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In October, I returned to the U.S. to attend our quarterly organizational champions meeting and to take some vacation. After some time off, I began working from my new home in Kentucky until my scheduled return to Asia in January. The plan is for me to be in Asia through the early part of March 2004. My tasks is to support ongoing CI operations and prepare the Asian team for the phase-out of my role.

Back to Asia

Wendy and I left the U.S. on December 31 and arrived back in Hong Kong on January 1 (long trip). First off, we had a Flow event in Taipei the week of January 5 that went very well. We had the opportunity to re-design the layout of a new warehouse BEFORE they awarded the contract to build the warehouse. The result was a 40% reduction in travel, a 40% reduction in staffing (the staff has not yet been hired), and a reduction in the size of the warehouse. We won't know how much we were able to reduce the size until they re-do the drawings, so we don't yet know what the total savings will be; however, we're estimating it to be in the $500,000 (USD) range. This is a very large warehouse used to receive and stage our specialty gases for the Asia semiconductor business. I had mixed emotions working on a warehouse event - it's hard to classify anything done in a warehouse as Value Added. The energy levels during the event were very high. At one point the future warehouse manager was on his feet, pointing his finger and yelling (not typical behavior here)- a real case of resistance to change. By the end of the event he was thanking the facilitator for helping him to see how the layout could be improved so much. He repeated several times that he really liked the new layout and could see how it improved productivity and safety.

The next "event" here is Chinese New Year. That's celebrated Thursday this week. The Chinese actually celebrate for a week, but the official holiday is one day in our office. The following week we're presenting the CI Introduction to the management of our JV partners in Thailand. The daytime high there is normally in the low 90's this time of the year. Eat your heart out! The next week we're doing a Quick Change event in Taiwan. We're hoping (expecting) to optimize plant maintenance outages. The events I mentioned are the ones I'm personally involved in. We have between three and four events per week on average on the schedule here. The Tool Facilitators are all fully scheduled to lead one event every two weeks. From the tone of their correspondence, they're really enjoying what they're doing. The week of February 9 we have two Tool Instructors coming from the US to present Kaizen Event Leader training. The global head of CI will also visit - he needs to get to know everyone here better so we don't lose contact or momentum when I depart. That will be our chance to evaluate how everyone is doing - it'll be the first time the whole team has been together in one place since early October. We completed our first quarter above our targeted savings. The number of events in the second quarter will be about three times the number we ran in the first quarter. In running terms, the pre-race jitters are over, we're hitting our stride, and the endorphins are starting to kick in!! My involvement here will decrease to a support level the first of March. I'll return to the US for three weeks, then will alternate being here for three weeks and in the US for three weeks. I'll make two of those three-week trips here between March and the end of May.

More later. Take care!!
Mark Reed

Mark R. Reed is a regional continuous improvement manager for a Fortune 200 company in the industrial gases and specialty chemicals industry. He has been implementing Kaizen since 1999 and has conducted Kaizen events in the U.S., the Middle East, and throughout Asia. He is a certified leader and has led training for workplace organization and visual controls, quick change, mistake proofing and team facilitation skills. He is currently leading the implementation of continuous improvement (providing training and leading demonstration events in team facilitation skills, Kaizen, workplace organization and visual controls, quick change, mistake proofing, demand flow technology, and six sigma) for the Asian segment of his company's global business.