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Information Funnel


Everything our eyes capture must be prioritized and used; otherwise, those are just a waste.

Our eyes are flexible to capture things in many ways. But there is a problem.

[Different sets of eyes] X [Functional specialists] will lead to the information explosion, which could lead to paralyzation or ignorance. We must keep the shop floor manageable. We must highlight the [Points - Lines - Areas - Body] so that information is used constantly.


“In business, excess information must be suppressed.” Taiichi Ohno

There was this factory that performed horribly, yet everybody was working hard. The factory had multiple pillars of activities. Each pillar had 30-50 items of things to do. Quality had made a long list of things to check. Maintenance created the TPM program, in which each process needs to clean the machine for forty-five minutes every shift. Logistics required each process to scan, record, and register all materials, taking several minutes per box. All the explanation was excellent, but they were too many. As the manager explained the activities, one worker shouted. “We don’t use all those stuff.” The voice explained why the factory was in bad condition. Nothing was practical.

In my last post, I wrote about how we can change our viewpoints by imagining our eyes as something else. This will help us understand the phenomenon in many ways. But we have a problem. The quantity of information will be huge. Unfortunately, the over-production of information does not help. Most will be ignored if we over-produce and push the information to the shop floor. We must sort and prioritize that information together with the shop floor to use it practically.

To help this process of information sorting, I use the “Points – Lines – Areas – Body” framework. The functional specialist and the management must use this framework.

Our eyes collect a massive amount of information. The enormous amount of information needs to be sorted by the functional specialist based on their expertise. For example, it is the responsibility of the quality to define what points are essential for quality. Quality needs to highlight process (Man, Machine, Material, Method) requirements and acceptable level of product condition after the process. Such highlights are required from all specialists, such as engineering, maintenance, logistics, production control, human resources, etc. They can’t leave by passing a dictionary. The specialists highlight the essential points, and the manager must consolidate and select them into critical points. This process is what I call “Seiri【整理】,” organize the logic.

A list of critical points needs to have sequence and timing. Those points need to be placed in line. The critical path needs to be identified in case of multiple lines simultaneously. The critical points done in different sequences might have different impacts. In many cases, the free series has the risk of forgetting the critical points. It is necessary to keep the critical points in the line.

The critical points must be part of someone’s standardized work. In TPS, many Japanese coaches have used the term “Otoshi-komu.” The Japanese phrase “Otoshi-komu” is often translated as “Breakdown.” But “Komu” means to include. Whatever the concept or philosophy, these items need to be broken down and included in each standardized work. You often hear a phrase like “Quality is everybody’s work.” But “Everybody’s work” is “nobody’s work.” Each standardized work needs to have specific points to confirm. It is not just general statements like “check quality.” All these points should have some time to complete the tasks.

Such standardized work needs to be developed systematically or organizationally. No one standardized work will be the same in an organization. Each standardized work will have its unique critical points. To avoid overloading critical points, functional specialists and general managers need to work together to consolidate and simplify them. Do we need that point? Or can we use the same point? For example, I have written about “Datum points,” essential points from mechanical engineering having multiple purposes inside TPS. Once consolidated and simplified, we must make this critical point visual. Visualization is not just by paper but also in reality. The reason behind the critical point will be captured inside work instructions. But in reality, the critical point should have color codes to gain the workers' attention.

This entire process is like a problem-solving funnel. In the problem-solving funnel, we understand the facts. And then, ask the five whys to define the root cause of the problem. We can apply the same thinking to design a good process that meets the expectations of many functionalities. Without such a strategy, information is dangerous.

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