Category Archives: Tools
I want to thank Ann Mazzoli for sending a couple examples of visual management that was used out in the retail environment.
The examples are from a dressing room.
This first example is very clear and can be understood as to how it could help the shopping experience. When trying on clothes, I always separate them into two piles after I have tried it on. No/Maybe and Yes. This shows clearly a place to hang the clothes to make it easier.
The second example…not so clear
I have no idea what “Tomorrow” would mean for a dressing room experience. Do you know what it could mean?
Visual management and labeling is great, but it has to be clear and understandable by the people that will use it.
Ann, thanks for sharing.
If anyone else has any examples please feel free to share them.
A common concept discussed with lean is setting up work in a value stream and not functional silos. This means getting people from cross functional areas to sit and work together in a work cell. An example would be someone from customer service, credit check and order writing all sitting together to make the work of order taking flow.
This allows for the handoffs to occur immediately and increased communication between the functions resulting in reduced lead time and better quality of work.
Agile is a great example of putting the work cell concept into action.
An agile software development team brings the business partner, software developers, data managers and quality assurance together in one room. This allows for quick turnaround discussions when someone is stuck getting to a resolution quicker and moving the development along.
There are many other aspects to agile but the work cell is a instrumental component to allowing many of the other concepts and tools to work so well for an agile team.
Work cells are not just for the manufacturing floor. They are applicable anywhere you need to bring cross functional teams together in order to drive a quicker more efficient process.
I saw a post last week on the Harvard Business Review blog about thinking inside the box. The title caught my eye, but when reading the post it wasn’t what I had expected. The post was about how to find ideas for innovation and improvement from within your company. Great premise and I completely agree.
My thoughts about thinking inside the box have to do with creating and living by standards. I work for a company with an extremely large creative staff. At one time the largest creative staff in the world. So, standards were frowned upon because it was thought to “box in” the creative talent in their designs.
As lean started to be implemented throughout the company, standardized work and product standards were an uphill battle. After some discussion, we were able to get some standards in place.
The most interesting part has been the reaction from the creative staffs. After working within the standards, they have said they have become more creative.
Thinking inside the box (or within the standards) has freed them from thinking about certain aspects of product design and allowed them to be creative within the space given to them.
This is a concept that is commonly misunderstood with lean. Standardized work and product standards are not there to hamper creativity or take the thinking away from the work. They are there to free up the peoples minds to think about the work in new ways. Not think about the mundane aspects of the work.
Don’t fight standardized work, use to become more creative.
There is a new Walmart being built near my house. It is just a couple of weeks away from opening. As I drove past, I noticed the lines for the parking spots were two different colors. The lines for the spaces that are near the building are painted white. The lines for the spaces away from the building are painted yellow.
I had my suspicions as to why and they have been confirmed.
The spaces painted that are away from the building are there to indicate where employees can park. The white spaces are to be reserved for customers.
Auditing will only be effective if Walmart employees have some kind of sticker or indicator on their car. Or do they trust their employees will do the right thing?
Either way, the visual communicates to the employee a message in a simple manner, “You are parked too close or you are not.”
Note: I tried to take a picture but couldn’t get at a good distance and elevation to show the parking lot effectively.
I was looking for a change of pace for the whole Pit Crew/Racing example used to illustrate the SMED process. Maybe I just got frustrated with it because, although it does show an example of a fast changeover, I’m not sure how “Lean” the whole process is. Luckily, with football season around, I have found a new example to talk about. (For those who may want to stop now, I’m talking about “American Football”, not what most everybody else in the world calls football.)
Judging by ratings, more people watch the NFL and College Football than motorsports. That’s kind of important if I want to come up with something other than the tried and true pit crew metaphor. Chances are if you’ve watched a game over the past few years, the talking heads in the booth have spent some of their time talking about “hurry up” or “blur” or some other variance of a no-huddle offense that is the greatest thing since the forward pass. This is likely to be a huge topic of conversation early in the NFL season as one of the most well known practitioners, Chip Kelly, has left the University of Oregon and is now performing some degree of his voodoo for the Eagles. What does that have to do with Lean and changeovers? Hopefully I can show you.
One of the perceived benefits of the no huddle offense is that you can run more plays in the same amount of time because you can run them faster. How does that happen? Well, it starts with looking at a huddle as a changeover. If you can exchange in your head the whistle stopping the previous play for “last good piece” and being in place for the snap of the ball for “first good piece”, the process is actually quite logical. Here is a typical huddle:
In a no huddle system, you identify the steps in the changeover that don’t add value. In this example, the steps that don’t add value are the “running back to the huddle” and the “communication in the huddle” steps. From there, the steps of going to line up in your position and coaches communicating the play have to occur in parallel, and add in speeding up the movement from the end of the last play to getting back to the line for the next play. The diagram starts to look like this:
Okay, it’s not a perfect metaphor, but it’s not a bad start. Plus, it makes both watching football and talking about SMED a little more interesting. (For the sake of clarity, yes, I realize that no-huddle offenses aren’t a new development in the past 2 years. Also, from a football standpoint the speed of the plays is mostly important because it allows you to constantly tweak the pace of plays being executed so you can outflank the defense…but that’s a topic for another time and place.)
Are there any other good parallels that are in use to talk about SMED or another Lean concept? In the interest of space, I’ve condensed some of the “how” out of this post. If you’re interested, post a comment or drop me a line (joewilsonlean at gmail dot com) and we can discuss this concept or your other examples further.
Here is another example of quick easy visual management.
This is a soap mold from my wife’s business. A couple of the spots in the mold have cracked and now they are not usable. She put a quick ‘X’ on the bottom of the mold so when she is pouring she knows she can’t use that cavity.
Visual management doesn’t have to be high tech or fancy. It just has to convey the message quickly and at a glance. In this case, the cavity is usable or it is not.
Share examples of how you have used visual management at work or at home.
Recently, Bill Waddell published a great blog post highlighting the benefits of reducing changeover time. The post was about reducing the manufacturing cycle which is the time it takes to produce every product. Bill used an actual story from a client of his.
To be sure there were other inputs to the improvement – a simple demand pull method and more statistically valid methods of determining the inventory needed to cover the cycle, but set-up reduction was at the heart of it, and the improvements there translated into significantly less inventory, better on time delivery and lower costs.
Hearing stories like the one Bill wrote about just reaffirms the importance of reducing changeover time. It is something that companies take for granted. Most companies don’t see it as critical to achieving the business needs and goals.
Bill gives two great examples of where changeovers have been deemed to critical or their business would die.
I recently saw a cruise ship go through the change-over process and it is really quite similar. Dock and disembark some 3,000 passengers and their luggage and take on 3,000 new ones, restock tons of food and supplies, perform necessary maintenance to the ship, then sail again all in the course of a few hours. They have all sorts of specially designed devices and a very well trained crew of folks to do it … but they have to. That turnaround is the key to their success. In that regard they are a lot like the NASCAR or Indy cars – change-over fast or die.
Manufacturing companies don’t take this view. My question is “Why not?”
If results like the company Bill talks about receives such incredible benefit that help them stay viable and profitable, why aren’t more companies doing it? What other evidence is needed?
Does your company consider quick changeover critical to it’s success?
Today’s post is from Tony Ferraro, on behalf of Creative Safety Supply based in Portland, OR (www.creativesafetysupply.com). Tony strives to provide helpful information to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. His knowledge base focuses primarily on practices such as 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset. Tony believes in being proactive and that for positive change to happen, we must be willing to be transparent and actively seek out areas in need of improvement. An organized, safe, and well-planned work space leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier employees.
When we think of lean, most people’s minds go straight to the business sector of manufacturing. While lean has been incorporated particularly well in industrial settings, lean has also experienced quite a bit of success in regular, everyday endeavors, not to mention in travel as well. The concept of lean was alive and well during a recent vacation I took. My last vacation went especially smooth due to a few lean practices that have been put into place to save time, money, and people’s sanity while visiting unfamiliar places.
Lean Airport (MSP – Minneapolis, MN) – The first inklings of lean processes were evident right at the airport before I even embarked on the actual vacation. After I made my way through ticketing and security, I set out to find my gate. Once I located my gate, it only took a second or two to notice the abundance of technology just radiating around me. There I stood in a sea of mini iPad stations just ripe for the picking. To put this into perspective, there was basically a built-in iPad station for every seat in the gate area. Not only were these iPads free to use but their use was actually encouraged. Sitting down at a station, I soon realized that these iPads were equipped with a multitude of different functions from checking flight statuses all the way to ordering and paying for various food items or supplies. As I was navigating through the iPad, I noticed that a person next to me was being served a drink right at his seat that he had ordered via the iPad. This is truly an excellent example of how an airport has utilized technology to make traveling easier and more pleasant for the customer.
Lean Rental Car Experience – My next encounter with lean happened shortly after I arrived at my destination. I’ve always considered obtaining a rental car to be one of the most tedious and dreaded parts of many of my previous vacations, however this time it wasn’t. A couple of weeks before I was set to leave for vacation, I called the car rental company Hertz and became a “gold” member which was quick and easy, and not to mention free. Being a gold member opened a whole new door of perks. I didn’t have to wait in any lines or deal with any sort of messy paperwork. Instead, I simply stepped off the shuttle at the rental car location, looked up at an electronic board to identify my name and stall number and simply walked to that parking stall. Once I arrived at my car, the trunk was open and the keys were in the ignition. Needless to say, I was thrilled with this efficient service and it took less than 10 minutes from start to finish and I was out on the highway enjoying the beginnings of my vacation. By signing up for the “gold” membership not only did I have an easier and faster experience, but I did not require any further help from Hertz employees which in turn helped to streamline the experience for them as well.
Lean Parking Ramp – I bet you think I’m going to say the parking ramp was lean because the entrance and exits were completely electronic and required no parking assistant and while this is true, it goes quite a bit deeper. The parking ramp I utilized was equipped with a fairly new technology known as “Park Assist.” Ok, I’m just going to say it, I love park assist. Any large and busy parking ramp could make their customers much happier with the help of parking technology. Park Assist features little green or red lights which are illuminated on the ceiling directly above the path where cars drive. If a parking spot is open the light will illuminate green, but if the spot is taken it will illuminate red. This type of technology increases more effective parking but also enhances safety. Instead of drivers constantly trying to look side to side while driving looking for the next open spot, all the driver needs to do is look for an illuminated green light and pull into the corresponding parking spot. Wow, this was impressive. Parking ramps can be pretty dangerous as there always seems to be people bobbing in and out between parked cars. This technology allows drivers to keep a greater focus on driving safely, but also helps them to find parking spots quicker.
The implementation of lean into daily life and travel has led to some monumental improvements which have helped to make once dreaded tasks much more palatable, and maybe even actually enjoyable.
Lean thinking is about creating flexibility in the manufacturing process in order to deliver the value that customer wants at that time.
In agile, this is also true. The beauty of using agile to develop software is the work can be prioritized on a daily or even more frequent basis. As the development team completes a requirement and it moves to the “complete” pile, the product owner can determine which of the remaining requirements is the most important to complete next. The product owner is closely linked with the customer of the software so they are the voice speaking directly for the customer.
If new requirements come up during development, no problem. Add that requirement to the back log on the kanban board. The next time it is time to pull a new requirement the product owner can prioritize the new story at the top or not.
This creates a lot of flexibility in the development process that a waterfall process does not. Usually, with a waterfall development process all the requirements have to be determined up front and then frozen because adding any after that can cause issues. Then the customer doesn’t see anything until the development is completely done. The agile process allows to release pieces of functionality as it is ready.
This increased flexibility allows the team to deliver more value sooner to the customer, creating a happy customer. Which is what lean is about. Customer first.
The A3 is a great communication tool. It can help tell a story succinctly and clearly making it easier for people to understand your thought process. An A3 will contain some background information, the current state, what the desired or future state is and an action plan to get there or measurements showing the success of the work.
Putting together an A3 can take some time. It isn’t actually putting the A3 together as much as it is truly understanding the issue and stating it clearly and concisely.
When your manager doesn’t understand the time it takes to truly understand how to put together an A3 it can be frustrating. As a lean learner, I encourage you to fight through that frustration and use the A3 to communicate with your manager or other managers. Show them the power of tell a good story on an A3.
The A3 won’t be perfect, but this is OK. If the others you are sharing it with understand your thinking then they can better add input. This better input leads to quicker high agreement and quicker resolution.
Think of using an A3 correctly as taking your time to do something right the first time, like setting up a machine. It may seem like it takes a long time but done right there isn’t as much rework because everyone understands quickly and you don’t have to have conversations over again because of the lack of understanding. Just like the machine being set up right the first time and not having to make tweaks over and over. In the long run, it is shorter to take your time upfront.
Eventually, others will see the benefits and the effects will spread.