Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma Definitions

Glossary terms, history, people and definitions about Lean and Six Sigma

Ohno Circle

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Taiichi Ohno was the developer of the Toyota Production System (TPS). One of the techniques that he is credited with is teaching people how to see waste in the process. He would apparently draw a chalk circle on the floor, and ask the individual to stand in the circle for hours at a time without leaving. The individual is asked to observe the process being performed numerous times, which will help them see the waste after understanding the core process being performed.

After a few hours, Ohno would came back and ask the individual what they had seen. If the answer was unsatisfactory, the person had to stand longer and continue to look for waste.

Questions that the observer within the circle was expected to answer include:

  • “Why are they doing that?”
  • “What is that tool or equipment or device used for?”
  • “Where are they going?”
  • “What are they doing now?”
  • “Why did they do that?”
  • “Why were they interrupted?”
  • “What are they waiting on?”
  • “Why do they make so many at one time?”

An article in AME magazine questions whether there really was an actual circle involved in his method. They suggest that the circle might be a myth, but the real lesson of his teaching was on the “constant practice observing reality” at the gemba.



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