Basic Stability is essential for embarking on Operational Excellence


Many organisations work towards improvement in a big way with little success and rather with increased frustration.  Before even embarking on the Journey of excellence, there is need to evaluate if our processes are having initial process stability.  As high probability, many of the processes will be unstable and not capable of producing desired results.

Stability is defined as the capability to produce consistent results over time. Instability is the result of variability in the process.

For a process to function consistently, 4Ms Man (people), Machine, Method and Materials are some of the pre-requisites.  Let us look in to this further in to details.


1. Man:

As per Toyota’s one of the statement, it mentions that their primary job is developing people. Cars are byproducts. You can see the importance given to the people side.  In most of the organisations, very little clarity is there on the manpower requirement. Some organisations have just head count on paper without the required skilled people on ground. Some other organisations have very low morale of the employees due to the fact that salaries are not paid on time, no skill development, no good working conditions etc.,

In lean organisations, high emphasis is given to the people development through organisation wide training needs such as 5S, Autonomous Maintenance, Quality at source, Quick Change-over, Problem solving tools and techniques, Team building.  Apart from this, concepts such as Training within Industry – TWI where key aspects such as Job relations, Job method, Job Safety and Job instruction is taught in systematic way. At Toyota, TWI is used for development of people.

2. Machine:

Many organisations still function in outdated fashion when it comes to machine availability.   Machines are attended only upon a breakdown. Just having a machine is not enough. Machine should be in a position to give consistent results in terms of performance.  Where the entire operations are highly dependent on machines, methodologies such as TPM has to be implemented in a structured way. Concepts such as MTBF, MTTR are to be in use and machine availability has to be ensured such that it helps in improving OEE.  In operations where dependency on manpower is high, having back-up machines also will be highly recommended.

3. Method:

For consistent performance, having standard work, and the amount of time it takes to perform a given process needs to maintained in such a way that variation from from person to person, across shifts, or over time is stable.

4. Material:

Having the right material – it could be raw material or consumable at the right quantity, at the right quality and at the right place is very essential.  The operator should be regarded as surgeon and as important. Required materials should be always available. Concepts such as mizusumashi or water spider is one of the concept applied for internal material flow. Just in time (JIT) and Jumbiki system (for automotive) is applied parallel to ensure material availability.

Some of the impacts of lack of 4Ms are:


1. A high degree of variation in performance measures—either pieces produced or pieces per labor hour.

2. Changing the “plan” often when a problem occurs. This includes relocating labor or leaving a position vacant when an absence occurs, moving product to another machine when a breakdown occurs (and thus not producing the planned product), and stopping work in the middle of an order to change to another order.

3. It is not possible to observe a consistent pattern or method to the work.

4. Batches or piles of work in process (WIP) that are random—sometimes
more, sometimes less.

5. Sequential operations that operate independently (island processes).

6. Inconsistent or nonexistent flow (also indicated by random WIP piles).

7. Frequent use of the words usually, basically, normally, typically, generally, most of the time, when describing the operation, followed by except when

8. Statements such as, “We trust the operators to make decisions about how the work is done” (It’s important to realize that no operation will ever achieve a perfect level of stability, and thus to some degree these conditions will always exist. In fact, stability is not only a requirement for flow, but developing flow helps motivate disciplined approaches to stability—they go hand in hand. The main consideration is how unstable the process is, and how stable it needs to become in order to move into the next phase of achieving some degree of flow.

Some of the Lean Tools that help in improving Stability of operations are


Seven Steps Academy is part of Seven Steps Group helping organisations in developing internal talent by conducting various public training programmes and in-house training programmes.

Some of the flagship training programmes conducted at Seven Steps Academy of Excellence are:

Six sigma Green Belt

Six Sigma Black Belt

Six Sigma Yellow Belt

Skill development programme – Campus to Corporate – Precision Engineering

Applied 5S



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