Many individuals who are tasked with the responsibility of researching category management training companies and their offerings, or even making the training purchase for a team or organization, are new to the task. Some online category management training companies sell multiple types of training in many different topic areas.  They typically have packaged curriculum that was purchased (ie. Click here to download an infographic that includes the important questions that you should request of your future category management training partner. If you are interested in discussing category management training opportunities for your organization (no matter how big or small), I’d love to have a conversation with you to learn about your specific needs, and how CMKG may partner with you to meet those needs, based on the principles outlined above.
Check out our popular blog post on "8 Ways to Move to More Advanced Category Management Analytics" Category Management Knowledge Group's blog is moving! The concept of Project management is fast gaining momentum in the Kenyan market, and so is the need for certified project managers to match the skills and Knowledge that goes into it.
As Project management quickly become a hot commodity in the Kenyan jobs market, there is a growing need for qualified project managers in a bid to improve efficiency and overall business success.
If you’ve been thinking about advancing your Project Management career and just haven’t got enough time on your hands, we may have exactly what you need. The big news in the automotive industry last month was the escalation of the ongoing Takata airbag affair.
I think the bigger issue here, and the one that the US Government and press have been pointing to, is the response from Takata and Honda. I’m not sure if it has been noted by the mass media over the past month, but a quick look at the list of Takata shareholders shows Honda with a 1.2% holding. In the case of Takata, I’m really surprised that Shigehisa Takada, Chairman and CEO, has hidden from the press throughout the recall debacle – this is one of the most critical junctures in the history of this company (a seat belt recall in 1995 having been the other, again involving Honda and at the time being the second largest recall in the 30 year history of the Japanese Department of Transportation). Toyota experienced a similar setback in 2010 with their electronic accelerator pedal issue, but Akio Toyoda, President and CEO (who is widely respected by his staff in Japan, and the automotive industry in general) stepped up and showed real leadership.
An interesting question that arises from all of this is the impact on the global automotive industry should Takata go out of business. It is an unfortunate reality that no matter how good a company’s product development, production management and quality control systems are, a zero defect level is always going to be extremely difficult to achieve.
Paul Smith is Director of Shinka Management, a lean training company specialising in Japanese lean manufacturing practices. JAPANESE management techniques drawn straight from the production lines of that country’s industrial giants are making a surprising contribution to Australian firms as diverse as tech darling REA Group and transport operator Metro Trains. So-called “lean” production methods are exemplars of the rigour and consistency that Japanese industry — and indeed society — is known for.
Lean philosophies have passed in and out of vogue in the western world and offshoots of lean — such as Lean Six Sigma — have been derided as fads.
But thanks in part to tours run by an Australian management consultancy and the Australian Industry Group, these methods are revamping operations in a range of Australian firms in the embattled manufacturing sector and beyond. Shinka Management director Paul Smith, a devotee of lean who has been running increasingly popular tours to Japan to study production processes, says the list of firms putting them into practice is growing. Executives and managers from Lion, Coopers and NZ building giant Calder Stewart are among those to have taken the tours to see operations at Toyota, Rinnai, Kirin, Sekisui and other Japanese industrial giants. Lean is a catch-all term for a variety of industrial and managerial techniques and philosophies drawn from Japan — many from Toyota — on perfecting industrial processes and empowering the involvement of workers in problem solving. It has a vocabulary of its own — kanban, kaizen, 5S, just-in-time production — but loosely encompasses visualisation, waste minimisation and standardisation to deliver the kind of quality, efficiency and attention to detail Japan is famed for. The lack of understanding of these concepts in Australia is what some say finally convinced Toyota to pull the plug on manufacturing in Australia. It is the antithesis of the she’ll-be-right mentality, the emphasis on individuality and the disdain or lack of passion for perfecting superficially simple processes that exists here where management sometimes be more like herding cats. This, though, is beginning to change, according to Shinka co-­director Ben Sparrow who said Japanese firms, Toyota notwithstanding, were investing heavily in Australia and would want to implement their own methods. But REA’s Herry Wiputra, a participant in one of the lean tours, said there were many principles, if not practices, that translated into the software field. He said the firm had applied the just-in-time production theory of the auto industry to software development and this tied in with the customer-focused, agile model of programming or development prevailing in the IT industry. Melbourne’s metro operator Metro Trains — straddling rising customer demand and an ageing rail network — is another convert to lean methods. Shinka’s Paul Smith said the theory was easy enough to understand but it took leadership, time and commitment from the top to implement lean in a business. This article was authored by Rick Wallace and originally appeared in The Australian on Tuesday 26th August 2014. The following is a partial transcript of a guest lecture given at Carnegie Mellon University Australia on the 18th of July 2014. As part of the lecture a discussion was held on the relevance of lean to the role of the CIO. Lean is a continuous improvement philosophy which is Synonymous with Kaizen or the Toyota Production System. In brief, lean management seeks to implement business processes that achieve high quality, safety and worker morale, whilst reducing cost and shortening lead times.
Whilst we discuss these in terms of their origins in the automotive manufacturing industry, this same thinking can apply to almost all industries. We can typically look at the waste within a business process by considering the labour and equipment effectiveness. Utilisation Loss is generally the supervisor’s responsibility, and may occur if parts are not available or the operation is not setup such that the operator can perform at their best. We’re often also interested in the availability and effectiveness of equipment being used. Analysis of equipment effectiveness is especially important to focus on when dealing with high-cost equipment, such as in drilling, mining or the airline industry.
The task of the asset inspector, in simple terms, is to carry out a series of visual inspections for a pole and its associated infrastructure (wires, insulators, transformers, etc.) and report on the current condition and any abnormalities.
We can then use the results of the time study to understand where improvements can be made to reduce the time required for the task and improve consistency.
Eliminate – Question whether or not the work or operation can be omitted, and eliminate those which are unnecessary.
Combine and Separate – For those operations which cannot be eliminated, study the manner in which they should be performed. Rearrange and Substitute – Consider questions such as when to do, in what order, how can work be done easily, etc. Simplify – Consider improvements to make each operation simple and easy, to shorten distances, to lessen weight etc. Eliminate – Remove the need for the inspector to walk around the car to fetch tools, by storing tools on the same side of the car as the inspector. Combine and Separate – Merge the tasks of wire inspection by binoculars and photographing top of pole by providing inspector with binoculars that include a camera function.
Rearrange and Substitute – This can refer to changing the order of the elements or changing the layout of the work area. Simplify – Reduce the time required to upload photos during each inspection by using wireless upload to laptop rather than wired upload. Through some simple changes and low-cost improvements, its possible to develop a standard layout and procedure that allows the inspector to complete 58% more inspections in the same amount of time. Time studies play a role in the development of standard work, often defined as standard operating procedures (SOPs). The purpose of work sampling is to help identify how more time can be allowed for performing main (value-adding) tasks as opposed to auxiliary tasks such as setup and shutdown, and tasks that are not work-related. Although not the main role of work sampling, the mere act of carrying out a work sampling activity can help in identifying a wide range of improvement topics relevant to the task be studied.
The typical customer experience in taking one’s car for a service involves dropping the car off at a dealership or mechanic in the morning and picking it up in the evening.
During the lecture we looked at an analysis that focuses on movement and tasks performed as part of a standard service.
The example relates only to the service component, but there are many other aspects to the Dealer Process Improvement offering. The Dealership Process Improvement offering has been customised and implemented for a large number of automotive companies. So these were just a couple of examples, with a focus on wasted movement (6th in the list of wastes above) because it is easy to visualise. However, lean is not so much about using a set of tools to implement spot changes, but more about how to foster continuous and sustained improvement across companies – and this is an area that Japanese companies are particularly strong in and an area where much of the English literature available on lean is lacking.
Seiri (Sort) – Identify and separate the necessary, occasionally used and unnecessary items. Seiton (Set in Order) – Arrange necessary and occasionally used items into clear designated storage positions.

Shitsuke (Sustain) – Practice 5S to the point where it is a natural part of your work. In Japan there are entire books devoted to the practice of 5S, and different companies have different interpretations and implementations of these practices to suit their own requirements and philosophy. Above: The process of simply carrying out 2S, that is Sort and Set in Place, makes it easier to find tools when needed, and with less chance of injury. When there is a defined place for everything, such as in the example above, or when using shadow boards, it is very easy to understand if something is missing with one glance. Simply setting and maintaining a defined order for manuals in this nurse’s station in Japan reduced the amount of document-related work time by more than half. The above photo is from a foundry in Japan, the use of standard layouts here helps shop floor managers determine with one glance if production is ahead or behind. Toyota is one of the largest companies in the world, ranking at about 14th in terms of revenue and with 300,000 employees globally.
It may be surprising to learn that the scheduling and inventory management system at the heart of these operations is not a complex enterprise resource planning system, but a remarkably simple concept – that of the kanban card.
As our own benchmark for a successful lean company, we keep turning back to Rinnai under the leadership of Chairman Susumu Naito. Amongst other benefits, lean and agile help REA Group’s staff to collaborate more effectively and shorten their lead times for releasing new services and features for their customers. In summary, some of the key takeaways from this session, especially for the aspiring CIO or CTO, are the following points.
Paul Smith, PhD, is a Director and lean consultant with Shinka Management Pty Ltd, specialising in the transfer of of Japanese lean management know-how to Australian industry. Our most recent Lean Japan Tour was held during the 18th through 24th of May in Tokyo and Nagoya, with the aim of showcasing the rich history that Japanese industry has in the fields of lean manufacturing, industrial engineering and continuous improvement (kaizen). This year’s tour group comprised industry professionals from multiple countries representing a variety of industry sectors.
The factory tours and reception provided by the host companies throughout the week were excellent. Inoac, a world-leading innovator and producer of polyurethane, plastic, rubber and composite materials, was another standout visit. Two days of the tour were dedicated to lean training at a Toyota Group lean training centre. The tour also included visits to two multinational companies applying lean principles within the food and beverage industry. ITO EN, the world leader in production and distribution of green tea products, was the group’s final visit. In addition to learning about Japanese management philosophy and productivity practices, the tour group spent the week immersed in Japanese culture, received training on Japanese business culture, and experienced local food, drink, entertainment and customs.
The tour was led by Shinka Management in conjunction with the Australian Industry Group and Simply Lean Business Solutions. Shinka Management and clients were interviewed by Leila Henderson of in-Business Magazine South Australia for the following article on our annual lean study mission to Japan.
Japan has been a beacon for success in manufacturing for over half a century, yet it has faced challenges that would have crippled another nation – a market downturn caused by the global financial crisis, the 2011 triple disaster, a drop in exports to China, and the high value of the yen to name a few. Now South Australian companies have learned first-hand how Japanese businesses implemented productivity improvements and developed strong management foundations over recent decades that allowed them to weather the storm and remain competitive on the global stage.
The Australian Industry Group Lean Japan Tour, led by Wayville-based lean manufacturing consulting firm Shinka Management, has provided businesses like Redarc Electronics and Coopers with invaluable insights and first-hand experience of Lean best practice.
Tour leaders Paul Smith and Ben Sparrow of Shinka Management organised, facilitated and interpreted during the 2013 tour.
Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, views opportunities such as the tour as important to developing industry competitiveness.
The 15 participants on the 2013 Lean Japan Tour came from a broad range of industries, including automotive, manufacturing, food and beverage, transport, government, and software development.
Shinka Management planned last year’s tour to include host companies in several different industries ranging from large corporations right down to organisations that employ fewer than 50 people. In addition to looking at companies that had implemented lean over several decades, the tour included a visit to a company that had only recently set out on its lean journey. Jeremy Hawkes, Managing Director of Bowhill Engineering, attended the Lean Japan Tour as part of his Industry Leaders Fund scholarship. He said he chose to join the tour because Bowhill Engineering had just begun its lean journey. The group had several exclusive opportunities to visit companies such as Rinnai and Chuo Malleable Iron that generally do not accept groups into their factories.
Andrew Marshall, Production Manager of Wineworks Marlborough in New Zealand, admired the Japanese systems, machinery, processes and people.
The tour also includes cultural activities and a seminar on Japanese business etiquette and doing business with the Japanese. Kavanagh Industries is a Western Sydney success story, specialising in the manufacture of sheet metal ducting. Kavanagh Industries is a family business that has grown to become Australia’s leading sheet metal duct manufacturer. The Smithfield facility is set up to be as flexible as possible to cater for orders varying in type, size, shape, weight and material. In an environment where product type, specification, volume and fabrication time varies by product, and where it can be difficult (but not impossible) to determine a standard time for each product, it can be easy to dismiss lean. Despite these challenges, the lean implementation and presentation of Kavanagh Industries’ operations were exemplary.
A seasoned category management training company will consult with the key stakeholders to help understand the specific challenges faced at the organization, understand the desired outcomes, and get a sense of a budget range the organization has to devote to addressing these challenges.  This will uncover the facts necessary to suggest a training program of appropriate length, format, and content that also fits within the budgetary constraints of the company.
And as mentioned in my previous article, two frameworks, that is PRINCE2 and PMP have gained popularity amongst project managers. This has in turn forced local organisations including companies that are seeking to expand and carry out huge projects within the region sponsoring their middle-level management staff for project management courses. The fault in the airbag inflators was initially brought to the public’s attention with a recall of a limited number of vehicles in 2013. She asked if the Japanese had lost control over production processes implemented by their suppliers and factories abroad.
It is difficult to know if the allegations of cover-ups levelled at Takata are true, and given the “anonymous sources” cited, it is difficult to credit these claims. It might be questioned if there was any additional motivation not to report because of this; however as it is common for Japanese companies to hold stakes in their peers, I personally don’t think this had anything to do with it.
Apart from some reshuffling of senior staff and a token pay cut in late December, the best the company has been able to do is a Chairman’s Statement which leads out with “We’re sorry – but don’t forget our products save more people than they kill.” Classy. In the case of Honda, they have been doing a bit better following a bumpy start, however I’d expect much pressure on President Ito to step down at the end of the financial year in March. For companies the size of Takata, Honda and Toyota, recalls are still going to be a fact of life.
Greg Curcio, head of the company’s improvement support team, is another tour participant who’s applied the theory to his firm through visualisation of problems and breaking down barriers between the shop floor and management.
While companies here are quick to tell us how well they are doing, Toyota, Rinnai and Kikkoman — who are absolutely dominant in their industries in terms of innovation, production, quality and marketing — emphasise how much improvement they still have to achieve. They have faced many of the same constraints as Australian companies relating to labour costs, exchange rates, foreign competitors — with the added stresses of importing raw materials and energy — but these companies are thriving despite the GFC and the 2011 disaster. The lecture was delivered by Paul Smith as an Introduction to Lean Manufacturing for students undertaking the Master of Science in Information Technology course.
As the most senior executive in an enterprise responsible for the information technology and systems, the CIO often plays a central role in business transformation projects. The history of lean management or lean manufacturing is traced back to the early years of Toyota and the development of the Toyota Production System after Japan’s defeat in WWII when the company was looking for a means to compete with the US car industry through developing and implementing a range of low-cost improvements within their business.
Here we are referring to any expenditure of resources that doesn’t add value for the customer.
These wastes can all be applied, for example, to the preparation and serving of a hamburger, logistics operations or a call center – this thinking is not limited to manufacturing. For example for labour, there’s usually a stark difference between the paid time for a resource and the time that the resource is actually adding value for the customer. For example, if a product was not designed to be easily manufactured then this would be the R&D team’s responsibility. In these cases a business is only making money or providing value when its equipment is operating. I’ve chosen this first example as an introduction to two fundamental approaches used in lean management, time studies and work sampling. This task involves differing levels of complexity depending on terrain, configuration at the top of the pole, and reporting requirements and can take anywhere from 5 to 40 minutes for a single pole.

Time studies involve analysing individual cycles of a process, in this case the inspection of a single pole.
Improvements are found through analysing each element and then working through a process of eliminate, combine, rearrange and simplify. An example of the later would be to attach lighter tools required for the inspection to the inspector and attach other tools to a board which can be easily attached and detached to the pole (e.g. The purpose of work sampling is to understand how an operator uses his or her time during the course of a day’s work. This example is based on the Dealership Process Improvement offering that has been implemented in quite a number of countries with the purpose of improving customer experience and dealership productivity.
As part of the Dealership Process Improvement program, a One Hour Express Service offering can be provided. The changes include the move to using two mechanics working in unison, and other improvements that are simple and not capital intensive.
This helps avoid stoppages to search for tools in a manufacturing environment, and in some environments such as hospitals, can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. Note the use of the yellow and pink tape, which allows us to tell if anything is missing or in the wrong place with one glance. If there are no completed products at the position where the flags are, this represents a situation whereby production is behind. Proper implementation of kanban requires strict discipline to be effective, and without a good foundation of 5S and other lean fundamentals, implementation of kanban is destined for failure. These point to the role of the person at the top of the company as being of utmost importance in terms of developing and fostering a lean culture. The company’s motto is “Quality is our Destiny” and the 87-year-young Chairman continues to spend time on the shop floor every day together with his employees in a never-ending push towards perfection. Shinka Management provides lean training services focusing on practical, implementable solutions for improving business processes and increasing productivity and competitiveness. The kaizen tour has been an annual initiative of Shinka Management for the past eight years and is designed to provide companies with lean training and first-hand experience of the world-class application of kaizen within Japanese industry. During the week-long kaizen tour participants learned about the implementation of lean manufacturing and kaizen in some of Japan’s top companies. Isuzu Corporation (Metal One Group), which specialises in the processing and sales of cold rolled steel was a standout in terms of the company’s dedication to employee welfare and motivation, and their efficient use of space within their service centres.
The company provided a warm reception, and led the group on a tour of the company’s Anjo plant prior to a discussion with several members of their senior management team regarding their production management systems and kaizen activities.
The group developed their understanding of the Toyota Production System (TPS) during their stay, and in addition to classroom and hands-on training, experienced TPS in action on the floor of a vehicle assembly plant and through visits and management discussions with two Toyota Group suppliers.
Kikkoman, famous for its excellence in R&D and innovation in the production and distribution of soy sauce, was the tour group’s first visit. The tour included ITO EN’s R&D and quality control labs, tea processing and packaging, and their new coffee roasting facility for their Tully’s Coffee brand. A second Lean Japan Tour is scheduled for this year, to be held during the 9th through 15th November 2014. They also spent two days at a Toyota kaizen training facility, only made possible through the close relationship Shinka Management has with Japanese Industry. In February 2014, Managing Director Aidan Kavanagh invited members of the local lean community to join a factory tour of Kavanagh Industries’ Smithfield facilities. The company’s 17,000 square metre Smithfield facility houses major equipment such as coil fed plasma cutters, automated straight duct lines, a spiral lock-seam round duct machine, and other automated cutting, turning and welding processes. The excellent application of lean thinking to a job shop environment was impressive, especially given that many companies use made-to-order production as an excuse as to why they can’t achieve lean production.
Handling methods will differ when products are heavy, large and of varying shapes and in many cases it can be difficult to move products between operations. Take for example the implementation of 5S, which can often suffer in made-to-order factories for reasons given above, and at times of workload peaks.
This process saves time in the long run, and is more effective than simply collecting a pile of standard course descriptions with pricing and making a decision based on that. We have since had Takata state that it is does not know which airbags have been supplied for use in which vehicles, with worldwide recalls following involving dozens of models from several car manufacturers.
I did not consider this the case in general, and given when the defective inflators were manufactured, we can only comment on the state of the automotive supply chain from more than ten years ago.
However that Honda didn’t report 1700 incidents related to the airbags when it was required to do so is quite surprising.
Rather than point to deficiencies in the management of the supply chain, what these incidents cast light upon is the effectiveness of the company leader to have good judgement and take quick action in times of crisis. But combine it with passion and commitment and you get monozukuri, the art of making things that defines Japan. The talk focuses on removing waste from business processes to improve productivity, quality and safety, and includes insights from the kaizen training and lean tours that Shinka Management runs in Japan.
An understanding of the fundamentals of lean is relevant in this role, as more and more we are seeing business transformation projects being labeled as lean or agile.
What sets lean management apart, and makes it particularly effective, is that it has at its core a laser-sharp focus on the elimination of all waste from all processes.
This example is for an Australian power utility and focuses on the field asset inspection process. The motion of the inspector and movement of tools is recorded and each individual element (step) in the process is listed along with the time required to complete it. A record of activities is taken at a set interval, for example every minute, and a day is summarised according to time spent performing main tasks, performing auxiliary tasks and idle. The ordering and assignment of tasks allows each mechanic to reduce the amount of walking they do, and the design of the express service trolleys allows for more convenience and less movement away from the work area.
This provides a foundation allowing for standard work, visual management, and other elements of lean management to be applied effectively.
By considering process first and then system, Toyota could identify this tool as being an appropriate solution to help manage their supply chain. Some of the best lean companies in Japan, such as Rinnai, waited 10 years after commencing their lean journey before considering the use of kanban – without the lean fundamentals and culture properly established, a kanban system can be damaging. With the support of the Australian Industry Group, Shinka Management runs lean study tours to Japan to promote consciousness of Japanese management practices amongst Australian and New Zealand industries. Participants experienced seminars on lean manufacturing and operations analysis, and several factory tours.
The tour group was impressed by the level of excellence on display in terms of productivity and organisation within Isuzu’s immaculate Gifu Service Centre. The application of Just-In-Time manufacturing, visual management, supplier development and kanban systems were all covered.
In addition to a plant tour, a management discussion was held with Kikkoman staff presenting on two of their recent kaizen projects. The group met with representatives from ITO EN’s production division responsible for administering the company’s kaizen and employee suggestion schemes. Job shops tend to have frequent welding and grinding operations which lead to dirty work spaces, and it can be easy to amass large quantities of surplus material. The Smithfield facility was a well laid out lean job shop, allowing for safe and efficient work.
Issues with Takata airbags resulted in at least 139 injuries across all automakers, and at least two deaths and 30 injuries in Honda vehicles.
Each year we visit auto manufacturers in Japan, and the approach to quality and safety is certainly not lip service – they take these very seriously. The resulting duopoly would not be welcomed by auto makers for a number of reasons, not least for the risk to the supply chain. These projects often miss the point that lean is a culture that is developed over years, not a one-off undertaking. Utility companies, whether they be power, water, gas, or telecommunications have a responsibility to continually assess the condition of their assets, and this is especially true for utilities operating in a regulated environment.
The result is that the service can be carried out with two mechanics in under a third of the time it originally took with one mechanic. Good use of shadow boards freed up space in work areas, cables and cords were kept in check, and as the saying goes, there was a place for everything and everything in its place. Their priorities are safety and quality and only after those do they consider productivity – that is always the order. Takata’s share price has plummeted and I’d expect huge losses in the years to come, but it will be in the interest of the industry as a whole to make sure they survive.

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