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Separate Man from Machine

People should not be standing watching machines or pulling levers. They are far more intelligent than that. Give them jobs that use that intelligence, and sever their ties to machines. Focusing on this premise, that workers are more than just machines, shows great respect for people, one of the central tenets of continuous improvement.

The separation of man and machine applies to the routine, repetitive tasks that can be automated. Don’t treat people like robots. For example, a drill press can be automated so that the operator has only to load the part and press a button to make a hole. A person does not need to stand there pulling a lever on the press over and over for days, weeks, months, and even years on end.

In addition to basic automation, there is a more sophisticated form called jidoka, or autonomation. This is ‘automation with a human touch’. In this advanced form, the machine can sense problems, shut off, and signal that a situation is abnormal.

When a person is separated from a machine, they can use their time more effectively. They can take on other tasks. They can operate more than one machine. They can even work on continuous improvement projects.

Autonomation can be combined with hanedashi (automatic ejectors) and cellular layouts to form a specific type of line known as chaku-chaku (load-load). The machine ejects the completed part. All the operator has to do is place the new part in, and carry off the finished part to the next operation. The operator does not have to stay by the machine during the process.

The bottom line is to find ways to respect the intelligence of your workforce, and focus them on tasks that machines cannot effectively do.  


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