Blog Archives

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.

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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

Best of Beyond Lean in 2012

I was looking at the Top 10 posts for 2012 and noticed that only 2 posts from 2012 made the Top 10.  Both posts were from earlier in the year.  I finally realized that a post from about May on in the year has very little chance to overcome posts that have a 5 month or more head start on gaining views.

I decided to highlight 5 of the most popular posts written in 2012.  Then in January I will post the Top 10 posts for the year.

Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!!!!

5.  Misinterpretations of Lean vs. Six Sigma (April 2012) – How Six Sigma and Lean can be misrepresented in what their purpose is.

4.  Strategy A3 Downloadable Template (April 2012) – This is the post about the new downloadable template to help with strategy discussions.

3.  Visuals Used in the Office (October 2012) – A couple of visual management examples from the transactional workplace.

2.  True Mentoring (May 2012) – This is my take on true mentoring versus fake mentoring that goes on in business today.

1.  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.

Have a Happy New Year!!!!

Blog Carnival Annual Roundup 2012 – Lean Blitz

At the end of the year, John Hunter does a great job of facilitating an annual roundup of business and lean blogs at Curious Cat Management.  The roundup is a review of blogs by other bloggers.  This year I have the honor of participating in the Blog Carnival Annual Roundup.

Lean_Blitz_logo

A blog that I discovered this year was Lean Blitz written by Chad Walters.  Chad is a student of the Toyota Principles and he does a great job of explaining each principle in a separate blog post.  Each post has an example of the principle that can be seen in everyday life.  If you are not familiar with the Toyota Principles I would suggest checking out Chad’s posts on the all 14 Toyota Principles.

Chad uses his business background to write about lean in business like the overproduction Domino’s Pizza has in their stores with all the pre-built pizza boxes.  He also points out how Domino’s can use standardized work toe fold the boxes in the most efficient way like the worker in the TV advertisement.

Chad also shows how the Toyota Principles can help small businesses in a practical way.

A unique perspective that Chad brings is his experience in working with professional sports teams and organizations.  He does a great job of relating the Toyota Principles to happenings in the sporting world.  The Miami Marlins inability to think long-term in order to achieve their goals is a fantastic post about Toyota Principle #1.

Being a very large St. Louis Cardinals fan, I really enjoyed the post about the filth at Wrigley Field (home of the Chicago Cubs).  Chad uses data sited from studies and then relates it to having a good 5S program in place and using visual management.  The morale increases everyone is happier.  Is this the reason the Cubs can’t win?

Chad talks about other lean concepts such as long lead times and how sporting organizations are losing revenue due to long lead times.  Texas A&M got off to a great start in football this past season and their quarterback, Johnny Manziel played well enough to be in the discussion as a Heisman finalist as the best college football player.  The university had long lead times on the jerseys for Manziel and ended up leaving a lot of cash on the table and fans unhappy when they couldn’t get one.

Chad has created a unique blog at Lean Blitz.  It is a fun and different way to demonstrate lean principles in action in any environment.

Guest Post: The Role of Protection in Preventing Injuries

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.

Many businesses, factories and corporations are picking up on lean manufacturing processes. Lean manufacturing focuses on cutting waste and other unnecessary parts of production to efficiently build a product that is focused on providing value to customers. This involves looking at a product from the consumer’s perspective and removing anything that is not necessary for a good user experience.

Overall, lean manufacturing is designed to save money while still delivering a valuable final product. However, it is very important to note the difference between lean manufacturing and “cutting corners.” Lean process promotes removal of waste for the sake of efficiency; it does not promote the cutting of vital parts of production. It could be argued that the most vital part of any production line is safety. Good safety ensures the health and well being of factory workers and saves manufacturers money in the long run by preventing injuries. With a necessary investment upfront, good safety measures can become a central part of any lean operation.

Innovations

Technology continues to advance, which not only makes the work done within factories easier, but also allows factories to be safer places for employees to work. Certainly, robotics has made production quicker and safer, as robots can complete jobs that may be dangerous to humans. Protecting those human employees has become easier, as well. New developments in the equipment employees wear allow them to be kept safer on the job while improving functionality. Safety goggles are becoming increasingly stronger while still allowing clarity, and flame retardant suits are continuing to evolve in safety standards. While these innovative technologies evolve, they are not in all cases becoming more expensive. In fact, new technologies can sometimes come in the form of cheaper materials, providing greater safety at a lower price point.

Prevention

Of course, preventive measures and practices play a significant role in making a work environment safer. Having protective equipment onsite at all times is necessary to providing safety. To keep with lean practices, it may be necessary to establish a vendor-managed inventory system so that you never run out of any protective equipment you require. Once a vendor establishes the inventory system, you can implement lean 5S tactics—Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain—to keep everything in proper order. Using 5S to establish a good inventory system provides safer environments by preventing clutter and saves employees time in their search. That said, properly training employees on where to get the protective equipment and how to properly use it is also important.

Design

Lean processes put an emphasis on the streamlined design of a plant. Given the number of specific machines and other tools needed to complete projects, factories and plants can easily become cluttered and poorly designed. As employees need to move through other parts of a plant in order to complete their jobs, they are increasing the likelihood of injury. By creating a smooth transition from one piece of a job to the next and organizing each area, employees are less likely to run into hazards when on the job.

Do you have your own safety guidelines that also work to help your bottom line? Do you have questions about implementing cost-effective protection and prevention measures? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

Guest Post: My First Kaizen Event

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.

As an inspector at the end of a screen printing process, I’m was in charge of making sure we didn’t ship bad products. I had always enjoyed my job, but after taking part in a kaizen event I went home less tired and made fewer mistakes, ultimately making the customers happier and saving my employer money. Best of all, it felt like I actually made a difference.

Five days of improvement

We started with a training day. Jose, our Lean Director, asked six of us to meet in a conference room: Maria from engineering, A’isha from purchasing, Pete the controller, Ted from maintenance and Gerry, who ran the press that sent me finished parts.

Jose explained that a kaizen event is a concentrated five day effort to improve a factory process. A’isha said she didn’t know anything about the factory, but Jose said the point was to get new ideas from people who didn’t know the area. He called this being outside looking in.

Once we understood our goal – to improve my inspection operation – Jose had us make a plan. We decided to spend our first day gathering data. Then we’d go to the inspection area, ask questions and capture our ideas on flipcharts. At the end of day two, we’d put together a list of the ideas we wanted to try, then we’d implement as many as possible.

As-Is data

Between us we found out how many customer complaints came in each month, how many pieces were scrapped, the number of bad parts caught and our delivery performance. None of them were very good.

Generating ideas

Gerry and I showed the team how we did things on the press line, then people asked questions and made suggestions. Pretty quickly we’d filled a whole flipchart pad!

Back in the conference room we stuck the pages on the walls and made a list of the changes we could make. The quick and easy ideas we tried straight away; Maria worked on the harder ones with Ted.

We used the 5S system to arrange my tools on a shadow board so I knew where to find everything and to see if anything was missing. We labeled everything and cleaned up the area so was a nicer place to work.

One thing I asked for was to raise the inspection table. As it was, I had to bend over, which made my back ache, and I was putting a shadow over the piece I was looking at. Ted made the change in a couple of hours, and it makes such a difference!

Ted also installed a track lighting system over the top of the bench. This was really clever because it gave me the ability to vary the light, which helped me find the defects much more easily.

Gerry suggested I turn on a light whenever I find a defect. This would be his signal to stop the press and he’d be able to fix the problem right away. Jose called this an andon light.

The presentation

When we’d finished, Jose had us present everything to management. I was worried our ideas were too simple but they seemed impressed. Arnie, the Quality Manager, did say though that the proof would be in the numbers.

Afterwards

A month later we got new data and compared it with our “As-is” numbers. Complaints were down, we were scrapping almost nothing, I was finding more defects and our delivery performance was up.

Little did I know that Jose was so impressed with my performance on the kaizen team that he would ask me three months later to consider joining him as the Lean Coordinator in the company’s transformation process. I took his recommendation to apply for the position when it opened up and soon began my own transformation process into becoming a student of The Toyota Way.

Stay tuned to learn more about my personal journey in lean manufacturing!

Guest Post: 5S-ing: The First Step to Safety

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.

We are always looking for ways to reduce costs and increase productivity. Maybe it’s time to grab a broom and clean up our act! The 5S methodology is one way to organize your facilities to get the most out of your space. Japanese manufacturing created this method to reduce shop floor and manufacturing accidents and waste, and increase productivity.

The five points on which 5S focuses are:

  • Sort
  • Set in Order
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

While it’s obvious to most that an organized environment is a “better” environment, in practice, we don’t do this very often. The 5S method is based on the simple premise that an organized (shop floor, factory, construction site, etc.):

  • is more productive
  • is safer
  • meets deadlines
  • generates fewer defects
  • is less chaotic

Each of the 5S steps contributes to improving the safety and productivity of the physical environment. So grab your broom and trash can and let’s get started!

Keep Only What You Need – Discard the Rest (Sort)

This is the opposite of the “pack rat” who saves everything because “we might need it some day.” The result is a shop floor or warehouse cluttered with items you can’t use and are just taking up space. We waste time looking for what we need in the middle of all the junk we’ve accumulated. Boxes of lose parts sit in the aisle and block exits creating safety hazards. Prioritize all that stuff. Keep what you need and get rid of the rest.

Create a Home for Everything (Set in Order)

Once the clutter is gone, put everything in its own place, mark it properly and document where it is. We take care to put customer products in their proper bins with the correct SKU, but tools, equipment and supplies don’t get the same attention. Hardware retailers often set up their inventory based on the type of equipment the user is looking for; this type of methodology also carries over to the workplace so that workers know or can learn where equipment is at all time. Every time someone has to search for something because it’s not in the right place is lost productivity. The new guy is always asking where something is!

Keep Things Clean (Shine)

Work and storage areas all need to be clean. It’s not just cosmetic; things work better when they’re clean and well maintained. While it may be the last thing employees do at the end of the day, keeping things clean is still a priority. Leaks and spills can be dangerous and create a safety hazard. Create a standard of cleanliness for an area and make sure it gets that treatment everyday.

Create Repeatable Processes (Standardize)

As your efforts to implement 5S produce results, document this and create procedures to be followed each shift to keep things that way. Be as organized with your documentation as you were with your shop floor/warehouse. Your procedure manual puts the broom in the hands of your employees to do their part.

Creating discipline in the work place means giving your employees the same procedures, same tools and same work spaces in which to be productive. Productivity is easier to measure when everyone is working from the same page. Make sure that page is clear to everyone!

Evaluate and Make Needed Changes (Sustain)

A key to the 5S methodology working is continual evaluation and improvement. Where are there still code violations, employee safety hazards or other impacts to productivity? Change what’s not working and modify what is working to make it work better. There are many procedure manuals just sitting on the shelf collecting dust because they are outdated. Don’t let yours join the clutter!

Using the 5S method means taking a few simple steps to get the most out of what you already have. Create a leaner environment in which employees are safer and more productive. The broom is in your hands!

Toyota Just Really Good Problem Solvers

Through the years of learning and implementing lean, I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from Toyota.  At first, it is easy to get really excited about the tools (kanban, 5S, flow) and how well they use them. After the initial excitement the understanding of how to use the tool with people systems starts to gain clarity.  This is great, but it is still what is best for Toyota and not necessarily what is best for someone else.

Dig deep enough and what Toyota is really good at is problem solving.  Toyota really understands where they are and where they want to go and develop a countermeasure that helps them close that gap.  Toyota looks at both the technical and human side of the system when solving the problem.

Toyota didn’t develop 5S to straighten the place up.  They realized by putting things in a designated place they could see and understand the problems they were having at a glance.  This allows them to address the problems quickly.

Kanban was not put in place to reduce inventory.  Toyota had a problem of not enough cash or space for lots of inventory, but wanted to be able to have enough inventory on hand to build what the customer wanted when they wanted it and also make visible any problems in flow they were having.  The kanban was a countermeasure for this.

Years later others have the ability to learn from Toyota’s lessons.  Instead of understanding the problem trying to be resolved, other companies just copy the solution from Toyota without understanding why or if it fits their needs.

Organizations need to become really good problem solvers and if needed learn from Toyota’s lessons, not copy them.

LEGO Showing Lean Like Behaviors

A few weeks ago, Ultimate Factories on National Geographic premiered an episode about LEGO.  My son is a HUGE LEGO fan and seems to have almost the whole LEGO City setup.  So this episode really caught our attention.

My son loved watching the artist/builders design the new Police Station and seeing all the sets being made in the factory.  What caught my attention were the things that seemed lean like.

Here is the full episode.  It is 45 minutes long.  Below are some highlights I picked out with time markers as to where they are at in the video.

(1:15 – 4:10 in video) Right off the bat, the show describes how the artist/builders go about designing a product.  The product manager takes his team out to real life sites of what they want to build to study them.  They look at what the site has and needs to feel authentic.  It is truly direct observation of what the team wants to build.

(6:40 – 10:00 in video) LEGO takes full advantage of standardization as much as possible.  The Police Station turned out to be a 700+ piece set, but none of the pieces are new and require tooling to be made.  Because the designers were able to build the Police Station out of existing pieces they were able to use that budget to design a police dog that is brand new adding to the experience.  My lean lens sees this as cost management in order to reinvest in innovation.  The innovation leads to a better experience and more revenue.

(36:12 – 36:20 in vide0) The video does not talk about 5S but there is some evidence of it.  In this clip, you can see the tape outlines on the floor for the staging of finished product.

(36:20 – 38:10 in video) In the 1990s, LEGO went through a period when sales were declining.  LEGO decided to go and see why this was happening.  They discovered their products were not meeting the needs of the adult customer, which is 50% of their market.  People were hacking the Mindstorm systems and creating bigger sculptures with the robotics.  They didn’t try to shut the hackers down.  LEGO embraced them and created new products.  They still invite customers to come in and help with designs.  They are focusing on customers needs.  Everything starts with the customer.

These are some of the quick examples I picked out.  If you notice, nothing I saw focused on lean manufacturing although I believe I saw some lean like things in manufacturing and distribution too.

I would highly recommend watching the full video because it touches on every aspect of business.   From customer focus to product development to manufacturing to logistics.  It is very complete.  If you are a LEGO fan, this video is a must see.

In the comments below, tell me what you saw from a lean perspective.  What did I miss?

Necessity Can Lead To Action And Change

No matter how hard people try they can not build a strong enough case to create change.  Sometimes it just has to come from within.  Situations can arise that cause people to take action and make changes.  People trying to drive change must be patient and when the opportunity comes then take full advantage of it.

Sometimes the language of lean can frustrate people and cause people not to want to participate.  Then a situation comes up making it necessary to change.  This would be a good time to help the person but do it without using the lean language and continue to support the new actions.

For instance, you may have been trying to get someone to understand 5S, but they don’t want to hear about sort, straighten, shine, set, and standardize.  One day the person is so frustrated with the work area they decide to clean it up.  When doing so they ask themselves questions like, “How often do I use this?” and “Do I need this much of this?”

These are all questions we would ask in relation to 5S, but if you tell the person “See you are doing 5S.” you can shut them down immediately.  Keep encouraging them without using any of the 5S language and ask more questions that will help them with their goal.

The objective of lean implementers is not to get everyone to speak lean but to act with lean principles and behaviors in mind.  In order to do this, sometimes patience is needed.  Wait for the opportunity that will drive the person to take action and create change.  When that happens take full advantage of it to reinforce the behaviors.