Archive for the ‘It's Happening Worldwide’ Category

Unhappy with FedEx and want the world to know it

December 22nd, 2009 admin No comments

Every now and then we all get a need to gripe and complain. If done in a positive way with the aim of improvement, I see nothing wrong with it. Last week I order two books from, books which I couldn’t find either on French or UK equivalent sites, or on Amazon in Europe. Therefore I was obliged to import them.

They arrived yesterday. The rest is a copy/paste from a message I’ve just sent off to .

I’m sure that as one of the leading voices in Lean thinking, you’re always delighted to get customer feedback.
Well, the good news is that the goods arrived safe and sound and in good condition yesterday, so less than a week to get here.
However, the nasty surprise was the extra charge to the shipment, which I considered was already exhorbitant (33 dollars, about 23 euros at the exchange rate used).
There was a customs and excise duty of 7 euros (10 dollars) applied, which is normal, we all have to pay taxes. However, what made me extremely unhappy is that FedEx, having dug deep into their pockets to advance this amount, then charged me 12 euros (17 dollars) for ‘administrative charges’. So in the end I paid 50 dollars (not counting the excise duty) for FedEx’s service, 50% above what was published.
I think at least that you place a bright red warning statement on your web site, as this must happen every time.
And although the service is good, I will no longer be purchasing products where FedEx is quoted as the ‘preferred’ transporter.
Thanks anyway,
I wonder if Jim W. will be replying to me in person?
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Van Gogh and Sunflower Lean

December 7th, 2009 admin No comments

There was a fascinating report last night on what looked to be a very original application of Lean Manufacturing.

I didn’t know this, but there seems to be a major industry in China producing copies of the major works of painters and sculptors. There are these hangers full of Roman-like sculptures which look very much like the originals would have (not that I’ve an expert eye) which manufactured in around three days compared with months or years in the ‘good old days’. And it is not as if these are necessarily skilled craftsmen. According to the journalist (I am always a little sceptical about what I see or hear on the television), many of these sculptors are labourers who could no longer make a living in the rice fields and, after what must have been a fairly intensive training programmes, turned to sculpting (using circular saws for some of them). It’s wonderful what standard work can produce if done properly!

The bit that intrigued me most however was on how a team worked together on copies of paintings of the Masters. The example we saw was the reproduction of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

There was a team of six, with six canvas pinned to the wall in front of them. I’m inventing the precise detail, but the organisation was something like :

Worker 1 paints the outlines

Worker 2 colours the vases

Worker 3 paints the stalks

Worker 4 colours the petals

Worker 5 paints the low-level background

Worker 6 paints the high-level background

Each part of the painting is timed to take exactly the same amount of time.

And then workers 1 moves onto worker 2’s canvas, 2 onto 3n 6 back to 1, etc. Each specialising in their own specific task – vase, stalks and petals. In a few minutes, an identical copy of Van Gogh’s painting is produce for sale at a sizeable markup either locally (there’s a big market) or internationally. And we can probably be sure that the order has already been received, and that this is not ‘push’ production.

Well, that’s where all similarity with Lean ends. Workers sleeping on site with dormatories six to a room and canvasses pinned to the wall just in case the 12-hour day was not long enough and they felt like doing a bit of overtime during the night.

However, as a Lean application, it was fascinating.

Van Gogh, however, probably wouldn’t want to hear about it!

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The future of Japan

November 27th, 2009 admin No comments

Fascinating article in this morning’s “Les Echos” entitled “What does Japanese youth dream of?”.

Well, for a start, did you know that (according to the journalist, of course), the average Japanese youth is spending one or two hours today…. reading books on his mobile phone!! That’s more than my 14-year-old gets through in a month, and he’s still on the paper versions. The principal editor is called Magic Island, and they have a million titles available, and it seems that anyone can start off a ‘book’ and have his readers influence its development!! Looks like I could be learning Japanese pretty soon, it sounds like fun. The parents can’t be happy though – the average mobile bill is 12000 yen, or 90 euros a month.

The article goes on to reveal that today’s Japanese youth is much more conservative than previous generations. Fear of unemployment leads to a quest for security and stability – young men dream of working in the same large company or public administration… for life and the girls all (well, maybe with exceptions) want to get married to a rich man and stay at home and look after the house.

Surprisingly, getting international experience of education or business outside of Japan is not seen as an accelerator for a Japanese career, and can even lead to individuals being penalised when compared with pure home-grown elements. And given that 31% of 15-24 year-old non-students are in temporary employment, a figure which is increasing all of the time, there is every interest in sticking around rather than galavanting all over the world.

Obviously not everyone gets a job in a large company or finds a rich husband, and one sector taking advantage of this is the smaller companies, who are able to recruit some really good people. However around a third of Japan’s youth never get this kind of opportunity, and some end up totally dependant on the virtual world which is the only one they ever end up really knowing.

There are some things which don’t change, whatever the country.

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