Quality Management to Lean Management Practices in India
In my last column, I tried to briefly chronicle how quality management evolved over the years and gained prominence until the idea of Total Quality Management (TQM) flourished, which I had implemented with an acronym 'TORQUE' (Total Organizational Quality Enhancement) at Bharat Electronics. ‘TORQUE’ initiative yielded excellent results.
In 1995, I left Bharat Electronics Limited to get into full time consulting work. My first consulting assignment was to improve the quality management system at the suppliers of Maruti Udyog Limited. The company had a large number of suppliers and their quality management needed urgent improvement. We developed cluster approach, dividing suppliers into manageable groups, giving centralized training inputs followed by supplier visits, guiding in a specific manner suitable to their setup and operations. Subsequently I had opportunity for consulting large number of companies of all size and in all sectors across India and the journey continues. Every assignment had its own challenges requiring unique approach. Most satisfying assignments were those with defined outcomes, as criteria of success and failure were having clarity. Not many could venture into such consulting work. I categorize my consulting experience into 12 distinct and diverse sectors: EPC and Construction, Cement, Metals, Petroleum, Telecom, Food Processing, Corporate Training, Paper, Textile & Garmenting, Engineering, Software & Global Service Support, Auto OEMs and Auto Parts.
The real learning opportunity came from TQM sensei “Noriaki Kano” and “Hitoshi Kume”, both were student of Prof. Kaoru Ishikawa, noted for quality management innovations in Japan. I was honored to chair sessions at the “First Congress of Asian Network of Quality” in 2003 in Beijing, China, where Dr. Kano presented the “Kano Model”, a theory for product development and customer satisfaction, which was a great moment of learning for me. As a Master Black Belt, I was instrumental in customizing Motorola University’s Six Sigma Program to suit diversified sectors of businesses in India, and presented an international paper “How to make six sigma work for you” at the Second Congress of Asian Network of Quality in 2004, at New Delhi, India.
In 2005, I had an opportunity to lead a project with goal for reduction in warranty levels of some critical parts of INDICA CAR of TATA MOTORS supplied by leading auto part suppliers in India. The project was successful in achieving the goals and targets. This later paved the way to lead a dedicated team, to engage with forty-four design responsible critical part suppliers of TATA NANO CAR” in 2007.
Later I became Chief Executive Officer of Lean Management Institute of India, an institute of Lean Global Network established by James P Womack, the famous author of “Machine that changed the world.” To promote lean thinking in India, I had organized “Global Lean Summit” in 2014 in Bangalore, where John Y Shook, was the keynoter. He had launched his “Lean Transformation Model.” I chose some of the world’s best lean books and got these published as Indian publications. These books were launched during summit. We experimented with a unique lean concept of “Print to Order.” The books were printed after receiving the order from the customers and delivered to them within three-four days. A new printing technique was introduced for one of the books. It’s all pages with pictures were printed in color while the remaining pages, only with text, were printed in black and white, bringing down the cost of publication.
Lean Management was an outcome of a research study called the “International Motor Vehicle Program” founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1979. Jim Womack was the research director with his team involving more than 50 scientists, engineers, social scientists, and management experts from more than 25 universities in 14 countries. Its aim was to understand the challenges being faced by the automotive industry. This group triggered the name “Lean” in its publication of “The Machine That Changed the World” in 1990. The book presented a technical analysis of the differences in competitiveness in national motor vehicle industries across the world and the reasons for the differences. Also, it offered a vision of how the world would look if the principles of lean production were universally applied to dramatically improve productivity, quality, and the work experience of people.
To understand the DNA of Lean, I had done Gemba Walks at Toyota Plants, in Japan and India and found it applicable in all industry sectors. This motivated me to develop “Universal Lean Transformation Model,” aimed at changing the thinking and mind set of progressive business leaders. In subsequent columns, I will explain each element of the Model.