Last week, I attended a lean forum with speakers and breakout sessions. It was done very well. I was very excited that I was able to attend.
One of the speakers was a General Manager at a distribution center. She told the story of how lean has evolved at her facility and where it stands now.
When listening to transformation stories I try to listen for a few different things to see if they are really getting it or just going through the motions and implementing tools.
I will say her story, I haven’t directly observed, is a very promising and exciting story. I believe they are doing things right and well. There were two bits of evidence that lead me to believe this.
First of all, she is holding the staff, managers and all employees accountable for learning about lean and taking action. Not a lean group or a someone else. Herself and everyone around her. In fact, they integrated the lean staff into manger roles and no longer have that crutch to lean on.
There were stories of the General Manger’s own learning and changes. How getting dissolving the lean group but expecting better results helped make everyone accountable.
While dissolving the lean group worked for her and her facility don’t go do this just to remove the crutch. This General Manager was a true believer in what lean could do for her and she partnered with other local companies that were doing lean very well. She had a support system but it was one that held her accountable for leading lean. Not supporting it.
The second piece of evidence was a video she showed of a great employee driven improvement. Great it was employee driven, but what really stuck with me was the General Manager promoting the small improvement. It was about a five to ten second improvement in a manually process. This one small improvement was going to save $40,000 in a $19 million target she was going after.
Most people look for the BIG improvement to get the whole chunk at once. They don’t understand the large gap is made of hundreds of small problems. They don’t have the patience to go after the small problems. This General Manger understood this concept. It was very refreshing to see.
The facility still has a long way to go, but they are traveling down the right path and that was invigorating.
I will share more from the forum at a later time.
There is a lot discussion around big changes and improvements from lean thinking. Usually, this discussion is around how to realign manufacturing processes in cells or value streams or sitting people across a value stream together for better communication in a business process.
I have taken a page from his book and done this with my routine at the gym in the morning. After working out, I get ready for work at the gym. I used to just grab everything out of my shaving bag and put it on the counter. Then I noticed I always brush my teeth first. I was taking my toothpaste out of the bag first, setting it on the counter, getting everything else out, then picking up the toothpaste, put it on my brush and then putting the toothpaste back on the counter. Later I would put the toothpaste back in the bag.
My 2 second improvement. I get everything out of my bag first. The second to last thing I get out is my toothbrush and the last thing is my toothpaste. I don’t set it down though. I get the toothpaste out, use it and place it right back in my bag. When I am done with my toothbrush, it goes right back in the bag too.
It doesn’t seem like a lot, but combined with other improvements I have started to save significant time in the morning. It allows me more time to workout.
What 2 second improvements have you made?
It amazes me how companies will setup an accounting system this is designed to drive bad decisions.
Recently, I have been working with a client on improving an internal process to the team. During the direct observation with the order writer something very interesting surfaced.
The order writer can write orders to be processed one of two ways. The order writer said that method A costs $400 and only takes 1.5 hours to write the order. While method B costs $30 and takes 2 days to write the order.
I asked where the costs came from because the orders are processed by another internal group. The order writer said it is the cost of systems and labor time for that group and they charge back the order writing team the cost of each order.
The internal order processing group is managed as a Profit and Loss center. They are treated like a company.
Sadly, I have seen this accounting set up quite a bit. Even the support groups like IT, HR, etc… are setup as P&L centers.
This drives decisions to be made that are not in the best interest of the company.
In this case, the order writer is considered value added because they are changing the order to get product to customers. They help generate revenue. Half of order processing is non-value added (entering all the information they get from the order writers) while half is value added (executing the order).
Because the business gets charged back over 10 times more the cost per order for the more automated order, the value added order writers are asked to take 2 days write an order which then adds actual hard dollar cost because it takes more order writers to get the orders written and submitted.
What is wrong with being a support center, knowing it and accounting for it? Why does everything have to be a P&L center to “prove” it’s value?
The places who treat support areas like support areas and don’t worry about P&L centers for everything don’t typically make decisions like the one above. They understand how a supporting area adds value and don’t feel the need to quantify it in a P&L statement.
Have you encountered this in your work?
In an earlier post I mentioned the similarities in agile and lean from a problem solving perspective. Lean and agile are also the same when it comes to the learning cycle.
One of the principles of lean that I have learned is Create a Learning Organization through Learn-Apply-Reflect. This principle helps drive home the importance of reflection. Many people and organizations do a great job of learning something new and then trying to apply it. Where most people and organizations fail is forgetting to reflect. The reflection step is where all the learning and applying comes together to understand how what was learned can best be applied in the organization. What worked? What didn’t work? What should be kept? What should be changed?
A sign an organization is doing this well, is the reflection is planned and not a reaction because something went wrong. The reflection is part of the project plan and will is scheduled upfront with no agenda but to learn and improve.
Agile has a methodology and a term it uses for this reflection and learning. It is retrospectives.
Agile uses planned retrospectives, usually once a week, to take a time out and gather the team to understand what is working and they should continue doing. As well as what is not working and should be changed or thrown out. It takes a monumental act to cancel a retrospective. These retrospectives are ingrained in the methodology and help the agile teams continue to improve on their process and work.
This is a great of example of Lean-Apply-Reflect. The agile team takes the learnings from the week, apply them and then have a planned reflection time a week later. The agile methodology does a great job of fostering the principle of creating a learning organization.
Do you have any examples of planned reflection in your organization?
H&H Color Lab began in the basement of Wayne and Shirley Haub’s residence in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, in 1970. Wayne and his brother, Ted Haub, owned a portrait studio that had just landed its first high school senior contract. With a background in and love for color printing, Wayne chose to install his own color processing equipment in the basement of his home.
Business increased, and so did the need for additional space and employees. What began with Wayne doing everything from his basement has grown to 165 people and 55,000 square feet of space over 40 years later.
H&H customers are primarily school/portrait/wedding photographers. The offer a wide range of products from photo prints to books to Leather bound albums and digital products.
In 1999, H&H Color Lab started is Lean journey led by Lee Gabbert. Lee had been with the company for 5 years at the time and was chosen to learn more about lean and teach others at H&H. They started by reading “Lean Thinking” by James Womack and Daniel Jones. H&H also decided to get a sensei to help them learn as they traveled the bumpy road down the lean path.
H&H Color Lab started by setting up work cells, going away from a department mentality. H&H moved to smaller batches, moving cells closer to the monuments (that they couldn’t move), standard work, and lots and lots of 5S.
Muda (waste), lead times, late work and quality all had improved. In fact, the gains from lean had now freed up space that was once occupied by manufacturing departments. It allowed H&H to take the space and use it as a training facility to help customers from all over the United States. Thus, H&H University was born. Roughly 3,000 square feet of space was now designed and transformed into a learning center, working photographic studio with equipment, mock up photography sales room, photography studio work area, kitchen to host all day training, library sitting room with sample products that H&H produce on the book shelves and restrooms. By providing training for customers (mostly free of charge), you truly can engage in a partnership that can grow.
All of this work allowed H&H Color Lab to make a success transition from the “Age of Film” to the “Digital Age”. Understanding their customers and providing training and education others companies do not, shows how the most important part of lean, focusing on the customer, helps you innovate, grow and thrive.
Here are results that H&H Color Lab have seen from their lean implementation.
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Last year I tried again. I had great success with the board. I have been using it for a year and a half.
Now, I have a new role where I have multiple desks. I am constantly in different areas of the building. I may not be back to my desk for several days or even a couple of weeks. I wasn’t able to keep my board up and I had work to do written in several places.
I went searching for an electronic solution that may help me. I wanted a solution that would be portable and I could add tasks at any location that I was at. I wanted to be able to move my tasks from stage-to-stage when needed and not try and keep up when I got back to my regular desk.
I discovered Portable Kanban by Dmitry Ivanov. It is a free downloadable software for your computer. It allows you to setup the board with the columns you desire. Each column has the capability of putting a limit as to the number of tasks allowed. Below is a snapshot of my physical board and below it my portable kanban board.
(Click on images to enlarge)
The portable kanban allows you to color code your “post-its” as well as assign a priority and a completion date. There is a reporting function also.
This software from Dmitry is meeting my needs very well. I am back on track with using my personal kanban again.
If you are a team looking for a portable kanban board online so many people can see it and use it simultaneously, this is not the software for you. There are some good online options.
If you are an individual that needs a board that you can have just about anywhere, this is a great tool.
Are you using a personal kanban?
There are examples of visual management everywhere. Walk into a store and the departments are labeled so you know where to go. Go to a Subway restaurant and the ingredients available to put on your sandwich are displayed right in front of you. Or look all around the U.S. road system. It is filled with visual cues and information.
This one is simple and can be handy.
Gatorade’s water bottle has a transparent stripe down the side that allows you to see how full the water bottle is. This conveys a single message (how much fluid is in the bottle?) simply. Sure you can pick it up and easily tell by the weight. What if you are an equipment manager for a sports team and you have 10 more of these to manage during a game. Instead of picking each bottle up several times to see if it is close to empty, a quick glance allows the equipment manager to know which ones to fill immediately.
It may seem like such a small improvement, but that is part of the essence of lean. Improving everyday. Saving even two seconds will amount to significant time as that process is repeated over and over again. This is something Paul Akers stresses at his company, FastCap.
What have you done to save 2 seconds?
I read a blog post from Dan Markovitz a couple weeks about about some of the practices Nick Saban has. Being a college football fan and following Nick Saban since his Michigan State days, I found it very interesting to see how he saved time.
I do some of the same stuff. I eat the same thing everyday for lunch. It is a running joke around my workplace. But I don’t have to think about what to make the night before and no decisions have to be made when it is time for lunch. The nights I do make something different for my lunch the next day it takes over twice as long. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what I want and if it is easily suitable for a packed lunch.
Another thing I do, I lay out all of my clothes for the week including clothes for working out in the morning. I spend a few minutes Sunday evening preparing for Monday thru Thursday (Friday can range to much based on what I have going on at work so I do that one on Thursday night). My kids even got me a cubby-hole shelf to put my clothes into to be even more organized. With two kids involved in everything under the sun, this saves me time during the week. I don’t have to think about what I am going to wear. I just reach for the cubby-hole and put the clothes in my gym bag and my gym clothes I lay out for the next morning. It takes me less than 60 seconds to be prepared for the next day.
I know. It seems anal-retentive (because I don’t make millions like Nick Saban, then it would be innovative or smart). These two routines save me several minutes a day that I use to make sure I get the kids to where they need to be on-time and frees up time to spend with my wife at night.
What do you do to save time in your routine?
Today’s guest post comes from Danielle M. She has been a dedicated student of Lean Manufacturing methodologies since 2006. It was love at first sight when she read the motto, “Everything has a place; everything in its place” in her first copy of The Toyota Way.
My friends said I worked in the Black Hole. In the lunchroom, people moved away because of the smell of solvents in my work clothes. Let me tell you how that changed.
Working in the Black Hole a.k.a. Screen Print Prepress
We were in the business of screen printing. My job was to get the screens ready, which means cleaning off the old stencil and applying the new image. I used quite a few chemicals and yes, it did get messy.
One time I was measuring out the emulsion remover when Greg moved into the room, and I didn’t hear him until he was close. I jumped, and the solvent went all over my shoes and the floor. And the fumes were so strong!
Another time I was carting off the old ink and I realized the waste tub was outside. By this time, I had both hands full, so I ended up using my foot to open the door and nearly tripped myself.
Bad for Business
Sometimes we’d run out of a chemical and I wouldn’t be able to clean any screens until new supplies arrived. Terry, the supervisor, would complain about orders being late, but there wasn’t anything I could do.
The delivery would eventually come in (often at high shipping costs for expedited delivery), but always in barrels so big I could hardly move them. I’d have no space to put them, either, so I’d pour the chemicals into smaller bottles. That was okay, so long as I didn’t spill much, but sometimes I’d forget to write on the side what was in them.
The other problem was I couldn’t tell how much was in each bottle, so I’d run out. And sometimes I’d mix up the wrong proportions so I had to throw it away and start again.
As you can see, things were pretty disorganized.
Terry had been taking a Lean Manufacturing training course when he came in and said, “Danielle, we need to make you lean.”
Well I knew I was carrying a few pounds, but really! Terry explained that if we organized the chemicals I use there’d be fewer stoppages, less waste, and I’d find the Black Hole a nicer place to work. He called it “visual management.” Here’s what we did:
- Installed a yellow “Point-of-Use Storage” cabinet. (The EPA has a lot of information about POUS on their website.)
- Labeled the POUS shelves so there’s “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”
- Stopped buying big barrels once in a great while and arranged for smaller, 1 gallon deliveries more frequently. This is called vendor-managed inventory, or a “milk run”.
- Used clear containers so I could see how much was left.
- John got special diamond pattern labels for the containers and showed me how to fill them in with the chemical name and date.
- Terry bought mixing jugs and put lines on them showing the appropriate fill level.
- John also set up a Safety Point. This has all the Material Safety Data Sheets in a binder along with a cabinet for safety equipment like goggles, a lab coat and gloves.
- We had the floor marked out to show where the waste containers should be. Now I can see at glance if they’re missing.
No more Black Hole
It took a while to get used to things, but it’s so much better. I don’t waste time looking for various chemicals. We never run out, so there are no stoppages. I don’t spill solvents and there’s less waste. Best of all, people don’t wrinkle their nose when I sit near them in the lunch room!
Email is a great thing. To be able to send a message instantly for free (sort of…I know there are charges for connection and data plans) is amazing. Now we can get email anywhere we are on smartphones, tablets or any other device. But, just because we can get a message instantly and anywhere does not mean we have to read or answer the message instantly anywhere we are.
I hear a lot of people talk about spending too much time with email. Email is keeping them from getting value added work completed. I spent some time looking at my own email practices and found it is very easy to get distracted by email. It is more of a hindrance than a help at times.
How many of you have your email notification turned on, so when you get an email you get a sound, a box in the corner pops up, a light flashes on your smartphone, etc…? I had notifications on everywhere. Why do we have them on? Because we want to read and answer the email as quickly as possible. Why don’t we turn off all of these audio/visual notifications? What percent of the emails you receive truly need immediate attention?
I experimented and turned off all audio and visual notifications of email on my PC. I turned off the audio notification on my smartphone, but left on my flashing light (which I am thinking about turning off). Since doing this, I feel less stressed about answering email and the need to jump right on it. I find that I am more productive also. I am not switching between something I am working on and email constantly. The thing I am working on has my full attention. I concentrate on the work and get it done and then check email. I have found that ZERO of my emails need my immediate attention.
My next step is to only open email at certain times of the day. Currently, I open it whenever I feel like it. Will this help me become even more productive? I don’t know if it will, but I won’t improve if I don’t try.
If you are not in a role where email is critical (i.e. order processor receiving orders through email or something of the like), I challenge you to turn off your notifications and not read/answer emails as they come in.