Question: I saw recently in the Herald Mail that the Letterkenny  Army Depot near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania has received its 10th Shingo medallion for excellence in manufacturing. What is a Shingo Medallion and can it be utilized by small businesses?

Answer: The Shingo medallion is a part of the Lean management process originally developed by Toyota and known today as TPS (Toyota Production System). The TPS is widely used throughout the world by businesses large and small to constantly improve operations and productivity in all operations  including administrative functions as well as production.

Core concepts of lean thinking include the elimination of waste and duplication, striving for error free operations, achieving constant improvement in small incremental  changes, an emphasis on customer needs, and a concern for people. The concepts of lean thinking include 1) Purpose, in which management addresses what customer problems that the company will solve to achieve its own purpose of prospering, and 2) Process, by which management assesses each process to ensure that every step  adds value and that all the steps are linked in a continuous flow, and 3) People, by which management ensures that everyone in the organization is striving to improve their area of responsibility.

There are a number of specific tools that TPS uses. For example, the five whys:  If an error is made instead of trying to find out who was responsible, managers ask why the incident happened, a total of five times in order to assess the basic cause of the error. If a delivery is late, the first why would ask why it was late. The answer might be that the order to ship was not received on time. Why it was not received on time could be that processing the order was held up due to a computer problem, and the computer problem occurred because of operator inexperience, etc. Therefore It may be that the cause of a late shipment was inexperience in computer operations, easily rectified by training, which in turn leads to process improvement, which in this case is on time shipments and deliveries.

Other tools include kaizen (continuous improvement), JIT (just in time inventory planning), KATA (improvement and coaching), and of course, Shingo (excellence in manufacturing). There are many more as well that can help the organization become more effective, profitable, and sustainable.

SCORE can help organizations develop plans for continuous improvement and profitability. Call SCORE today to get started. 301-766-2043

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