Shopfloor Kaizen according to ‘ Shingijutsu’

Source: shingijutsu


In this table we see another example of the Japanese pragmatic approach to structure complex tasks:


What should be taken care of when performing a Shopfloor Kaizen.


Just like in the 20 Keys model of mr. Kobayashi, we see a line of key-elements and 5 levels that are identified to classify the current status and the next level to proceed to. Simple and effective as a model, however not easy to perform!

To go through a program like this takes years, even with a very good ‘sensei’ at your hand.

20 Keys of Iwao Kobayashi-San

What is knows as ‘the 20 Keys of  Kobayashi’ in the Western world, is called PPORF in Japan.

’20 Keys’ is quite same system as PPORF and these are created by Iwao Kobayashi who is a Chairman of PDI (PPORF Development Institute Inc.) in Japan.

Mr. Kobayashi developed a very pragmatic way to improve a (manufacturing) company by Japanese management concepts.

He describes 20 ‘Keys’ that are crucial to develop a world class company.

The keys cover 5S, quick changeover, scheduling, reducing inventory, maintenance, skill building activities, eliminating waste, value analysis, empowering workers, quality, developing supplier, etc. Each key  is further divided into five levels from novice to “world class” status.

The Seiko Watch Company set up a consulting company with Mr. Kobayashi to teach the 20 Keys to all of their suppliers and other companies in Japan.

The 20 keys are:

Key 1: Cleaning and Organizing

Key 2: Rationalizing the System/MBOs

Key 3: Improvement Team Activities

Key 4: Reducing Inventory

(Shortening Lead Times)

Key 5: Quick Changeover Technology

Key 6: Manufacturing Value Analysis

(Methods Improvement)

Key 7: Zero Monitor Manufacturing

Key 8: Coupled Manufacturing

Key 9: Maintaining Equipment

Key 10: Time Control and Commitment

Key 11: Quality Assurance System

Key 12: Developing Your Suppliers

Key 13: Eliminating Waste (Treasure Map)

Key 14: Empowering Workers to Make Improvements

Key 15: Skill Versatility and Cross Training

Key 16: Production Scheduling

Key 17: Efficiency Control

Key 18: Using Information Systems

Key 19: Conserving Energy and Materials

Key 20: Leading Technology and Site Technology

Looking carefully to the keys, you might discover some overlap like ‘getting 100% efficiency – waste elimination – reduction in change over’; one being a part of the other. Remember: this is not a MODEL but a pragmatic approach, a roadmap if you like, based on years of experience.

Mr Kobayashi over the years found out: This is what needs to be done over and over again, if you do those things, you will approve.

This pragmatic approach also has a disadvantage: you will have to ‘translate’ some keys when not applied to manufacturing facilities (i.e. healthcare, or other services).

A very important learning from mr. Kobayashi’s approach is to keep as much as possible balance between the development of the keys; mr. Kobayashi states we should not develop óne key without keeping track of the others. Here we see an example of the ‘harmony model’ that is too often forgotten in our attempts to move quick – which actually slows us down and frustrates us…

You will recognize –parts of– those 20 keys (maybe in another form) in many other improvement programs; however here it is quite clear what needs to be achieved to reach a certain level. And so one can monitor whether all keys are developed harmoniously!

Even if you are ‘into Lean’ or ‘into Six Sigma’ it would be still a great help to use the 20 Keys!

Overview Improvement Programs

Being Excellent is just no longer good enough!

Who was excellent yesterday can be out of date tomorrow….
Because ‘excellence’ is improving every day!

It is our challenge to become excellent in improving.
Only those who can improve faster than the changing environment, can become excellent and stay excellent!
This site wants to give you a platform to put questions and find answers.

Remember the ‘excellent companies’ in this book?

Where are they today?

Six Sigma:

Originates from the US based Motorola en was further developed and applied by General Electric.
Its core lies in the elimination of deviation in quality of output.

Lean Manufacturing:

Initially ‘invented’ by Prof. Womack (US) and Prof. Jones (UK) based on their observations in the automotive industries. Basically it is a Western ‘translation’ of the Toyota Production System.
Its core lies in the creation of flow in the value stream.

Toyota Production System (TPS)

Toyota’s way to handle productivity in their automotive plants and its suppliers.
The Japanese source for ‘lean manufacturing’.
Its core lies in creating balance and harmony in every element of the (production) system.

Total Productive Maintenance/Manufacturing (TPM)

Japan Institute for Plant Maintenance. JIPM’s structured approach of the shopfloor in 4 (later 8) Pillars.
Its core lies in the total reliability and availability of the equipment in the factory. In later versions also process improvement (flow) was added. Can be considered as one of the basics of TPS.

Business Process Reengineering (BPR)

Michael Hammers’ (US) answer to complexity in business processes.
Based on eliminating complexity and applying automation.
Its core lies in fundamental change of business processes.

EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management)

Classical Western non prescriptive model based on nine criteria.
Its core lies in assessing an organisation’s progress towards excellence, looking at Results, Approach, Deployment, Assessment and Review.

World Class Manufacturing (WCM) – Performance (WCP)

First used by Richard Schönberger in 1986. attempting to theoretically combine several earlier improvement strategies.
Its core lies in the idea that all the earlier mentioned approaches should be united and performance should be achieved through quality, reliability flow and cost improvement.

What is Lean Manufacturing?

The Nature of Lean Manufacturing

The concept of Lean Manufacturing is a continuation of the mass production system, known in the twenties as the ‘conveyor belt’ of automotive manufacturer Ford. Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda, two employees of the automotive manufacturer Toyota in Japan, developed Lean Manufacturing after the Second World War. Lean Manufacturing became known worldwide thanks to the best seller “The machine that changed the world”, in which the aspects leading to the success of the Toyota production system are described. In the eighties Lean Manufacturing also got a basis in America. This was partly caused by the co-operation between Toyota and General Motors, who build a factory together. It lasted until end of the eighties, beginning of the nineties before American companies also wanted to be so-called ‘Lean Manufacturers’.

What Does ‘Lean’ Mean?

Lean gives the idea of skinny or slim. The word skinny has a negative connotation for a lot of people. There can also be a positive interpretation: ‘free of burden, healthy, a lot of freedom of movement, muscles, etc.’ With this specific vision in mind, people went looking for techniques that would allow a production system to function faster, cheaper, and better. Lean Manufacturing is distinguished by: a minimum changeover time, Just-In-Time (JIT) production, KanBan systems, a minimum of supplies and last but not least a “zero waste” attitude with each employee.

Lean Manufacturing

The aim of Lean Manufacturing is to shorten the time between the moment that the client places an order and the moment of delivery by eliminating all losses from this chain.

This is accomplished by:

  • Realization of minimal changeover times (SMED)
  • One Piece Flow implementation
  • Implementing pull production planning
  • Small Group Activity improvement teams
  • eliminating defects
  • Establish client-supplier partnerships

Lean Manufacturing: Example of achievements

  • Increase of productivity by 20% within 4 months
  • Reduction of the time to market by 20% within 4 weeks
  • Decrease in production in progress by 57% within 10 months
  • Increase of delivery reliability from 35 to 95% within 5 months
  • Decrease in stock by 18% within 6 months

Among other things, these parameters are documented with the aid of Value Stream Mapping, whereby the figures are registered in the so-called Current State, so that the so-called Future State can be visualized and be monitored as to whether the improvements are developing in the right direction.

Implementation of Lean Manufacturing

When implementing Lean Manufacturing we use a number of steps. Central to those steps is the fact that all changes have the aim to improve services to our clients. During the implementation process, it is important to know the demands and wishes that the customer has with regard to the product. It becomes possible then to document the value adding process for a product. Among other things, this can be done with the aid of a Value Stream Map. We strive to eliminate all losses from the present process chain. That actually implies that the flow of materials and information from the previous process into the next is without delay and intermediate storage.  In order to achieve this, we definitely require a very reliable and effective production with a continuously high Overal Equipment Effectiveness (availability rate*, performance rate*, and quality rate*). This can be achieved by implementing Total Productive Maintenance. By having a reliable and effective production process, the time span between placing an order and delivery becomes considerably shorter. It is, therefore, no longer necessary to produce based on what one has in stock, and one can produce a quantity the customer wants and at the moment he wants it. This is also called the transition from Push to Pull production. The production process makes then another step in the direction of the ideal process.

What is Business process reengineering (BPR)

Business Process Reengineering (BPR):

Reengineering is about radical change. Business process reengineering (BPR) differs from continuous (incremental) improvement programs that place emphasis on small, gradual changes, of which the object is to improve on what an organization is already doing. It is not about ‘ Kaizen’ (small steps) but about ‘ Kaikaku’  (break-through improvement) in more or less the same way as Makigami is. In te traditionally incremental change to improve business performance, typically one of several forms are taken, e.g., quality (total quality management), automation, reorganization, downsizing, and rightsizing. In contrast, BPR is:

  1. Not just automation, although it often uses technology in creative and innovation ways.
  2. Not just reorganization, although it almost always requires organizational change.
  3. Not just downsizing, although it usually improves productivity.
  4. Not just quality, although it is almost always focused on customer satisfaction and processes that support it.

BPR is a balanced approach that may contain elements of more traditional improvement programs with which it is often confused. However, BPR is much more than that.

First, BPR seeks breakthroughs in important measures of performance rather than incremental improvements.

Second, BPR pursues multifaceted improvement goals, including quality, cost, flexibility, and speed, accuracy, and customer satisfaction concurrently. To accomplish these outcomes, BPR, like lean, TPM, Makigami etc.  adopts a process perspective of the business, while other programs retain functional (departmental) perspectives. It also involves a willingness to rethink how work should be done, even if it means totally discarding current practices if that should prove necessary.

BPR also takes a holistic approach to business improvement, leveraging technology and empowering people, which encompasses both the technical aspects of process (technology, standards, procedures, systems, and controls) and other social aspects (organization, staffing, policies, jobs, career paths, and incentives)

(adapted from Manganelli R.L. and Klein M.M., The Reengineering Handbook, 1994).

A magnificent technique to use in such a BPR process is the makigami process analysis.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a registered trademark and service mark of Motorola, Inc.

Six Sigma

Originally, Six Sigma is a methodology aimed at recognizing, analyzing and solving of (too) many variations in processes. Each process has its variations. They are the cause of a lot of internal deficits and complaints by customers. Six Sigma offers a methodology to minimize this variation in process.
>Over time, the Six Sigma methodology has grown to a collective term of all kinds of techniques and methodologies with the goal of minimizing the defaults per million actions. Within Six Sigma, the word process contains more then only the production process. Also the development process, sales and purchasing can be improved with Six Sigma.

Six Sigma: In the beginning

 From 1985 onwards, Six Sigma (6s) has been developed by the Motorola Company from the US. The definition was as follows:
“A methodology of defining, identifying, measuring, analyzing, improving, and controlling of products and processes.”
(F. Stevens)

General Electrics picked up Six Sigma and developed it further. GE describes Six Sigma as follows:

“The central idea behind Six Sigma is that if you can measure how many defects you have had during a process, you can systematically figure out how to eliminate them and get as close to “zero defects” as possible.”
(What is Six Sigma?, the Roadmap to Customer Impact, GE)

In each process, it is inevitable that defects occur. The number of mistakes can be regarded as a quality indicator. In general, the Six Sigma Roadmap is used to improve that quality.

Step 3 measures how many defects occur during each step of the process. The sum of all defect percentages defines the probability of a defect to occur. The specialty of Six Sigma is that the company defines a standard for the maximum allowable probability for a defect to occur (process variation). This probability can be rated as follows:

Sigma factor

Number of defects per million

Quality grade (yield)


690000 dpm

30,9 %


308000 dpm

69,2 %


66800 dpm

93,3 %


6210 dpm

99,4 %


230 dpm

99,98 %


3,4 dpm

99,9997 %


The average level of American companies is 3 to 4 Sigma. Thanks to the Six Sigma program with Motorola, quality improved over a period of three years from 3 to 5,7 sigma. The original aim of Six Sigma was to reduce process variations.

Internally, Six Sigma uses an improvement methodology that consists of five steps. The DMAIC-circle visualizes this methodology. DMAIC means Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. There exists a clear analogy with the Plan-Do-Check-Act-circle of Deming, which, in turn, is the basis for SGA-circle used by Blom Consultancy.

Just like with other WCM-programs, the approach to problems is generally by multifunctional teams. In this respect, the idea is that by combining different talents, cultures and functional professionalism you can obtain a bigger problem solving capacity.

Six Sigma can be subdivided into six themes:

  • Customer focus
  • Facts and Figures
  • Process focus, management and improvement
  • Pro-active management
  • Boundary less Collaboration (a term coming from Jack Welch) = go for it
  • Strive for perfection (Zero waste, zero defects)

Six Sigma: What did become of it?

Over time, several companies started to use Six Sigma to improve processes. For a long time, it has not only been restricted to production processes, but one is also using the same methodologies to tackle logistical, administrative, and other processes.

In the meantime, Six Sigma became a collective term for all kinds of techniques and methodologies, supporting that the company is going to be a world-class company. The aim still is to reduce variations in process; however, each technique related to the DMAIC-circle and can make a positive contribution is used. An unambiguous Six Sigma definition is not used any more. Several definitions are in circulation.

Peter S. Pande formulated the modern Six Sigma definition as follows:

“A comprehensive and flexible system for achieving, sustaining and maximizing business success. Six Sigma is uniquely driven by a close understanding of the needs of the customer, disciplined use of facts, data and statistical analysis and paying close attention to managing, improving and reinventing business processes.”
(The Six Sigma Way, Peter S. Pande et al, McGraw-Hill: 2000)

More information

Author: Bert Teeuwen, Blom Consultancy

TPM: Maintenance integration in Production

Total Productive Maintenance in practice


Many companies look upon maintenance as a cost consuming activity with diffuse revenues.

Around 1970 however, General Electric initiated a movement whereby Maintenance no longer was regarded only as costly, but merely as a significant factor in the process to create and achieve higher profitability.

The ‘Japanese Institute for Plant Maintenance’, managed by Mr. Nakajima, has further developed these ideas. Mr. Nakajima based his strategy upon the principles of Mr. Deming, founder of the Total Quality Management philosophy.

The principles of Total Quality Management are:

  1. Observe and analyze details.
  2. Objective measurement of the real situation.
  3. Continuous optimalisation of production tools by improving employee ……….

This is how Quality Circles were initiated. Following this process ‘Small Group Activities’ were formed with senators both from Production as well as from Maintenance departments who tackled productivity problems together. A new attitude towards Maintenance was developed: Production and Maintenance were organized on a much more common base and Kaizen, a method to achieve and implement continuous improvement, was introduced.


Kaizen is a combination of the Japanese words Kai (to improve) and Zen (the Good): improvement for the best.


Following the successes of the Japanese automotive industry Europe followed the idea to implement Japanese techniques. The focus was on quality and Quality Circles but results were much less spectacular than in Japan.

The traditional production organization

Most companies know a functional division: a planning department, a production department, a maintenance department etc.

This organizational structure was based upon the theory of Taylor who, at the beginning of this century, discovered that specialization resulted in enormous efficiency improvements.

A significant detail about this way of organizing is that the description of the contents and the purposes of the jobs at the different departments is fairly narrow. The bad news about a structural organization however, is the likeliness of miscommunication about tasks, responsibilities and priorities between the various divisions and departments.

Solving problems and misunderstandings only to often result in waste discussions about responsibilities. Typical negative effects are:

  • problems are being pushed forward or backwards to another department instead of being solved;
  • departments en divisions (read: people) do not feel it to be their cup-of-tea, at the expense of other departments (window-dressing).

It is clear that a company should not spill its energy playing internal power games. A company will thrive when its energy, knowledge and skills are focused on meeting the customer’s requirements.

The necessity of production improvement.

Integration of the production department, the maintenance department, the planning department, the purchasing department and quality control will result in a lean production organization.

It is important that teams with representatives from all the departments carefully monitor the ‘twilight responsibilities’ between products or product groups.

In a traditional organization the introduction of ‘autonomous task teams’ or ’product teams’ with clear goals and purposes is a helpful and effective tool. Each team is responsible for the final result, either a product or a group of products.

Therefore it is important that goals are clearly set: ‘Management By Objectives’ (MBO).

A second prerequisite for the successfulness of autonomous teams is that the members of each team have sufficient information about and understanding of the problem. They will need support and trust to take their responsibilities independently. Although this prerequisite seems to be logically based upon the first step, traditional managers experience it as a revolution.

Letting go of the traditional –based upon central decision- systems requires guts.

And finally the team members must be able to see whether their activities resulted in success yes or no. A measuring system will have to be implemented making results transparent.

There is one retaining misunderstanding about the ‘Total Productive Maintenance’ philosophy that needs clarification: It is not a support system. ‘Maintenance’ means maintaining the system of cooperation between planning, production and maintenance to achieve greater productivity of the existing capacity. Therefore ‘Total Productive Maintenance’ also is called ‘Total Productive Management’.

Total Productive Maintenance: the necessity of a systematic approach.

Mr. Nakajima has indicated that seven steps must be set to successfully implement Total Productive Maintenance, being:

  1. Clean the machine.
  2. Take measures to tackle the causes and the results of dust, oil and dirt.
  3. Develop standards and procedures for cleaning and oiling.
  4. Train employees to be effective inspectors.
  5. Set-up inspection lists that will enable production employees to keep the machines in optimum condition.
  6. Develop standards and procedures to organize the workfloor (including safety, health, order and cleanness).
  7. Implement a totally autonomous maintenance system.

ShuHaRi Japanese Learning System

Shu Ha Ri

Shu Ha Ri

The Japanese way to Improve Excellence

To master an art, and to become excellent in this art, one has to go through a learning curve. I noticed in our Western society only a few communities have a structured and purposive approach to lead a pupil from Novice to Master. In Germany there is still a vivid learning system for artisans originating from medieval times. One starts as a “Pupil”, becomes “Journeyman” and finally the “Master”-stage can be reached, where every stage has strict criteria for the level of knowledge and craftsmanship to be achieved. This is a well proven system, dating form back in the medieval ages, to preserve the knowledge of the artisans as a group.

When reading through this article you might be tempted to quickly skip the parts that seam ‘fuzzy’ or ‘complex’. However if you take your time to digest what the Japanese tell us, there is an enormous learning potential hidden behind it. This is óne of the practical pillars behind becoming excellent, as demonstrated not only in Martial Arts and Zen Buddhism, but also in the modern Toyota Production System

In Japan the common route to master an art goes through 3 stages: Shu-Ha-Ri

In the Shu stage, the student does exactly as the Sensei (the teacher) says. The pupil endlessly practices to copy the Sensei’s examples. Without questioning why, without doubt. When the teacher decides the pupil is ready, he can move to the Ha stage.

In the Ha stage the student can question the skills he has learned. Why is it we do it as we do?

Finally when a good pupil understands all the reasons for why we do as we do, he can follow his own path, and try to improve what was the best practice so far. This then becomes the Ri stage.

This sounds obvious, but there is a fundamental difference between the European Medieval based system of “Pupil- Journeyman-Master” and the Japanese Shu-Ha-Ri. Lets look more into detail how this system works and what the implications are…

Shu – To learn from tradition

Shu can be translated as to keep, protect, keep- stick to or maintain learning fundamentals, techniques, heuristics, proverbs etc.

From these definitions, the characteristics of this particular stage can be said to be: protection (by teaching), being defended (by teaching), obeying the order (of teaching), observation (of the teaching), keeping one’s eyes open (on the teaching).

In Shu, the student works hard to copy the techniques as taught without modification and without yet attempting to make any effort to understand the rationale of the techniques of the teacher. In this way, a lasting technical foundation is built on which the deeper understanding of the art can be based.

The point of Shu, is that a sound technical foundation can be built most efficiently by following only a single route to that goal. Mixing in other schools, prior to an understanding of what you’re really up to is an invitation to go down a wrong path. A path where the techniques developed will not have sound theoretical or practical value. In the traditional interpretation of the Shu stage, it is the instructor that decides when the student moves on from Shu to Ha, not the student. It’s up to the student to follow the instructor’s teaching as ‘an empty vessel to be filled up’.

The knowledge and skills are fully internalized; they become ‘muscle memory’; you do not need to think about it anymore; the student automatically does as been taught.

The learning strategy in this stage offers defense against external negative influences, and from falling into danger and making mistakes.

Chiba-Sensei (8th Dan ShihanChief Instructor San Diego Aikikai) explains:

Technically, what is characteristic of this stage is the learning and embodiment of the fundamentals through the repetition of Kata (“the form”), exactly as they are presented, without the imposition of will, opinion, or judgement, but with a total openness and modesty. It is an important basic conditioning period both physically and mentally, wherein all the necessary conditions are carefully prepared for the next stage. Physically, this is the time when various parts of the body are trained; joints, muscles, bones, overall posture, how to set the lower part of the body centered by the waist, the use of gravity and its control, the balanced use of hands and footwork, etc.

Mentally, one learns how to focus and concentrate attention on any particular part of the body at any given time, how to generate internal energy and its natural flow through the use of the power of imagination. Furthermore, one learns faith, trust, respect, endurance, modesty, sacrifice, and courage, all of which are considered, to be the virtues of Budo. There is no set time or period as to how long it takes to go through this stage. It all depends on the strength, quality, ability, and capability on the parts of both teacher and student. Generally speaking, however, it does not, have to be too long, say from three to five years. Needless, to say, this is said on the assumption that one trains earnestly, trains every day, and makes that training the first priority of that time of life.

Ha – To break the chains of tradition

Ha can be translated as to tear up, finding the exceptions etc., reflecting on the truth of everything, finding new ways, techniques, proverbs
As these definitions indicate, this is a rather dynamic stage in character and strongly leans towards negativity and denial. However, paradoxically, this negativity leads progressively to self-affirmation

Ha, is to break from, to detach from tradition. This means that the student breaks free from the chains of tradition of his ‘school’ to some extent. In Ha, the student must reflect on the meaning and purpose of everything that one has learned and thus, come to a deeper understanding of the art than pure repetitive practice can allow. At this stage, since each technique is thoroughly learned and absorbed into the muscle memory, the student is prepared to reason about the background behind these techniques. In academic learning, the Ha stage can be likened to the stage where enough basic information is available to the student that research papers of a survey nature could be expected.

Chiba-Sensei (8th Dan Shihan Chief Instructor San Diego Aikikai) explains:

Technically, this is the stage wherein it is required to rearrange or reconstruct what the teacher has taught. This includes the elimination of what is undesirable, unnecessary or unsuitable and allows new elements to be brought into the study as food for growth. These changes are based on the true recognition of self together with surrounding conditions, such as temperament, personality, style, age, sex, weight, height, and body strength.

This is the stage, spiritually or mentally, when it is necessary to have a high mind of inquiry and self-reflection. More than anything else, it is required to attain a true and unshakable understanding of oneself as an individual. In other words, it is necessary to have a clear vision of one’s own potential and the best possible way to stimulate it. This might require that one abandons or denies what is already an asset or strength in one’s art. In this stage, in particular, gaining does not necessarily mean being creative but often means losing or abandoning, and this plays an important part in the process. It is indeed a difficult task to carry out and one often does not see its necessity due to lack of true insight and courage.

As part of human nature, it is indeed difficult to deny what one already has, especially when it is considered to be a good part of one’s possession. This is where most people get stuck and cease to grow. It is a matter of insight and perception in relation to the true recognition of self. In relation to human growth, this stage is still the period of the infant and youth and therefore still comes under the wing of the teaching. Another, very significant part of this stage, is moving from the complete passivity of the previous stage to active responsibility for one’s own training.

What happens in this stage is that the one who gives (on the part of teaching — an external effect) and the one who receives (on the part of the student — internal effort) simultaneously contribute towards the birth of individualism. It is exactly like the moment when the bird, within the egg begins to break the shell from the inside as the parent bird helps to break through from the outside. If the time is not mature, the death of the bird results. Again, there is no set time or period as to how long this stage takes. However, this is an important transitional period. Growth from infant-youth to a complete, fully grown individual, appears only after this stage.

Ri – To go beyond all knowledge (The pupil exceeds its master)

Ri can be translated as separation, leave, depart (from), release, set free, detach; there are no more techniques, proverbs etc.

Ri, is to transcend. This is to go beyond traditional learning and all available knowledge. In this stage, the student is no longer a student, in the normal sense, but rather a “pioneering practitioner.” One must now think originally and develop from ones own background knowledge, using original thoughts about the art and test them against the reality of his or her knowledge of everyday life. In Ri, the art truly becomes the practitioner’s own and to some extent, his or her own creation. This stage is the completion of one’s study, though it is not the end of study. The “student” is now given recognition as a “Master of the art”, independent in the art. One has acquired every required technical skill, knowledge and experience. Spiritually or mentally one no longer depends or relies upon external help or guidance.

Shu Ha Ri is not a linear progression. It is more akin to concentric circles, so that there is Shu within Ha and both Shu and Ha within Ri. Thus, the fundamentals remain constant; only the application of them and the subtleties of their execution change as the student progresses and his or her own personality begins to flavor the techniques performed.

Chiba-Sensei’s vision on the value of ShuHaRi :

Whether the above-mentioned system is still practiced in today’s Aikido in Japan, or whether it is workable here in the United States where culture, life-style, and way of thinking are so different, is not my present interest. I am convinced, however, that this system still carries profound value for today’s society, as it presents deep insight into the growth of humankind. Furthermore, it clarifies the responsibilities of the teacher and student, thus contributing to the establishment of an ideal relationship between the two.

The Implications

Where it is in the nature of the Shu Ha Ri learning system to challenge the student to exceed its master, it seams to me that in our society it is more a matter of sheer luck when a student exceeds his master.

  • First of all there is no clear ‘master’ or even a ‘school’ to identify with, or better to measure up, although some universities do a wonderful job to become excellent in their field. And even so, it is very rare to see a clear unique vision, a master level that the student can level up to.
  • In our highly competitive environment where we all have our personal targets, I have rarely seen that sharing knowledge, being a good master to a (group of) student(s) would be rewarded or highly appreciated. In best case it is “a necessary evil that would be tolerated“. Where in the Japanese (or should I say the Buddhist-Asian) culture being a Sensei (a Master that Teaches) is a highly respected status, here (not only in Holland) it is something for people we pity; it is like a self fulfilling prophesy: If we do not respect and reward our real sensei’s, how can we expect the real masters to become a good sensei?
  • It is not usual to internalize basic skills and knowledge as in the Shu phase. Even artisans develop most of their skills after school, when they are lucky enough to meet a good master that has and the skills and the ability and patience to teach the youngster. In modern education that might even be wishful thinking, however I mis even internalization of the most basic skills and values. “We show you once, we ask you if you know it, and if you can give a satisfying answer we forget about it” is what I remember most…

Albert Einstein about our learning-factories:

(in a message to the students at the State University of New York in Albany on 15 October 1936)

„To me the worst thing seems to be a school that principally works with methods of fear, force and artificial authority. Such treatment destroys the sound sentiments, the sincerity and the self-confidence of pupils and produces a subservient subject. It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for study at school, at the university and in life is the pleasure of working and thereby obtaining results which will serve the community. The most important task for our educators is to awaken and encourage these psychological forces in a young man or woman. Such a basis alone can lead to the joy of possessing one of the most precious assets in the world – knowledge or artistic skill.”

  • Maybe the lack of good sensei’s is the reason we so easily assume that knowledge and skills come ‘automatically’. Just look how a new operator enters a factory and starts operating a multi thousand dollar piece of equipment…. In Japan I visited factories where more than 80% of the operators had a national qualification as Maintenance Engineer. Not because they needed the maintenance skills, but this was the key to fully understand the equipment they operated.
  • Going through the Shu Ha Ri system not only creates good discipline, but will be most certainly a serious test to the motivation and the ambition of the student. In my daily practice I meet too many people that went through an education without a trace of the ‘fire, enthusiasm, ambition and pride’ that I would expect from some-one who just spent 6 or more years in a ‘learning factory’. The result: week students with poor motivation can survive. And even worse: talented students become drop-outs because the system does not challenge them enough. Learning too often has been reduced to ‘get your paper’ in stead of ‘Mastering the Art’

Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s vision on the basis of his improvement (learning!) strategy:

Deming reffered often to the Bible. His favorite statement was that of King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, Verse 22 (New International Version, NIV):

“So I (Solomon) saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?”

  • Understanding the value of the Shu phase, creates an other perspective for our contemptuous attitude towards the Japanese being ‘just copiers’. To copy something from someone you consider to be a master is an act of respect to that master and a natural thing to do if you want to learn something. How do we learn to play piano? For years we try to play someone else’s music; to copy as a learning strategy. When we master the technique fully, we will start to give our own interpretation to the play, put our own emotion and emphasis in it. Only than and not before we might grow to the level where we would create and play our own music and just maybe that might be better than the music we copied from. And yet we despise the Japanese for learning that way, we think we are brilliant enough to skip the Shu and Ha phase and start in Ri….
  • In the Shu Ha Ri system there is no resistance to copy from the master, to learn from the master what one can learn, without doubt and questioning. Why should you? He is years ahead of you and has proven to be a master. How different in our society. Even the most brilliant concepts and skills taught by the best teachers to a random group of brilliant or retarded students always gets a variation on the same theme as response: a declaration why we can not accept what the speaker just said. The first response is always one to justify why we should not just accept and use what was told. This is perfectly legitimate if we do not know the level of mastership of the speaker but that is not the issue. In our culture it is simply not done to learn from someone by copying -thus using- proven quality. We ha¡ve to invent ourselves. Even if we have no basic knowledge at all. Why else do we suffer from the Not-Invented-Here-Syndrome? Do you now understand why it is so difficult to implement standardized work-procedures and beautiful tools like 5S workplace organization? We get the shivers just by the idea to adopt something from someone else.

There are regional differences in ‘the West’. For example in countries like Brazil and Argentina, the implementation of World Class techniques like Lean and TPM are surprisingly succesful. Why? There is less resistance to proven quality as a ‘not invented here thing’. My careful conclusion is that this is a result of a perceived underdog position. If you look up to someone else it is more easy to accept what happens there as an example. Japan and the US could be a role model to the Brazilians so why should you not copy their strategies like Lean and TPM?

The same happened in Japan after WW II. Juran and Deming where fully accepted. The books from Henri Ford (even in 1950 already forgotten in the West) where ‘law’ to every industrial engineer. Why? Because for the first time in the modern Japanese history there had been a nation that was powerful enough to strike the ‘Great Empire’. This was a Master! Those people had power and knowledge that one could achieve…. by copying! No hard feelings, no false pride, just learn and become better… Shu Ha Ri, and the rest is history……

Arno Koch

(I did not carefully stipulate every individual source in this text, but my gratitude is immense to all the sources mentioned below that offered the right definitions, kanji and explanations of ShuHaRi.)

1. Kuroda, Ichitaro “Shu-Ha-Ri” Sempo Spring 1994 pp 9-10

2. McCarthy, Patrick “The World Within Karate & Kinjo Hiroshi” Journal of Asian Martial Arts. V. 3 No. 2 1994

3. Fox, Ron; MWKF “SHU HA RI” The Iaido Newsletter Volume 7 number 2 #54 FEB 1995

4. Chiba, T.K. “Structure of Shu, Ha, Ri, and Penetration of Shoshin” Sansho, Vol. 6, No 2, Winter 1989 (Read complete Article)

5. The Swiss Deming Institute (Read more about Dr. Deming)


Why is TPM primarily seen and used as a maintenance module?

Many speak about TPM, but mean Autonomous Maintenance. How come? Why is TPM primarily seen and used as a maintenance module? Is it a lack of information?

In my experience there are 3 main reasons for this mis-understanding:

1. Total Productive Maintenance can easily be understood (in this translation) as a maintenance issue; Maintenance here should be translated as To Maintain so: To Maintain the Total Productivity of the equipment. Of course before you can maintain it, you have to get there…. Here comes the second misunderstanding:

2. Many start implementing TPM with the 7 steps of Autonomous Maintenance, the second pillar. Since most equipment had a lack of focus before TPM, a variety of maintenance related issues will pop-up. Most companies I know keep playing around in this pillar a long time, thus leaving an impression of TPM being ‘something around maintenance’. It is not unusual that companies somewhere in the 7 steps also start to include another pillar: preventive maintenance, which asks for heavy involvement of the maintenance department. If there is a lak of understanding about the real meaning of TPM, this is usually the point where TPM start losing its value, where it will become a ‘flavour of the month’ program.

3. And yes, it is certainly an ‘Informationsdefizit’; although not in the traditional meaning of the word. It is merely a lack of true understanding. Can I explain an Alien what ‘love’ is? I think so. But will he really understand what it is to fall in love, to love your child, to love your spouse? This is the real difficulty with TPM… Only a few really understand its deeper meaning; that it is not a program where you apply 7 pillars and follow some steps. Those are just guidelines, like the 10 commandments. To understand the real implications and the beauty of TPM even with a good ‘sensei’ (coach-teacher) it can take considerable time!

In the years, I have been reading Nakajima-san’s book about TPM 3 times, and every time I discovered new insights….answers only come when you have a question!

The lack of true understanding of the meaning of TPM, in my opinion, is the reason of many stalled TPM implementations…

Arno Koch