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Interview with Norman Bodek
By SaferPak

Norman Bodek president of PCS Press, a publishing, training, and consulting company discovered and published in English the works of Dr. Shigeo Shingo and Taiichi Ohno and other great manufacturing geniuses bringing to the west: Lean, JIT, Kanban, 5S, SMED, TPM, QFD, Hoshin, CEDAC, Kaizen Blitz and other powerful improvement tools and techniques. In 1988 he initiated the Shingo Prize for Manufacturing Excellence with Professor Vern Buehler at Utah State University.

SaferPak caught up with Norman recently to discuss his early trips to Japan and his exciting new book:

Kaikaku: The Power and Magic of Lean

SaferPak: Is it true you’ve been to Japan more than 50 times?

Bodek: Yes, I have been to Japan 59 times searching these past twenty years for the best and most important management information to keep American industry competitive.

SaferPak: Which of the Japanese quality gurus has made the greatest impact in the West?

Bodek: Actually there were two, Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa and Dr. Shigeo Shingo. Ishikawa worked with Dr. Deming, created quality control circles involving all employees in quality improvement and led Japan’s total quality control efforts. The American Society of Quality has an Ishikawa prize to be awarded this year to Don Dewar president of QCI International. Dr. Shigeo Shingo co-creator of Lean manufacturing and inventor of Poka-yoke, a system that encourages every worker to build devices that absolutely prevent defects from occurring. They both led the quality efforts in Japan and also throughout the world.

SaferPak: At the time did you realize the importance of the works you were translating?

Bodek: Actually when I selected a book to translate I had to totally trust my intuition for I could not read or understand Japanese. Luckily, four out of every five books selected had great value for manufacturing and management in the west. I am grateful and appreciative to go with those odds.

SaferPak: Which individual translation are you most proud of?

Bodek: Probably Dr. Shingo’s White book, A Revolution in Manufacturing – The SMED System. Fully trusting Dr. Shingo I paid for two translations, the first was not good at all, and I ended up spending $100,000 to bring out the book, much more than I ever expected. But, this one book has done more to help industry in the West than any other. It describes how to reduce set-up times. Set-up reduction was the key for successfully applying Lean. I gambled but the payoff was enormous. We sold over 100,000 copies at a list price of over $60.00 each, conducted hundreds of workshops at over $10,000 each, brought Dr. Shingo many times to the West and probably saved industry billions of dollars.

SaferPak: In general, how successfully have western businesses implemented the Japanese improvement tools?

Bodek: It has been slow going for many companies but we have made great starts. Lean, SMED, 5S, Value Stream Mapping, Quick and Easy Kaizen, Kaizen Blitz, TPM, QFD, Hoshin are all words now common to our language. It is not easy to change old habits, unfortunately we do resist change and the “not-made here syndrome,” has gotten in the way of acceptance. But, Lean has taken a firm hold and will continue. I hope my new book Kaikaku The Power and Magic of Lean will give managers, engineers, and all employees a new thrust forward.

SaferPak: So Norman your new book, what exactly does Kaikaku mean?

Bodek: Kaikaku is a Japanese work meaning “radical change,” like doing a Kaizen Blitz. At times we need to really shake things up to rid our complacency to be more competitive. Of course, every time we do shake things up we tend to make some mistakes. But, remember please that making mistakes is the only way we really learn. So Kaikaku can raise the dust, give us much to do to straighten things up, but through involving all employees in continuous improvement, allowing them to be creatively involved in problem solving, the end result will be a much stronger and successful company. What is the alternative? To sit on our laurels and let the Chinese and Indians, “eat our lunch.”

SaferPak: What makes Kaikaku different?

Bodek: Kaikaku gets people together in teams looking for ways to improve the process. There is an old saying that “an individual will not cross against the green but a team will.” An individual can read a book, find it interesting and then do nothing with the new information. But, put people in teams and challenge them to take that same information and make things better – try it, it works.

SaferPak: Give us one good reason why we should all rush out and buy a copy of Kaikaku today?

Bodek: Firstly, one good reason is to help you stay ahead of your competition before they read the book. Secondly, the book is filled with all of the things I learned from the great masters, Deming, Ishikawa, Shingo, Ohno, Crosby, Monden, Fukuda, Swartz, Kobayashi, Convis, Hirano, Akao, Mizuno, Nakamura, Juran, Kano and others (and it is filled with wonderful stories about them). Thirdly, read the book in teams, a few chapters at a time, asking the question, “How can we apply the information here in our company.” Lastly, It should be fun to read and I know it will work for you, but if it doesn’t I guarantee it and will gladly refund your money.

Thank you for such great questions.

SaferPak: Well Norman that's plenty enough reason for us. Thank you very much that was great.

The interview was conducted by Simon Timperley, Director Saferpak Ltd.

Lean is an all out war against waste of both manufacturing inefficiencies and underutilization of people. The Power and Magic of Lean is to discover those hidden treasures within your company: to find and eliminate all of the non-value adding wastes and to bring out the infinite creative capacity from every single worker. Kaikaku is about the discovery of Lean, who I met, how I met them, and the colorful stories about the great manufacturing geniuses of our time. Read this book in study groups to strengthen your Lean efforts. Kaikaku can be purchased:


Norman Bodek
Norman Bodek, President of PCS Press in Vancouver, WA, was the founder and CEO of Productivity Inc. - Productivity Press and discovered and published the works of the truly great Japanese manufacturing geniuses: Dr. Shigeo Shingo and Taiichi Ohno, the inventors of the Toyota Production System now called JIT and Lean manufacturing; Yoji Akao, creator of Quality Function Deployment (QFD); and Hoshin Kanri and Seiichi Nakajima, originators of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) and many others.

Through newsletters, books and 50 industrial study missions to Japan Bodek discovered, brought over, translated and popularized many of the Japanese quality tools, techniques, and technologies that transformed American industry in the mid 1980's and 1990's.




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