Ahhhhhh…Sustainment

As a person helping others implement lean, there is no better feeling than knowing things have been sustained and benefits gained.

I recently had a walk through with a team I have been working with for 10 months.  The most rewarding part of the walk was seeing that 90% of the things we have talked about and the team implemented has not faltered. 5S to daily metrics to visual management.  It all has sustained.

What is different about here vs other places I have been?

1. The leadership commitment.  The managers have been involved and leading the effort.  Not supporting the effort.  This does not mean they are making all the decisions and doing all the work.  They are getting people involved and auditing to make sure the improvements are sticking.

2. Leadership is involving the employees.  Leadership is asking what improvements the employees need and what they feel is most important.  Then clearing a path so the employees can help make those improvements.  Showing the employees their ideas and thoughts do matter.

3. Leadership is hungry to learn and improve.  The leadership wants to understand more and learn themselves.  They do not think lean is for “someone else to do.”

It sounds simple, but if it was everyone would be doing it and doing it well.

How are you sustaining your lean improvements?

Trader Joe’s Printing Error

Sweet_Potato_FritesThe picture above is one my daughter took after cutting out the error to show me.

“Sweet potato Frites”

I’m not sure what frites are but sweet potato fries were in the packaging.

Errors do happen, but seeing this one makes me think about the processes that allowed this to happen.  There was artwork that was created for the printing.  Then the printing tooling.  In production, the operator had to place the tooling on the press and in most printing processes there are audits and checks.  Then the bags were filled with fries, sealed and shipped.  Employees at the Trader Joe’s stores had to take the bags out of boxes and put into the freezer in the store.

That is the long way to say there were a lot of people that had to touch this process as someone adding value or as an inspection and this wasn’t caught.

I wonder how many bags got sent to stores and bought by customers?  I wonder if it has been caught and changed? I wonder what in the process allowed this not to be discovered?

 

Visual Board for Production Standards

I have been working with one group on how to make there work more visual.  Show production goals versus actual production.  Make safety standards clear.  Highlight any problems to help them improve.

The supervisor of the area was on person leave when I was helping the area.  Upon her return, she liked what we had done.  In fact, she liked the idea so much that she made a visual board for another area where she is the supervisor.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

What was the problem she was trying to solve?  Employees were always asking what their goal for the day was.  Employees would leave their work station and abandon their work to find the supervisor just to ask what the goal was.  The supervisor posted this board in the work area.

This reminds of Gwendolyn Galsworth’s book Visual Workplace Visual Thinking.  One of the questions of the visual workplace is “What do I need to share?”.  Goals and standards were something this supervisor needed to share with her team.

The board is simple and effective.

What have you made visual? What do you need to share?

Lean at Home…by My Nine-Year-Old Son

The other day my son came up with a great improvement at home.  It saves only a few seconds but it is in the true spirit of continuous improvement and kaizen.

A few weeks ago, I bought a DVD player with WiFi and the internet apps to watch through Amazon, Netflix, MLB.TV, etc…  I set it up so it is plugged into Input 2.  Our cable is plugged into Input 1.

Over the first few weeks of using the new DVD player we have found that if when you turn on the DVD player it automatically switches the TV to Input 2 without hitting any other buttons.

My TV has a total of 8 inputs.

That led my son to ask if we could switch the cable and the DVD inputs.  When I asked why?  This was the response he gave me, “Because it makes the easier.  When I turn on the DVD player it switches to Input 2 automatically but when I turn it off I have to hit the input button seven times to get the TV back to Input 1.  If we switch them then I only have to hit the button once to get to the TV when I am done with the DVD player.”

HOLY SMOKES!  That is simple and easy to change.  It is the true spirit of kaizen.  Keep make small improvements and they will add up.  Yes.  This was for watching TV, but it is such a great example.

How are you making small changes to improve?

The Power of Direct Observation in Retail

All to often people make changes based on data without taking the time to observe what is really happening.  This can lead to decisions that are not in the best interest of the business.

Recently, in our retail shop the data showed that we had some product that was not selling.  If we would have gone strictly with the data, we would probably clearance out the product and not carry it anymore.  But, we believed the product was something that people truly wanted.

Instead, we observed people as they perused the shop.  What we saw was people weren’t even seeing the product with the way they were shopping the store.

We decided to re-merchandise the store and almost instantly, as in the next day, we had sales on the product that wasn’t selling.

Data didn’t tell us the problem, but it did point us in the direction of a problem.  That is were data is very helpful, but the power came in observation.  Observation helped us see what the problem truly was so we could take appropriate action.

Do you take the time to observe the problem?  Or do you just manage by data?

Guest Post: Leadership style and neural networks – Part Two

Today’s post is from Karen Wilhelm.  Karen has inspired me to connect and learn more through blogging.  It has been great communicating with Karen over the last few years.  Her insights are always enlightening.  This is part two of a three part series.  

Developing versatility

We’ve seen in Part One of this article that a leader often has a preferential use of the task-oriented brain network, but we can also switch to the social neural domain.

Can a leader use both domains at the same time? Apparently, that doesn’t work out so well. That results in treating people as things — objectifying them — and manipulating them to achieve some goal, whether we mean to or not. People naturally recognize the insincerity. The leader may mean well in assuming an action will benefit people, but without proper use of the DMN operating, it’s impossible to know for certain what they want or need. When people aren’t involved in that DMN-related decision interaction, they aren’t as accepting of a management action.

The study’s authors have a couple of suggestions for training more versatile leaders. One is to use simulations for practicing switching. Another is to design career paths that alternate or split time between DMN creative endeavors like marketing or training others, and TPN activities like finance, IT, and quality assurance. In addition, Boyatzis says, management education should include more teamwork, service learning, internships and personal reflections on the impact of behavior and values on others.

Matt Wrye: As a lean change agent, the switching between TPM and DPM happens routinely.  I have had to develop training and put myself in the learner’s shoes trying to understand what they need.  Then a few hours later switch modes and work on solving a problem using data.  I would say that my natural tendency is TPN and I have had to learn more about DPM through the years.

Chris Paulsen:  It seems that most leadership roles require switching between TPM and DPM if they are to be done well.  My natural tendency is definitely TPN and DPM takes more effort for me.  The rotation between these two domains discussed in Part 1 may explain why being more people oriented seems to come easier on some occasions than others.

Leadership style and neural networks – Part 1

Visit Karen’s Lean Reflections  Blog for more interesting blogs.

Open for Business

I have had a hard time keeping up with the blog this year for a very good reason.  Regular readers may know that my wife has had an online business selling handmade soaps and bath and body products that she makes.  Over the last 4 years revenue has continued to grow at an incredible rate.  So much so, that we out grew out house a year ago and have been searching for a space outside the house to make the products.

Everything finally fell into place.  On Saturday, July 5th, 2014; Crimson Hill Soapworks and Gift Market retail soap opened for business.

Grand Opening Collage

It took almost a year and a half to find a place, negotiate the build out and rent, get the work done to the space and then set up the retail space and the kitchen.  The opening went better than we could have hoped for and now we are fully open for business.

Are we using lean in the business?  You bet.  We aren’t perfect and we have a long way to go, but we have always applied the biggest tenant of lean from the start.  Focus on value for the customer.  We believe the customer sets the market price for the product and our profit is that price minus our cost without suffering quality.

We know our target market and that is who we aim to please.  Our products may not be for everyone but for our target market we want to drive a high value proposition.

Here’s to new adventures!

Seconds Matter…So Save Them

Paul Akers at FastCap talks about the 2 second lean.  Everyday we should be working to save two seconds.  Just two seconds.

All too often, this aspect of lean is missed.  Most people are looking for the BIG savings.  They don’t deem 2 seconds worth the savings.  People miss the value of a bunch of 2 second savings adding up quickly and creating a lot of capacity and savings.

Recently, I was working with a group that found several 2 second savings in their area and it added up to over 200 hrs of gained productivity over the year.

The picture below is an example of a 2 second savings they found.

Box_Labels

The box on the right shows where the label was outlined to be placed.  The label is low and is blocked by the lip of the shelf.  Every time a person has to put something in the box they have go scan the label, so they have to push it back to scan the label and then pull it forward to put the item in the box.  Several people doing this over 300 boxes with upwards to 20 items per box.

The box on the left shows where they moved the label.  Now a person does not have to push the box back and pull it forward saving about 2 seconds per box per item.  This alone saved over 28 hours of time during a year.  That is over a full day’s worth of worked that can gained from this simple change.

All savings are important.  Seconds matter.  Save them every chance you get.

Lean Culture Change

Recently, I had the opportunity to tour a local company that does sheet metal work.  The company does not advertise being lean, although they are a part of our lean consortium.  When you walk in the manufacturing facility you would be surprised at what you DON’T see.  There aren’t 5S markings or visual production boards or kanban levels anywhere to be seen.

What the company is doing is the hard work.  The are working to change their culture.  They are focusing on it everyday from the leadership down to the floor.

The company is Webco Manufacturing.

What they have done is come up with The Webco Way.  Thirty-one fundamentals for everyone to focus on improving.  Here are just a few:

  1. Do the right thing
  2. Check your ego at the door
  3. Take ownership
  4. Practice blameless problem solving
  5. Be process oriented
  6. Continuously improve everything you do
  7. Embrace change

These are just a few.  I encourage you to visit Webco’s website to see the complete list and a description of each.

You might think 31 is a lot to remember.  I did too, but it is working for them.  They focus on one fundamental every single day.

A fundamental is chosen for the week.  A member of the leadership team sends out their perspective of the fundamental for the week every Sunday night to everyone with e-mail in the company.  During the week, every meeting consisting of more than 2 people is started by reading the quick description of the fundamental and giving an example of how it is brought to life.

This includes meetings with supplier and customers.  The meeting could be 1 Webco employee and 5 suppliers but they will start the meeting with the fundamental of the week.  This is to let customers and suppliers know what they are trying to do and helps to drive the same expectations from their customers and suppliers.

Webco may not claim to be lean, but the culture they are driving and the way they are going about it sure seems like a lean culture to me.

What are your thoughts?

Lean for Small Businesses

If you have followed my blog for awhile you know that my wife started a hand-poured soap and bath and body business a few years ago.  One of her suppliers sends out a monthly newsletter with different kinds of articles: how to make new products, different recipes and in the most recent newsletter an article on lean for the small business.

Though turning to “lean” operation processes may sound like a complicated undertaking best left to large corporations, small businesses are actually ideally equipped to leverage the advantages of a lean business model.

The author is correct.  Being a small business makes it easier to create change more quickly as long as you are dedicated to it.

There are some good points in the article and some that are not even close.  I know lean is a the en vogue thing to discuss but that doesn’t mean everything is always a good point of view.  Better to have it mentioned and start a discussion though.

Some of the good.

You probably spend a lot of time in a day communicating with your clients, vendors, and staff. But have you ever taken a close look at why you have so many of those conversations? If the topics of your business conversations tend to involve a lot of the same questions, standardizing your operations could present a huge opportunity to save time, and eliminate such redundancies. Take detailed notes of the email and phone conversations

…get creative about how you might develop a standardized system for addressing such recurring issues. If customers tend to email or instant chat with similar questions, develop various email templates that you can send to them in a matter of seconds could prove a real time saver. Better yet, incorporate clear language onto your website that answers the questions so they donʼt even have to contact you.

I am more of the thought about trying to get to the root cause and better incorporate the clear language onto your website.  This is a clear way to help eliminate waste and create more time to serving your customers specific needs.

Dave Kerpin suggests that you can improve the efficiency of every [meeting] (and save 900 hours a year) with a simple shift: Donʼt end the discussion until everyone clearly understands their next steps, and you actually begin your own. Kerpin insists this eliminates the odds that miscommunication and confusion linger (which will only lead to further conversation), and reduces the amount of time youʼll spend trying to fi gure out how you need to move forward.

Dave is talking about getting high agreement on what will be done and how it will be done.  This is one of the core lean principles.  He is right.  It helps reduce confusion and communication that comes later from it so the work can be done more quickly.

Some of the not so good.

To adopt the common principles of lean management known as the 5 sʼs (Sort, Straighten, Sweep, Standardize, and Sustain), start by taking a look at your business routine…

This is a smaller issue in that 5S isn’t really a principle but more of a concept or tool to help highlight quickly when something is abnormal.  The author never mentions this.  Just that it can help “clean up” and organize your routine.

This is the one comment that truly gives me heartburn.  It shows the engrained misunderstanding of economies of scale.

If you find yourself ordering inventory frequently, could you forecast more appropriately, to reduce the frequency and possibly, realize cost savings from placing one larger order?

Oh where to start with this one.  First off, you can’t forecast “more appropriately”.  Overcomplicated MRP systems have shown that repeatedly. If you are a small business and growing this is no way to forecast more appropriately.  Understand your lead times and put in a visual reordering system that will trigger with enough time to get your orders in.  You may need to adjust over time as you grow, but it is more efficient and cost effective.

More importantly, don’t just order in bulk to get savings.  This is not a smart move.  You need to understand what your demand is, how much space you have, how much materials cost and how long the inventory would sit around.  If you order a larger quantity to get the savings but it takes 8 months to go through the inventory, you have tied up your cash so you can use it to grow in another area.  As a small business, cash flow is extremely important.  Another factor is the space you have.  If the material is going to take up a lot of space that you don’t have, it is better to not have it spilling over in your work area.  This is something to consider the long term savings in space and cash availability versus the immediate savings of a one time buy.

It was good to see lean talked about in a different arena besides manufacturing.  The message may not always be perfect but it is better to start the conversation than not have it at all.

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