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6th Ri; Kanri


Continuing from my previous post, I forgot about “Kanri.” This is a Poka, and I made a big mistake…


“Kanri” means management. But just like other “-Ri” words, “Kanri” has some interesting meaning.


Also, I would like to share two more episodes regarding “Kanri,” which is relevant to operations.

First, when the Japanese imported “Quality Control,” they translated “control” as “Kanri.”

Second, when “Production Kanri Board” was exported, somehow they translated “Kanri” as “analysis.”




1. Kanri

The word Kanri comes from the Chinese word管轄辨理. It means to divide into jurisdictions and to manage.

The symbol of “管” has multiple meanings. It means wind music instruments, pipe, key, and manage. It is confusing to have so many definitions of one symbol. The top part is bamboo, and the bottom is the palace or the house. In ancient China, they wrote on bamboo, and many bamboo activities included this symbol. For this discussion, “管” lets limit the meaning to “manage.” For example, the second-highest position in the Ashikaga Shogun government was called “管領 (kanryou),” which manages the territory. I highly doubt that a musical instrument player or plumber can take the second-highest position (Although it is possible).


If “管” means to manage, “管理” will have the following meanings;

a. Manage based on science and logic.

b. Manage the science and logic.

Both are extremely important. Once, we heard that the CEO was coming to the shop floor. After the shop floor visit, my coach invited the CEO to visit the newly opened training center. The CEO responded that he had just seen the center a few weeks ago for the opening ceremony. My coach explained that if the training center teaches something wrong, the company will suffer. The CEO quickly changed its schedule. (And we found many problems.)


I have to make a note here. Some argue that there are no Japanese words to match “management.” It is prevalent to translate management as Kanri, but there are differences in nuances.



2. Import and translate “Quality control”


When “Quality Control” was introduced to Japan, we chose Kanri as the translation for control. Other words fit better for “control,” but they decided on Kanri. Why? The introduction happened right after WWII, and the government completely controlled the country during the war. The word, control, has a negative impression. So they chose to manage. But this wasn’t just a change in translation. The meaning changed. They defined what needs to be controlled and what is free to improve (Kaizen). The controlled part is described in the “work standard.” Safety rules, quality checkpoints, machine settings, tools, technics etc. are inside work standards. The shop floor people write work standards as the summary of all standards. If they want to change content, it requires the participation of responsible functions.

On the other hand, standardized work is free to improve. Standardized work is about timing, sequence, location, layout etc. These are things that we should be free to improve. I used the word “should be” because some places require multiple approvals for changing the direction of the machine. Such sites are just controlling, not Kanri. This means we need clear roles & responsibilities for each position.

The introduction of quality control also imported the PDCA cycle. Some people in Japan call this the Kanri cycle. At least in Toyota, the PDCA cycle is tied to management capability. https://www.toyota.co.jp/jpn/company/history/75years/data/company_information/management_and_finances/management/tqm/explanation03.html


The difference between management & Kanri is in this control & Kaizen aspect. Manage focuses more on dealing with a situation, while Kanri relies more on control. On top of this difference, which is not part of dealing with problems, Toyota added continuous improvement.



3. Export and translate “Production Kanri board”


One of the favorite tools of lean is the production analysis board. We can search for examples of them on the web. The Japanese name of this tool is the production “Kanri” board. It is unclear why they chose “analysis” for “Kanri.” I think the harm of using the word analysis is becoming apparent. Many numbers are on the board, and people spend hours in front of it analyzing while the shop floor is a mess. If numbers were more important than the “Ri,” Ohno just had to create a new word to describe such an act (And he is good at that). Instead, they kept the word “Kanri.” For example, there is often a board with each operator’s name and targets. Such board configurations are necessary because each operator works under isolated island conditions. Shouldn’t we first implement a continuous flow to collect one number as a team? In such situations, they destroy the PDCA cycle. The cycle is divided into planners, doers, and checkers. The doers are pushed to submit data. And action is always fire-fighting by the doers. The PDCA cycle should be a self-management cycle.

Often, they will tell me that these numbers are necessary since they have so many problems. But the condition when we have so many problems is what I call the “Muri” condition. Instead of collecting numbers, the managers and the functions should live on the shop floor, defining the standards or the “Ri.” The production “Kanri” board should visually make the “Ri” of the 4Ms. Of course, each “Ri” is different based on the characteristics of the process. If the process is labor-intensive, it is crucial to highlight skill levels and positions. If the machine requires some autonomous maintenance, highlight those maintenance items at the right time or quantity on the board. If a sample test is required, highlight those on the board. Is the shop floor managed according to the “Ri” needs to be visible.



The summary of “Ri” story.


“Muri 無理.” A condition in which there is non-existence or violations of science and logic. “We have so many problems” is such a condition. We must leave this condition immediately.

“Genri 原理” is the principle of science, which we must respect. Yet, just having this principle isn’t enough. Today, we have many disciplines and functions which need to organize “Seiri 整理.” It also needs to be rational “Gouri 合理.” A problem is an ideal time to master science “Shuuri 修理.”

Management “Kanri 管理” is about highlighting, controlling, executing, and improving the “Ri” on the shop floor.

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