Monthly Archives: February 2015
Everyone is familiar with visual management. A concept lean utilizes to quickly show if the condition is normal or abnormal. Recently, I had a situation where visual management wouldn’t work and I had to use tactile management. I used the feel of something to no if that was the correct object or not.
I go through spells where I get horrible headaches in the middle of the night. When I get them, it happens for several nights in a condensed time and then won’t happen for months. I have to sit up and close my eyes without my head leaning against anything because it would cause it to hurt so badly.
I hate turning on the lights in the middle of the night. I don’t want to wake others. Plus, it makes my headache worse when I flip on the lights and my eyes have to adjust rapidly to the flood of light.
I would search the medicine drawer in the dark looking for the right headache medicine. It would take forever and most of the time I would end up turning on the lights.
Finally, a solution for searching for the medicine came to me. I taped a cotton paid to the outside of the bottle so I can quickly find the medicine without turning on the lights. Sometimes the simplest things can have the biggest impact.
Visual management wouldn’t work in the dark, but tactile management would. It is something the blind deal with everyday. They use feel to read braille.
Are there ways you could use tactile management?
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is the importance of employee involvement in creating improvement within an organization. Working for the automotive supplier to create standard work instructions was time in my learning.
I have an industrial engineering degree. I had been certified in Ready-Work Factor and MTM motion-time analysis tools. I was taught how to analyze every slight movement a person makes and how to determine the amount of time it should take. I was the snot-nosed, arrogant, young engineer telling employees how to do their work quicker. I can count on one hand how many of the work instructions I wrote were actually followed for more than one day.
At the automotive supplier, my manager and I took a different approach. When going to an area to document the work standards, we pulled several people off the floor across all shifts to help. The teamwork between everyone was fantastic and my eyes were opened in three ways: (1) How common it was for a job not to be done the same way by multiple people, (2) the incredible dialog created to combine ideas and determine a better process, and (3) how the new work process was being followed by everyone weeks and months later.
Lean implementers will talk non-stop about the importance of employee engagement in everything that is done. There is good reason for this. Every problem has a countermeasure. Those countermeasures mean a work process WILL BE changed. It may be for one person or many. It may be a small, simple change or it may be a large, complex change. But there will be a change to the standardized work.
Getting people involved early helps to expedite adoption of the new process and helps to ensure adherence.
- Working with employees to create standardized work is critical to creating adoption and adherence to the new process
- It is extremely common that no one does the same job, the same way and standardized work is needed
- Standardized work is the foundation of improvement because it provides a baseline AND it DRIVES EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT.
Working for the automotive supplier, I had moved from industrial engineer to program manager and now into the lean group. The lean group comprised of just myself and one other, Joe Wilson who has contributed here at Beyond Lean.
One of our first assignments was to implement a plant-wide kanban system in 4 weeks. It was a mandate that came down from our Vice President to all the plants. In that short time, Joe and I had to learn about kanban, devise a system, create a simulation to teach 500 employees and implement the system.
Good thing we were young and full of energy back then, because I don’t know how we did it but we did. We developed kanban cards by color signifying which department the card need to return to in order to place the order for more parts. We then created a very simple Lego simulation. The simulation was good for 5-6 people at a time and allowed each person to be hands in order to create better learning. We also used the exact kanban card that we were going to put on the shop floor for the simulation so the employees got used to seeing them and could give feedback on them. We then trained 500 people on the simulation, five at a time across three shifts.
One rule we stressed the employees was, “Do NOT violate the kanban!” If you don’t have a card, you don’t build. Even if you know cards are in the internal customer’s hand and haven’t been brought to you. That holds the customer accountable for “ordering” the parts from the supplying department.
Everyone was ready to go live on our due date and we nailed it. Not saying there weren’t problems, but we hit the date and people were trying their best to follow the new procedures.
Then it happened. Our go-live date was mid-June. If you are familiar with the auto industry, everyone shuts down for retooling for a week or two around July 4th. So one week into the kanban system, our management was telling everyone to violate the kanban in order to build the bank of parts for the few shipments we have during the two week shutdown.
Yep. Violate the Number 1 Rule right out of the gate. It caused Joe and I a lot of rework after shutdown to get the kanban system back up and running. In the end, it worked well thanks to the great employees and the management support, but the false start didn’t help.
- Building the bank of parts for shutdown was the correct thing to do at July 4th. What we need to be more conscious of is when we start something. It would have been better to start the kanban training after shutdown so we didn’t have the false start and have management telling everyone to violate the number 1 rule right off the bat.
- We made kanban cards that were small. 4 inches x 3 inches or so. Cards were get dropped and lost quite a bit. It is better to make larger kanban cards (8 inches x 6 inches). It is harder to lose these because they are easier to see and don’t fit in pockets without folding a laminated card.
- Creating a simulation that allowed everyone to be hands-on and using the actual kanban card from the floor really helped to create learning, understanding and good dialogue with the employees.
Recently, my wife had an experience with supplier that wasn’t focused on us as a customer and it created great waste for the supplier.
The shop was low on a particular candle that we buy from a local handmade supplier. The product is great and it sells really well. My wife emailed the owner to order more candles. In the email, she asked if the owner could send a list of spring related scents as we phase out the holiday related scents, so we could pick out what we think our customers would like.
We didn’t hear from the owner for about a week or more. Then the owner shows up with the candles we ordered plus three new spring scents. We didn’t like one of the scents. We said we wouldn’t take that one and discussed other possibilities to choose from. A different scent was picked and a few days later the owner returned with the new scent.
When the issue of not responding was brought up to the owner, the reply was they were so concerned that we needed the candles right away that they just made them as quick as possible and brought them over. My wife explained that we don’t need things immediately, especially after the holidays and if there is ever any question to just ask.
The owner wanted to please us, but didn’t focus on what was truly important to us which is the scent selection. The owner ended up causing waste of defects/rework (making new candles she hadn’t made), waiting (us waiting longer to get the order filled) and transportation (driving to our store twice).
Have you or your company ever rushed a product or service to market because YOU thought that was what the customer needed and then if failed? What were you focused on?
If you aren’t sure what your customer needs are…ask. Be clear and focus on what they need, not what you think they need.