The visit to HOKS was worth every minute of the more than an hour's travel via train and taxis to their remote manufacturing site in Hiji town on Kyushu island. We were so privileged to have a former director, Mr. Muraoka Tsuyoshi as our tour guide. Although he is now retired, he is still extremely passionate about their business and the development and manufacturing of its electronic components and systems.
He was part and parcel of their (what is called in the western world) Lean transformation. He has been with the organisation for over 30 years and has been a key figure in what the coined the HOKS Production Innovation. He was brutally honest about the pains and frustrations of their business transformation but also very humble about their great achievements. The openess about their vision, production system and operating system was a sign of their KAIZEN™ maturity. This openess is demonstrated in their effective use of visual management techniques like displaying their targets, problems and making standards visible.
The one thing that struck me was the intense detail given to 5S (they speak about 3S). Everything has a place and can be found in that place. Clearly demarcated areas for all tools, equipment, trolleys and documentation shows their commitment to their production innovation. The staff members are so committed that they voluntarily arrive 30 minutes before the start of every work day to clean their work environment - yes, before they start to work; every single day!
One of the slogans at HOKS goes like this: "A good shopfloor is the best salesperson". Mr. Tsuyoshi mentioned that a sales pitch very often has some hidden lies included to make the business and the products sound fantastic. But his approach is that to convince people about the quality of your products and services, you should allow them into your gemba to observe how you are creating value for them... Are you willing to be so open about your processes that you will feel comfortable to allow potential and existing customers into your gemba?