I collected some episodes of "Pull System" implementations.
Once a "pull system" was implemented. The following month, when my father visited, the plant manager greeted us with a big smile. He immediately guided us to the shop floor. As we entered, the maintenance manager welcomed us. He started, "I know you feel strange that I am talking to you. I have resisted improving the stability of equipment since we were running above 95% rate. But this pull system changed our thinking. We must accomplish 99%. No, Sir, I still haven't changed my old habit. We must be 100%. The team thought we need more people to accomplish the goal. But as we observe the actual work, we found so many wastes. So we decided to focus on standardized work and Kaizen."
After the above plant tour, the plant manager asked my father what he thought. My father said, "I don't understand why the quality team did not make a similar effort." After he left, the plant manager & myself went back to the shop floor and found safety stock. The plant manager immediately took it away. The quality team became fully engaged in problem-solving one by one after that.
In a different place, where a "pull system" was implemented, I saw the VP of operations on the shop floor. I asked him, "What do you think?" And he responded, "I didn't know that this place was so quiet." He was wrong. It is a factory. The machines and people were making lots of noises. But he was right. It wasn't people shouting for some parts. It wasn't the noise of machine squeezing defects. It wasn't a sudden stop of a machine and strange silence followed by panic. It was a constant rhythm. I said, "Yes, you are right. Nice music."
Another place, I was walking toward the model line where we have the pull system with the plant manager & the sales manager. On the way, the sales manager stops. "Question. I know this line is not the model line but does this line here have extra capacity? It looks so different from the model line." The plant manager responded. "Of cause we have capacity. We don't have sales." "What? I was told that we couldn't sell because we don't have the capacity. This product is hot now." It is great to have a sales manager who comes to the shop floor and understands how to observe things.
In another case, a material handler came to me and asked, "why is the layout like this?" And suggested a better layout.
A logistics manager who played a crucial role in implementing the pull system became a flow manager. During the follow-up review, the manager was explaining the problem-solving on a quality issue. After the follow-up, the manager said that in the past, as soon as she learned that there was a quality issue, the only thing she did was juggle the orders to meet the customer demand. Now, she said that she has to problem-solve to keep the flow going.
CFO was visiting the pull system. In the end, he mentioned that this factory does not need to implement the XXX system fully. The factory only needs to scan at the entry of material and shipment of finished goods. The inventory level & its fluctuation are so low that the cost of implementing the above system exceeds the benefit.
On top of all the benefits in KPIs and financial returns, I think an excellent pull system has two critical impacts on organizations.
The first is that the pull system creates corporations among multiple processes and functions. All of the above examples have shown some level of cross-functional corporations. Traditional push system creates silos inside organizations that hurt the total performance of organizations. Pull system allows us to break "Game theory conditions within an organization."
The second is that this system promotes people's development. All of the above cases have some development by those people who participated, including me. We all learned something new. "New" in terms of;
1. a further understanding of your specialty
2. awareness of your specialty in terms of how it should interact with others or the big picture
If a pull system is not causing such change, something must be wrong. We need to improve the root cause of such a system.