Author Archives: Matt Wrye
Recently, I have been participating in a series of conversations with a small group of other bloggers about how to improve the online lean learning community.
We thought it best to start with what you thought, so we’d like you to take a few minutes to answer a series of 10 questions to get us going.
I really like seeing more and more organizations trying to implement lean. Seeing organizations start to understand lean and want to improve using the lean mindset and principles is very refreshing. A great step in the right direction.
But not all lean starts are created equally. Or for that matter even get off on the right foot.
I recently saw a company giving a presentation on some HR practices and apprenticeship. They were doing some really great stuff around apprenticeship for a machining shop.
What caught my eye was their comments about lean and aligning to value streams. The company listed their value streams on a slide. The first few sounded more like machining functions rather than a value stream but I don’t understand the business so I could be wrong. Then I saw the bottom half of the list: Accounting, Project Management, Human Resources, etc…
Yikes! These are not value streams. These are functions that support value streams.
Misunderstanding of value streams is quite normal. In order to be a value stream, it has to create value for the customer. To understand what creates value a company has to have a definition of value.
I use one I learned from the Lean Learning Center:
- The customer must be willing to pay for it
- It must change the form, fit or function of the product/service
- It must be done right the first time
In a machining shop, accounting does not create any value for the customer. Nor does Project Management.
Value streams are linked process that create value to a product or service for customer. The are not departments (accounting , project management) or functions (milling, cutting).
Grasping the true meaning of value streams and what your companies value streams are can really open your eyes to the improvement possibilities.
During my work, I have seen people learn and reflect in two different ways. One is to learn something through reading, doing, listening or any other way and spend time reflecting on it right then and there. They take the time to deeply understand what they learned and how it applies to them before they move on to something else.
A second way of reflection I have seen I call the information gatherer. It is learning something new in all the ways I listed above and just letting it sit. The person moves on and gathers more information on many other things. They just let the information simmer in their mind and an hour, a day, a week or even a month later BAM! It hits. They understand how it applies to them and their situation. They understand the learning deeply and can apply it anywhere.
Neither way is right. Neither way is wrong.
In fact, a person may be a combination of both depending on the situation and what they are learning.
I am a combination of both. If it is a situation where I need to learn and apply something now, I will be very intentional about reflecting and trying to figure out how what I learned applies to what I am working on.
If it is just learning for my learning, I will take in as much information as possible and keep gathering it. Eventually, sometime down the road it will click and a huge learning will occur.
What type of reflection do you most often apply?
The term coach is thrown around a lot in a business setting. Too much in my opinion. Any time spent with someone giving advice or direction is called coaching nowadays. It sounds great when you say you spent time “coaching” someone.
Coaching is more than giving advice. Coaching is an investment in time to really help them along.
Think of any athletic coach you may have had. Basketball, football, tennis, golf, swimming, etc.. Did you ever spend 30 minutes with that person in a café getting advice on a rare occasion and end up calling them coach? Of course not.
Why? Because coaching takes time. You have to spend time in the with the person in the environment you are coaching on and observe and make suggestions as you go along.
Anything else is advice. There is a big difference between giving advice and coaching.
Because of the time investment, a person can’t coach many people in the business environment. The best thing to do is focus on coaching a person or two. Don’t spread yourself thin as a coach because then no one wins. The learner doesn’t get your full attention and does not learn and grow nearly as much. The coach will never see the fruit of their labor come to fruition because the learner never reaches their full potential.
Think about this before taking someone on as their coach. Are you going to be able to devote the time truly necessary to help them along?
I have talked in the past about the importance of direct observation. The power in seeing the waste for yourself. It really shines a light on what is really happening and it also is the best way for a person to continue to learn.
The question is, “What do you do with those observations?”
Most often, I see people run out and try to eliminate or reduce the waste or even assign it to someone else to do. While not entirely a bad thing, if you are trying to instill a lean culture don’t just jump to trying to improve.
Stop and reflect about what you are trying to do as an organization and use the waste you saw as a way to further the lean culture.
Most organizations I have seen do not have a systematic way to eliminate waste. Usually, this is because waste is one of the first things people learn about lean. What happens is people just go out and attack waste (again not a bad thing) without any direction.
If your organization is early on in trying to implement a lean culture, think about how you can make the waste elimination systematic.
Is this a good way to engage employees in a kaizen event to start to build trust? Could be an easy win for everyone.
Should an improvement board to post the waste seen and how it is detracting a better option? Use the waste you saw as an example of how to use the board and go and eliminate it yourself or with the help of others, but be involved.
If you observed multiple areas, do you want to concentrate in one department? Make it a model for others in the organization.
Think about how you can make the waste elimination sustainable and systematic. This will benefit you and the organization in the long run.
I wanted to give a shout out to some fellow bloggers today. Normally, when I give a shout out it has to do with reading something by another blogger that influences me to go and change my work.
Not this time. I have to give credit to some fellow bloggers that have the will to continually read articles and blogs that those in the lean world, like myself, find to be ridiculous.
Bill Waddell, Kevin Meyer, Mark Graban and others continue to read material by others that is so rooted in traditional mindsets that it can be appalling. Yet they do this and provide perspective to the rest of us so we don’t have to waste our time reading it.
I say THANK YOU!
It is always good to read and learn about “the other side.” It helps to combat the myths and misunderstandings of lean.
I have tried this and from time to time can read the other material but I struggle. Knowing that mindset is still so rooted and these “experts” are continuing to think this way can drive me absolutely BONKERS!!! And that is the medial term.
So to Bill, Kevin, Mark and others…Thank you for helping to keep me informed. By doing so, you help to keep my sanity.
Then I tried again. I had great success with the 2nd board. I used it for a year and a half.
With 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 wanted to find an electronic kanban that would work for me. I found one that worked well. It was a computer only board. I explain it more in this post here.
This new electronic kanban work well. I could take a note or email myself on my phone with what needed to be on it and then transfer it when I got to my computer. If I had my computer with my, I just added right then.
As a person always looking to eliminate waste, you can see where there was waste in emailing myself and then re-typing it for the kanban board. A friend of mine recommended Trello for me to try. It was web-based. I was able to download an app to my phone which I could open and enter the work and not send myself emails to re-enter.
Everything looked great so I gave it a try for the last 3 months of last year.
It wasn’t hard to use. It had plenty of features and it was setup very similar to the electronic kanban I was using. For some reason, I couldn’t get the flow of it. Trello was not working for me. I tried for three months and I couldn’t get into the flow of using it and making my life easier to manage.
I have no idea why it didn’t click with me but it was a disaster. I forgot some things that needed to be done. I felt disorganized and stressed.
So, to start 2014 I am going back to my electronic kanban board on my computer and not using Trello. I already feel more organized and less stressed since I switched back.
I’m not dismissing Trello yet. I need to reflect as to why it wasn’t working for me. Was it something truly with Trello? Or did it have something to do with the enormous project I was on and I just couldn’t keep up with trying something new at the same time?
The important thing is to understand what was happening because maybe Trello can work for me and help me reduce my waste in maintaining my kanban board.
Learning is important and not just living with a change because we need to change. The change needs to be given a fair chance and if it is failing then you can’t be scared to change back if necessary.
Does anyone else have any experiences with a change that totally failed?
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.
Lean manufacturing seeks out and eliminates waste wherever it can be found. One process that can be overlooked in a manufacturing business is the very end, where products are stacked on pallets, wrapped and shipped out. What follows are a number of ways you can reduce wasted time, effort and money by finding efficiencies in your pallet packing processes.
Material handling and lean manufacturing go hand-in-hand. Without efficient material handling processes, factories and warehouses can’t fully integrate lean manufacturing into their operations.
If you want to increase production time and reduce waste in your manufacturing business, take lean material handling practices seriously. These suggestions should inspire you to make changes in your warehouse operations.
Reduce mistakes, eliminate waste
The most basic principle of lean manufacturing is eliminating waste — wasted time, inventory, movements or processes. Your production systems should be so efficient that employees know exactly what to do with each part, how to do it and when to do it.
It’s important to remember that working faster doesn’t always mean working more efficiently. Take the time to figure out the simplest method of doing something and make that the standard of operation. Ensure that all processes are scheduled to eliminate lag time between work stations; workers shouldn’t have to wait on needed parts, and materials should be worked on immediately.
Improve efficiency with standardized routes
Material handling routes can either make or break a production line. Standardized material handling routes ensure that the appropriate parts reach their destinations on time, that there are no waiting times and that production runs smoothly. Employ standardized schedules in these areas for an efficient material handling route:
- Deliver all components on time. This is achieved by setting up kanbans (signposts or billboards) at predetermined locations so that material handlers know exactly which components to deliver to specific work areas. Each component retrieval cycle should take the same amount of time.
- Use the right equipment to transport components. The weight and amount of components being transported should determine the kind of equipment needed to safely and quickly move them to the designated area.
- Set up even pulls. The amount of finished goods pulled throughout the day should be enough for each employee to manage throughout the duration of his shift, without lag time or being overwhelmed.
Invest in necessary equipment
Using the right material handling equipment to transport and store inventory increases available space and improves production time. For instance, using forklifts to carry multiple heavy items — instead of using dollies to carry a few items at a time — is safer for employees and moves inventory from point A to point B quickly.
Automated storage systems aren’t exactly necessary, but they do accurately track inventory and allow employees to quickly find necessary parts. With these systems, employees input the materials they need into the storage system, and it automatically retrieves the item, without wasted time searching each shelf.
Accurately track material handling costs
Most — if not all — pricing methods in manufacturing are estimated based on actual production time and overhead. In order to get an accurate amount of time spent on an area of production, estimators must frequently communicate with employees and managers to find out where inefficiencies exist and figure out how to eliminate them.
Systems like cost-estimating software track the efficiency and processes using existing manufacturing standards and data. This makes it possible for estimators and accountants to change their company’s processes by adding and modifying the software’s data to accommodate specific needs. Doing so provides accurate information regarding production schedules and pricing, so your company can provide clients with more accurate quotes.
Material handling processes have come a long way from the inefficient systems of decades past, but there’s always room for improvement in the production industry. Constantly examining and identifying flaws in the system is key to making your business a lean, mean manufacturing machine.
During some recent blog reading, I was spurred to think about a past situation when a company I worked for was buying new equipment and how WRONG this decision was.
I had been with the company for about four weeks when I heard about a capital expenditure my director had just approved to buy nine more of a patented machine. My company owned the patent. That would give us a total of 99 of these machines.
First question I asked, “Why are we buying more of these machines?”
The response was a typical one, “We they need more capacity because we are meeting the demand.”
I didn’t ask anymore questions at that point. I decided to go and see for myself. This was easy because the corporate offices we were in was part of the main manufacturing building. I had to walk about 100 yards.
During my observations I found two things:
- The overall OEE of the 90 machines was around 35-40% when it was running.
- At anytime I never saw more than 50 of the 90 machines running. This was because we never had enough people to run all the machines.
After a few hours of direct observation, it was clear there was no understanding of what was really going on.
First, attack changeovers and downtime to get the OEE of the machine up to the 75% range.
Second, why buy more machines if we can’t staff them?!
By my calculations, if the OEE was raised to the 75% range, not only would we not have to buy more machines we could get ride of about 20-25 machines we already had. That would mean our current staffing would be pretty close to what we needed.
I presented this to my new boss and the director, but by this time it was too late. The money had been cut and were pretty much crated and on the road to our facility.
This is why companies should question any new capital expenditures. Companies should be maintaining and using what they have first. The OEE should be at least 70% if not higher before considering adding more capacity through spending.
Do not make any decisions about capital expenditures until the current state is thoroughly understood. The best way to do that is to go and see for yourself.
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.
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!