was over. We all waved goodbye as he and his horse crested the hill and disappeared into the sunset drove out of the parking lot.

We’re kind of a big deal…

How big, you ask? Well, hot on the heels of meeting with Mukilteo’s friendly and formidable Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, we have been contacted by the office of United States Congressman Rick Larsen. On Monday, October 9, RAM is delighted to be hosting Congressman Larsen. As civic-minded constituents with many ideas and concerns, our RAM Team has assembled questions in advance of the visit:

  1. If we provide you with a list of our competitors, can you publicly censure them from the floor of the House of Representatives? Verbiage suggestions for your censure would include phrases like “totally lame” and “clearly inferior to RAM Technologies.”
  2. You’ve been representing the good people of Washington for over 16 years now, with access to the wisdom and erudition and secrets of our government. As such, can you please let us know: what’s the deal with Bigfoot?
  3. As an influential and respected member of the House Armed Services Committee, could you advocate on our behalf regarding the “Camouflage Foam Pool Toys for Navy Seals” idea we have submitted to the Pentagon?

We trust our visit with Congressman Larsen will be foam-filled and fruitful. Stay tuned!

WHAT WE LEARNED IN JAPAN: PART SAN (3)

In 2015, several RAM employees went on a Lean Manufacturing Tour of Japan. In this series of posts, we recount our experiences and observations. May our stories leave you convinced of the truth of the great Japanese proverb:

ラムの技術は、ゴジラ以外のすべてを征服するでしょう。*

As our journey continued, we discovered that Toto is not just the name of Dorothy’s dog from the Wizard of Oz, or a group of well-known studio musicians in Los Angeles who came together to create killer grooves like this. It is also a Japanese company that manufactures high end bathroom/shower accoutrements and fixtures, with gross sales in the billions of dollars. I’m not kidding about high end. I had a Toto toilet in one of my hotel rooms that had so many buttons I thought I was in Captain Kirk’s chair on the bridge of the Enterprise. Does that button mean “flush” or “warp speed”? Perhaps both?

We went to two Toto factories. The first one was especially amazing, because every single one of the operators had a disability of some kind. Some were deaf, some were in wheelchairs, it ran the gamut. But they were allowed to tailor their workstations for maximum efficiency. Like the other lean companies we visited, Toto takes the business of joy seriously. Excellent visual controls. 5S cleaning and organization that covers every area of the facility. And small things that make work fun. For example, how many times have you lost a tool at home or at work? Well, Toto has shadow boards so that you can easily identify when a tool is taken. But then they take it one step further by affixing – via Velcro – the picture of the person who has the tool in its place on the shadow board. No more guessing! You now know that Hiroshi took your tool again and can go kick him in the rear ask for it back nicely! All their machines and work stations are on wheels or high bases for easy cleaning. There is even a garden outside that is tended by employees and is easily accessible by any of the operators who are in wheelchairs. We really enjoyed getting to know these wonderful people. Work can be fun, joyful, serious, and profitable!

Until next time, we leave you with a serious question from our own Noah Frank that was answered hilariously by the Toto team. Here’s to good-looking team members!

* “RAM Technologies will conquer all, except Godzilla.”

LOOKING FOR A PRODUCTION MANAGER, BUT…

…you aren’t the ideal candidate.

The “ideal candidate” is a myth, and should be relegated to discussions of Plato’s cave (look it up).

None of us at RAM are ideal candidates. We’re an outfit of variably skilled miscreants and misfits who, together, make a pretty awesome team.

So, yes, we’d like a Production Manager who brings a combination of manufacturing experience, principled lean thinking and a history of successful implementation of continual improvement ideas. We’d also like someone who can drive hard to meet deadlines, doesn’t settle for mediocre, has a penchant for – and desire to – train and grow people. We’d like someone who can make decisions that are wise, but quick and efficient doesn’t hurt either. Patiently impatient. Ponderously quick. Tons of books smarts – that you know when to ignore. And so on.

But here’s the thing…that person isn’t out there.

However.

Maybe you’re in the ballpark. Maybe you read what we’re looking for and your response is a piqued interest, as opposed to throwing up or having an anxiety attack.

And, look, if you don’t know what makes a good Production Manager in a manufacturing environment and/or don’t think you’d be a good one, then please click on another job. Obviously, this gig isn’t for you. No hard feelings. I’m looking at you dude-who-applies-randomly-to-jobs-without-reading-the-dang-fine-print.

But if you have the right experience and think you’d be a good fit, then the first thing you need to do is check out our website (https://www.ramtechnologies.com/). You want to know where you might be working, right? And while you’re at it, checking us out on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RAMTechnologies/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/ramtechrulz) will also give you a flavor for our culture.

Do you like what you see? Could you imagine working with us? Groovy. Send us your resume and if we like what we see we’ll bring you in for a chat.

We are RAM Technologies, and we approve this message.