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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.

Sponges

There is nothing more invigorating than a sponge.

Not the type of sponge you clean with, but a person that soaks up everything and is eager to learn.

I recently have been working with a facility on implementing lean thinking.  At this facility is an operations manager that is trying to take in everything she can.  It is amazing to watch her.  Everything that is said and talked about is taken in, absorbed and thought about how it applies for her staff and herself.

One walk on the floor to spot issues in 5S and questions about if it is important to her whether it is maintained or not turns into a maintained 5S effort over the last month.  She didn’t just go out and demand it be done.  She asked the employees in the area if it was still needed and if so, what needs to be done to meet their needs.  The employees wanted it and now are maintaining it.

The next time more in-depth questions on maintaining material levels led to thinking and study of a process to be sure the material levels are maintained.

In the short time I have been working with the group, I can list of more examples of taking the learning and turning into action than the past year of efforts in other areas.

Seeing others start to soak up the lean thinking like a sponge and grow is an invigorating feeling that gets the blood pumping.

Are you a lean sponge?

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2013 – 5 Thru 1

2014 is now in full swing.  Before 2013 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2013.

New followers of the blog can use this as an opportunity to read posts they might have not seen in the past.  While, long time followers can use this as an opportunity to re-read some of the top viewed posts.

This post will count down the 10th thru 6th most viewed posts of 2013.  Enjoy!

5.   Making Leader Standard Work Visual (June 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #9 – An example of a visual board from a group I worked with.  The board makes the tasks and if they were completed by the managers visual.

4.  Don’t Over Complicate the Formula (October 2011) – Talks about simplifying formulas to get you directionally correct especially with calculating kanbans.

3.  Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Previous Year Ranked #4 – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.

2.  Keys to Sustaining 5S (September 2011) – Tips to help sustain (the 5th ‘S’) the gains made from implementing 5S.

AND……

1.  5S in the Office (September 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #3 - Most viewed post for two straight years now.  A look at using 5S in the office.  What is going too far and how to use 5S in the office properly.

I hope 2014 is a great year!

Top 6 – 10 of 2013

Best of Beyond Lean in 2013

Today I am highlighting the five most popular posts written in 2013.  Then in January I will post the Top 10 posts for the year.

Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!!!!

5.  Visual Management at Home (February 2013) – A great example of a visual board used at home of a friend of mine.

4. Hoshin Planning – Catch Ball (April 2013) – A great video explaining the process of catch ball during the strategy development process.

3.  My Continuous Improvemnt: Personal Kanban 3rd Revision (January 2013) – The latest update to my evolving personal kanban for work.

2.  Guest Post: Moneyball – Hoshin Kanri (March 2013) – Chad Walters does a great job explaining strategy deployment using the movie Moneyball

1.  When Standards are in Place, Everything is an Experiment (May 2013) – Talks about the importance of setting standards and using them to understand your processes.

Have a Happy New Year!!!!

Lean Concepts are Intertwined

When working with an area, department or organization to implement lean people like to focus on implementing a specific tool or concept, but it’s not that easy.  The concepts and tools are so intertwined that focusing on one is really difficult to do.

An example would be implementing SMED (or quick changeover) across a facility.  A vast majority of the time a large opportunity for improvement is through organization, having the tools you need where you need them and knowing when and where to be for the changeover.  Immediately, other concepts that come to mind are visual management to understand when and where to be without having to ask.  Also, 5S which can help with organization and having the right tools at the right spot.  5S is also a component of visual management.

A second example is implementing strategy deployment.  There is standard work to how to cascade catchball down through the organization and it should be documented to be repeatable.  Then the strategy is usually documented on an A3 to help communicate the message and most companies use visual management to show progress to the entire organization as time progresses.

As a person working to help others implement lean, it is OK to let them believe they are only focusing on one concept to start.  Sometimes thinking about the intertwined concepts can become overwhelming.  Let the customer focus on the one concept and introduce the other concepts through the backdoor.  There is no need to call out the lean concept.  Just discuss what a way to help them solve their problem in further implementing the concept the are focusing on.

At a later date, you can show them how they have actually implemented other lean concepts successfully.  This helps build their confidence, shows further progress then what they believed and builds momentum to continue moving forward and taking more on.

Don’t get hung up on explaining all the intertwined concepts.  Delivery on the needs of the customer and it will all work out.

5S at the Gym

Over the last few weeks at the gym I have noticed some good examples of 5S and some very poor examples of 5S creating clutter.

dumbbell_rack

 

A good example of 5S is the placement of weights throughout the gym.  The dumbbell rack has the weight labeled on the racks so you know where to put the dumbbells when you are finished.  The small barbell rack is labeled with weights to know where to put them back as well as the free weight trees.

 

This is a prime example of having good 5S does not change behavior.  It just creates the ability to see an abnormal condition quickly.  The dumbbell rack is always kept in good order and dumbbells are always in the proper place.  But the free weights and small barbell weights are NEVER in the correct spot.  I can spot the issue quickly and I can take action to find what I need.  For the life of me, I still can’t figure out how the same people can put the dumbbells in the correct spot but 10 feet away not put the free weights or small barbells in the correct spot.

A bad example of 5S in the same weight room is not having a place to put attachments for the cable pulley machines.  These machines have a ‘W’ shaped bar, a straight bar, a rope and handles to do different exercises and work different muscles.  I have never seen one of these machines with a spot labeled for these attachments.  All the attachments lay on the floor an ‘walk away’ between different machines.  Half the time I spend looking for the attachment I want for my exercise.  It becomes very frustrating.  I can’t even tell quickly if the attachment I need is in the pile laying on the floor.  Once I recognize it isn’t, then I have to go and look at the other machines or decide to change my routine.

Just because you have a place for some things, does not mean you are finished with your 5S efforts.  And once you have a place for things, it takes constant monitoring to make sure the efforts don’t slip and the area ends up back in chaos.

What is 5S?

5S is a process to achieve a safe, efficient and organized workplace.  It allows people to see if things are abnormal quickly, so they can address the issue.  It does not keep people from doing something.  5S just allows someone to see if something isn’t right quickly.

The Five S’s are:

  1. Sort – Decide what is needed and what is not needed.  Get rid of the things not needed.
  2. Straighten – Understand how things are used and put them in an appropriate place for the work space.
  3. Shine – Clean and label the area.
  4. Standardize – The work you have done is the new standard and needs to be kept that way.
  5. Sustain – The hardest part is not to let the work space degrade.  Put checks in place to keep the standards in place.

Quite often 5S is equated with being lean.  A large number of people believe that 5S is foundational to being lean. The thought is 5S is the first thing an organization must do to be lean.  That is not necessarily the case.

Something as simple as organizing the workplace can help improve the efficiency of many things you do.  I have seen 5S help gain large improvements with quick changeovers of machines.  Looking for tools always seems to be the biggest waste when breaking down a setup of a machine, so having the tools in a particular spot every time can help a lot.

5S is not just for the manufacturing floor.  It can benefit any work space, including in the office.  But you do have to be careful.  When it comes to 5S in the office many people get carried away.  They prescribe marking where the computer should be and taping an outline around the stapler at everyone’s desk.  This isn’t the purpose of 5S, so be sure to do 5S correctly in the office in environment.

Think of a NASCAR garage when doing 5S.  It is spotless.  The reason, so any drip from the car can be seen immediately and the problem can be addressed.  You can’t go too far with organizing your work place.

5S is hard work.  The hardest part is sustaining the work of the first 4S’s.  Sustaining the work takes discipline.  If the discipline is maintained the rewards of 5S can be great.

Good luck on your path to success with 5S.

Use the Right Visual

Visual management and visualization is a concept that lean relies heavily on.  There are a lot of standard visuals like metric boards, kanban signals, 5S and value stream maps.

Visuals really help people understand the information.  Everyone sees the same visual and it starts a good conversation allowing people to gain high agreement.  The issue is all the visuals I listed are tools and as with any tool you need to understand when to use it.

To be effective with using visuals, you need to understand what information the group is trying to understand.  What is the purpose of the visual?  Who is the audience?  What do they need to learn from it?

Most of the time the standard visuals will be perfect.  You can use them and get everything you need.  That is why those tools are well known, because they are used all the time and work.  But sometimes, they won’t.

Don’t be afraid to make up a visual tool to present the right information in an easily digestible manner.

Here are a couple a colleague and I came up with for a recent event:

Type_of_Work_Done

This one shows the % of time people spent doing different tasks throughout the day.  It helped the group better understand who was doing what and for how long.

FreqReporting

This one shows the frequency of tasks.  Daily, Weekly or Monthly?  What was the task done on?  Who many times on that day?

In both cases, the different colored post-its represent different areas of the company doing the work.

As you can see, the standard visual tools would not have shown this information in a easy manner to understand.  We designed this for the group and it worked very well.

We can’t always rely on the tools we have and know in our toolbox.  Sometimes we have to think outside the toolbox.  It is important to understand what your customer/group is trying to accomplish and design the visual accordingly.  Don’t meet the needs of the tool.  Meet your group’s needs.

Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2012 – 5 Thru 1

2013 is now in full swing.  Before 2012 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2012.

New followers of the blog can use this as an opportunity to read posts they might have not seen in the past.  While, long time followers can use this as an opportunity to re-read some of the top viewed posts.

This post will count down the 10th thru 6th most viewed posts of 2012.  Enjoy!

5.  Sportscenter Has Killed U.S. Manufacturing (June 2012) – Previous Year Ranked #3 – Manufacturing is fundamental.  The U.S. has lost it’s sights on the fundamentals and is just worried about the flashy.  The U.s. needs to get back to the fundamentals in order to get back on top.

4.  Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.

3.  5S in the Office (September 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #1 – Most viewed post for two straight years now.  A look at using 5S in the office.  What is going too far and how to use 5S in the office properly.

2.  Keys to Sustaining 5S (September 2011) – Tips to help sustain (the 5th ‘S’) the gains made from implementing 5S.

AND……

1.  Why Are Lean People Seen As Lean People? (February 2011) – Previous Year Ranked #2 – Exploring the question as to why lean people are not seen as more than just lean experts.  Looking at a process from end-to-end seems like a good business practice no matter what the role.

I look forward to more posts in 2013!

Top 6 – 10 of 2012

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