“Domo” For Small Changes
Ernie Long 01.28.2015
When you start with a new company, you’re always indoctrinated with new terminology. When I started with Okuma in the late 80s, I was familiar with Edward Deming and his quality control techniques, which revolutionized Japan’s post-war economy. But to my surprise, there were so many more terms to learn: Kanban, Kaizen, the 5Ss (Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke), domo arigato and doitashimashite, to name a few. Over my career, I’ve seen how Okuma utilizes the first three concepts to efficiently build CNC machines and constantly innovate and improve them, all while maintaining safe, clean and organized work environments. And the last two words above? They are “thank you” and “you’re welcome” in Japanese, also much used at Okuma.
Big Results Come From Small Changes Over Time
Although there are many activities that go into designing and building quality CNC machines, the one I feel is most important is the Kaizen process. Borrowing from the Kaizen Institute, “Kaizen is the practice of continuous improvement.” As a young engineer I remember submitting Kaizens and being excited to receive small rewards for my suggestions – a packet of Japanese gum*, a Japanese writing pen and other small tokens from Japan.
As stated on the Kaizen Institute website, “One of the most notable features of Kaizen is that big results come from many small changes accumulated over time.” I guess my suggestions fell into that important “small changes” category, since the rewards at that time were scaled to the economic or manufacturing impact of the suggestion…
Over the years, I’ve seen Okuma’s best-selling CNC lathe evolve from the LB15 to the present day LB3000 EX. At times the changes have been small, and at other times, major changes have occurred. In 2007, Okuma’s LB EX Series received a Top 10 New Products Award, one of Japan's top awards, given out by the Nikkan Kogyo Business & Technology Daily News. So the Kaizen process is working.
In closing, I hope my personal suggestions, those that I have passed along from customer feedback, and the comments I’ve shared from partners and distributors have influenced and enhanced this and other Okuma products. Although they haven’t all been official Kaizens (nor have I received any more rewards since my early days at Okuma), the underlying intent of every suggestion, comment and/or feedback has been to continually improve the operability, functionality and adaptability of Okuma products.
Ernie Long is Senior Manager, Inside Sales, Okuma America Corporation.
*Your first stick of Lotte Black-Black Gum is an experience unto itself – who would’ve thought, a black, menthol-favored, caffeinated piece of gum would sell or be enjoyable to chew.