Blog Archives

Guest Post: Lean Logistics: Going Lean is Going Green

Danielle M.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 logistics offer a systematic way of managing logistics from when the order is placed until it arrives on a customer’s doorstep. They include a highly detailed organizational approach to managing logistics while cutting out the fat of inventory, fuel costs and middle-man handling. However, there are challenges to this approach to logistics of real world operations with factors, such as natural disasters, social chaos and unpredictable markets, that come into play. Yet companies and technologies have put lean logistics concepts into action with great results.

Challenges in a Lean Transportation System

The transportation industry is expected to see drastic changes in the near future, with the implementation of natural gas and EOBRs. However, according to the lean system of logistics, these changes are vital to the continual operation of the trucking industry. Robert Martichenko, the CEO of the LeanCor Supply Chain Group, notes that transportation is a necessary evil. He states that looking at transportation costs as a separate entity is a fruitless effort. Instead, consider the total logistics cost, which includes purchasing, transporting, warehousing and ordering costs. Martichenko continues by identifying five guiding principles associated with lean transportation including strategy, waste, performance, cost structure and daily event management. For example, by shipping according to customer’s demand, rather than storing products in warehouses until they are requested as does Amazon, lean logistics reduces the amount of work associated with inventory control and warehousing.

Lean Technology

While most in management consider lean logistics in conjunction with manufacturing, technology used for these companies also incorporate lean concepts. For example, the supply and demand giant Amazon has created Amazon Web Services that uses cloud computing to offer infrastructure investment (IT) services and application at a low cost. More importantly, cloud computing allows even the smallest of businesses to create customizable and full-service IT departments using cloud storage and capacity. This cuts out the extra cost associated with hiring and managing an entire IT department in-house. Businesses using cloud computing can purchase only what services they need, such as secure large-scale document housing, temporarily increased bandwidth and expansion of servers. Development and implementation of applications is also streamlined when using cloud services, which allows businesses to reduce the cost and time associated with customizing technology associated with logistics management.

Green and Lean Businesses

Going green for many in the logistics industry is an overwhelming process. Combined with the aspect of keeping with lean logistics, it can seem like an impossible task. However, green and lean are actually very similar, as lean logistics reduces the ecological footprint while streamlining the logistics process. One website focused on operations research with a green and lean foundation is GreenOR. This site offers suggestions for creating greener logistics, such as through energy efficiency, green supply chains, waste flow and renewable energy. For example, through the use a fleet management system such as those offered by Omnitracs, a trucking management team and its drivers are capable of cutting down on fuel costs by creating more efficient routes and by streamlining driving habits. The lean method is evident throughout the use of sustainable logistics methods, such as with the reduction of energy use and the establishment of green supply chains that reduce the amount of waste in the system.

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Guest Post: Eliminating TIMWOOD

blogphotoToday’s post is from Tony Ferraro, on behalf of Creative Safety Supply based in Portland, OR (www.creativesafetysupply.com). Tony strives to provide helpful information to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. His knowledge base focuses primarily on practices such as 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset. Tony believes in being proactive and that for positive change to happen, we must be willing to be transparent and actively seek out areas in need of improvement. An organized, safe, and well-planned work space leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier employees.

Unfortunately, waste is something that is all around us. However, even though waste is common it does not make it any more acceptable. When businesses implement lean tactics in order to enhance productivity and efficiency, the elimination of waste is usually one of the biggest challenges, yet offers the highest rewards when done effectively. The elimination of TIMWOOD can help save your business time and money, while also helping to add value and increase customer satisfaction. When we mention eliminating TIMWOOD, we are not talking about eliminating a particular employee or person. Instead, the mnemonic TIMWOOD refers to the elimination of seven different wastes. When it comes to productivity, the sad truth is that only about 5% of employee work time each day is spent on value added tasks that actually benefit the customer. However, knowing that statistic, it leaves many of us wondering “What are employees doing with the other 95% of daily work time?” Some may insist the rest of the time is spent on waste or tasks that essentially add no value to customer satisfaction. In order to combat unwanted losses in productivity and waste, we must first identify and understand TIMWOOD and how the elimination of the seven wastes can make a difference.

What Does TIMWOOD Stand For?

Many people choose to use mnemonics in order to help them quickly and easily identify multiple items. The mnemonic TIMWOOD is also used for that purpose. Let’s take a look at each letter and how it contributes towards the elimination of waste.

  • T- Transport: Even though product transportation is virtually unavoidable, the time and distance are both controlled variables. Many times products are moved multiple times before reaching their final destinations. However, each time a product is moved it runs the risk of being lost or damaged which in turn eliminates value.
  • I – Inventory: When working towards lean, it is important to avoid an abundance unused and unsold inventory that just sits around on shelves or in storage. Whether the inventory is of parts, partially finished products, or finished items, the more inventory there is, the higher the loss in value since funds are tied up in unsold goods.
  • M – Movement: This waste is similar to transportation waste, but instead of focusing on the loss of value with products in transport, this waste focuses on transportation or movement equipment. When trucks, hauling vehicles, and other movement devices are used for unnecessary long amounts of time and for unneeded tasks the value goes down while the opportunity for damage increases.
  • W – Waiting and Delays: When products are sitting in limbo, somewhere between the start and finish of production they are not adding value to the business and are thus creating waste.
  • O – Overproduction: The waste of overproduction has been considered one of the worst wastes. Money is wasted because businesses must pay employees to manufacture the parts, find places to store them, inventory them, etc. All of these are redundant costs that could be avoided.
  • O – Over Processing: Over Processing basically means to do more to a product than technically needed, and if a product is not 100% perfect it is rejected and therefore wasted. Even though businesses aim to provide customers with high quality products that operate as intended, small imperfections that would not impede function, use, or aesthetics should not be automatically disposed of and reworked.
  • D – Defects: Defects do not add value. When products are created with a defect that hampers the function they must be reworked and remanufactured. This causes a waste in production, materials, and other resources such as electricity and machine wear and tear.

Waste is Avoidable!

With the right amount of dedication and drive, anyone can succeed with the elimination of waste. However, the first step is to identify the areas of waste so tactics can be implemented to revamp processes and practices to help reduce waste and start improving productivity. The best part is that any business can benefit from waste removal; TIMWOOD is not geared only towards industrial or manufacturing businesses as it can also be effectively implemented in nearly any work environment.

Guest Post: NBA and Jon Spoelstra

This week is Lean series week at Beyond Lean.  The blog posts will center around strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri).  Justin Tomac, Chad Walters, Karen Wilhelm and Tony Ferraro will be guest blogging.  This will give you different perspectives from on strategy deployment all right here at Beyond Lean.

Chad_WaltersToday’s post is from Chad Walters.  Chad is a Lean consultant and owner of Lean Blitz Consulting in Augusta, Georgia, a firm focused on continuous improvement for small businesses and sports organizations. He has run projects for the Atlanta Braves, the Salvation Army, Automatic Data Processing (ADP), Eaton Corporation, The Dannon Company, and the South Bend Silver Hawks among other companies. He has been practicing Lean and continuous improvement for over eight years, is a Six Sigma Black Belt certified by the American Society for Quality, and received his MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, where he was a member of the Kelley MBA Sports & Entertainment Academy.  You can follow Chad on Twitter @LeanBlitz.

One of the great features of genuine hoshin thinking is focusing on the future and big picture goals while moving away from some of the negative focus on resource constraints. With hoshin kanri, we set a destination, and based on our current location determine the proper path to follow to achieve our destination. Worrying about what we’re not allowed to do is what keeps us from reaching for what is genuinely possible to achieve.

While I have been labeled a “devotee of lean management” in a recent article by a baseball writer (and I most definitely am) I absolutely love creative marketing. One of my favorite and most influential books I’ve read is Marketing Outrageously by Jon Spoelstra. He is the former President of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets and General Manager of the Portland Trail Blazers among other influential positions, but he is a marketing savant when it comes to driving revenue growth through creative marketing.

The following is a passage from Marketing Outrageously that has stuck with me ever since I first read the pages. Spoelstra shows that a top-down hoshin-like “What’s it gonna take to do this?” approach can have an energizing effect on a team.

~~~~~

In the late 1980s I was general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. Even though I didn’t have the authority to draft or trade players I could call meetings with those who did. I assembled the coaches and plaer personnel managers and asked the question, “What’s it gonna take to win the championship this year?”

Logically, it was a foolish question. This was the era when Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were leading the Los Angeles Lakers to regular championships. When the Lakers didn’t win, Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics did. Lining up to cut in on the Lakers and Celtics were Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. So how stupid was my question, “What’s it going to take to win the NBA championship this year?

On paper we didn’t have a chance; in our minds, less than no chance. We were, however, a pretty good team. We had won fifty-three games the year before. Considering all this, I wanted us to think beyond what we had.

The player personnel people took the question as an insult. I could hear them thinking, “Who does this marketing guy think he is?” They fumed and grumbled for a while.

I asked the question again. “What’s it going to take to win a championship this year?”

Silence. Finally, John Wetzel, an assistant coach, said, “One thing we need to do is really improve our outside shooting. We need some guy that can come off the bench and really fill it up.”

Two shooters,” said Rick Adelman, another assistant. “When we get to the playoffs, we can’t run our fast break as much, and the middle gets clogged up. We need two reliable shooters coming off the bench.”

We talked for two hours. Head coach Mike Shuler was enthusiastic, salivating over the thought of somehow acquiring two bona fide outside shooters. We made a list of players who might be available. We came away from the meeting with assignments for each of us to start making inquiries with other teams.

Later, Rick Adelman told me, “I’ve been in a lot of player personnel meetings over the years, and this was the best. We actually talked about winning a championship and what that would take.”

Did I think we had a chance to win the championship this year? Not really. But I knew we had no chance to improve unless we set the target higher than what was comfortable.

~~~~~

Sports teams that are a mish-mash of talented players that aren’t cohesive or working together generally don’t win championships. Companies don’t consistently “luck into success” – it takes an overarching end goal and a strategic plan to get there.

So why did this meeting change the mindset of the franchise? The leader set a high goal to achieve – win a championship – and instead of saying “now go do it” to his subordinates he asked what does the team need in order to achieve it? He didn’t talk about constraints or resources, he just wanted to know what was needed in order to create a championship team.

Now that the team’s genuine needs for winning a championship were identified, the load fell on everyone’s shoulders to procure those resources, whether it was outside shooters or additional money or anything else. However, the organization was aligned to this one goal and clearly it drove motivation because all were now pulling in the same direction. If they needed to eliminate resource constraints by finding more money, they would hire more ticket sellers.

By using a hoshin kanri approach the focus for the Portland Trail Blazers changed from “here’s why we can’t” to “What is it going to take?”

Guest Post: Tracing the evolution of strategy deployment

This week is Lean series week at Beyond Lean.  The blog posts will center around strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri).  Justin Tomac, Chad Walters, Karen Wilhelm and Tony Ferraro will be guest blogging.  This will give you different perspectives from on strategy deployment all right here at Beyond Lean.

kw-prof-dec2011-3qtr-tanToday’s post is from Karen Wilhelm.  Karen has inspired me to connect and learn more through blogging.  It has been great communicating with Karen over the last few years.  Her insights are always enlightening.  This is part one of a two part series.  The second part will post on Karen’s blog.

Part One: Japanese manufacturing leaders listen to Dr. Juran

As hoshin kanri — also called policy or strategy deployment — becomes better understood through Matt’s blog series, I thought I’d trace some of its roots, as described in some key publications. As with all things lean, hoshin kanri can mean many things to many people.  Three key figures who brought hoshin kanri to light saw it from different perspectives too.

In 1951, for example, Dr. Joseph Juran gave a talk at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF, 1951) — formerly the Army War College — to engineers involved in procurement of high-precision parts for armaments. Titled “Quality Control and Inspection,” the lecture focused on product quality characteristics and the use of statistical quality control (SQC). He talked about how assuring quality in product design and manufacturing processes instead of inspecting and rejecting parts that did not meet specs. In this particular talk, Juran only fleetingly touched upon cross-functional communication, continuous improvement, and other critical concepts included in hoshin kanri.

As many of you know, around the same time, Dr. Juran (as well as W. Edwards Deming) was speaking to groups of Japanese manufacturers who were more interested in his quality message than those in the U.S. or Europe, Toyota began sending key managers to quality seminars as early as 1949. Along with other seminars, Dr. Juran was asked to hold a special one for the industrial leadership of Japan: 70 presidents of Japanese companies.

Dr_Juran_smallJuran never used the words hoshin kanri, but from the 1950s on, he described an integrated plan for integrating quality into the company’s management system (Juran, 1988). A company taking this path would be developing a quality strategy understood and carried out at every level of the company. Communication and coordination across functional departments would be effective. Upper management would understand and
perform the tasks needed to make the quality strategy take root.

Juran called the highest level of guiding and planning the strategy Total Quality Management (TQM) or sometimes Strategic Quality Management (SQM). Far beyond the control and inspection of product or service quality, these approaches encompass customer demand, competition, and feedback loops. They advocate creating processes to produce high quality products at a reasonable cost. Juran talked about quality deployment as part of the overall strategic plan, mostly with regard to products and their physical characteristics. Although he was sticking to quality deployment, not the deployment of a company’s entire business system, these concepts are hallmarks of hoshin kanri.

Part Two of Tracing the evolution of strategy deployment will be published in Karen
Wilhelm’s Lean Reflections blog.
References

Joseph Juran, Quality Control and Inspection, Publication L51-94, Industrial
College of the Armed Forces. 1951.

Joseph Juran, Juran on Leadership for Quality: An Executive Handbook, The Free
Press, division of Macmillan. 1998.

Takahiro Fujimoto, The Evolution of a Manufacturing System at Toyota, Oxford
University Press. 1999.

Guest Post: Hoshin Planning: Clear Business Objectives Help Guide Success

This week is Lean series week at Beyond Lean.  The blog posts will center around strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri).  Justin Tomac, Chad Walters, Karen Wilhelm and Tony Ferraro will be guest blogging.  This will give you different perspectives from on strategy deployment all right here at Beyond Lean.

blogphotoToday’s post is from Tony Ferraro, on behalf of Creative Safety Supply based in Portland, OR (www.creativesafetysupply.com). Tony strives to provide helpful information to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. His knowledge base focuses primarily on practices such as 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset. Tony believes in being proactive and that for positive change to happen, we must be willing to be transparent and actively seek out areas in need of improvement. An organized, safe, and well-planned work space leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier employees.

There are many businesses out there proposing new and creative ideas but somehow lack the guidance and direction to make a good product idea a successful reality. What is it that curbs these business ventures? Is it funding? Is it technology? Or is it a true sense of guidance and leadership? In most cases, the unfortunate truth is that a great product idea or truly unique business plot will flounder and fail without a strategic direction and strong force of leadership helping to guide business objectives. One of the ways to meet this need is to implement the principles of Hoshin Kanri or simply Hoshin Planning. Hoshin Planning is a Japanese term that basically means “strategic planning.” This type of planning strives to really involve all employees in the objectives and improvements within the organization. Top levels of management make it a priority to assure that that all employees feel involved and that they are working as one big team towards a common goal. With this mindset there are no winners or losers within the company, it is purely a team effort and everyone participates and is accountable to help in meeting the identified objectives. The need for continuous improvement is also a highly valued component in this type of planning.

Possible Hoshin Objectives

One of the first and most important steps within Hoshin Planning is to identify the areas in need of improvement, and since Hoshin Planning is about setting clear business objectives it is important identify which objectives are most valuable to the livelihood of the business. Some common continuous improvement objectives include: increasing production, improving current market share along with new market sales, reducing raw material costs and also reducing direct and indirect labor costs. The reason this step is so vital is because everything can’t be tackled at once, think of the analogy that the “big rocks” must be taken care of first in order to start focusing on the “little rocks.”

Organizing Objectives for Clear Measurement

Unfortunately, objectives are merely a list of far-fetched desires if they are not organized properly for action. Sure, a group of leaders can set aside some time to devise a list of company objectives and write them neatly upon a fancy sheet of paper. However, without a concrete plan to guide the objectives the objective planning session would be deemed useless, and the paper may even end up getting lost in someone’s briefcase only to stumble upon it again weeks later. Instead, once objectives are identified they need to be taken seriously and should be categorized and organized for efficiency. For example, once a group of leaders has clearly identified the objectives they would like to implement into the business, they could categorize them into four different types such as improvement projects, specific action projects, 3-5 goals, and annual objectives. By doing this, top company leaders as well as employees will be able to visualize the different objectives and goals and really understand the time frames behind them as well. Essentially this sets the stage for developing the approaches needed to help pursue the stated objectives and goals when moving on to the strategy development phase of Hoshin Planning.

Hoshin Planning is really a dynamic and multifaceted form of strategic planning which involves all areas of a business. However, in order to reach optimum effectiveness all staff should be on board and involved. With that said, and in conjunction with the right objectives, Hoshin Planning can be a huge asset to any business looking to improve overall company performance.

Guest Post: The Importance of a Quality Management System

Today’s post comes from Alice Rose.  Alice is a freelance copywriter working for QMS International plc, a business certification company specializing in ISO 9001 http://www.qmsuk.com/iso-9001.php.

As the recession hit many businesses began to think of the best ways to cope and short-term solutions such as cutting staffing levels and reducing marketing costs were some of the most popular. But, as time has progressed and consumers are still being very cautious with their spending, I want to touch on some other ways that you can try and beat the big squeeze.

What is a quality management system?

A Quality Management system is the processes, procedures, organizational structure and resources that come together to ensure that a business provides a consistent and reliable service. It emphasizes different principles within a business such as leadership, continual improvement, staff involvement and different approaches to decision making.

It’s all about the consumer

The first thing to remember is that if you provide a great product or a brilliant service to the consumer then they are going to keep coming back. One way to check that your company is running a high quality business is to put a quality management system into place. Quality management systems often incorporate a ‘customer service’ element to them, ensuring that there are procedures in place so customers can record a complaint which means that issues can be addressed and reduced in the future.

Manufacturing industry

If you are manufacturing a product there are certain steps that you can take to ensure that the final product will arrive with the consumer in a high quality state. This can start at the beginning of the production chain, in the factory for example. Simple tasks such as ensuring your workplace is clean will lead to the creation of a better final product. As the product progresses along the chain if simple manufacturing tasks are conducted in a more streamlined fashion the consumer is more likely to receive a high quality product – which will also lead to less waste on your part, reducing costs.

Service industry

The services industry is not immune to the economic downturn and there are simple changes that your company can take to ensure that the customers are still happy. One of the simplest ways to find out if you are providing a good service is by encouraging customer feedback – if you know where you are falling down it’s easier to pick yourself back up.

Setting an example

It is important that quality management systems are considered as a priority by business management who have the facility and knowledge to implement these systems and who, leading by example, will encourage greater productivity and performance across the board as well as locating new areas of the business for growth.

Guest Post: Business Leader Antics That Fail to Inspire

Patrick and Joyce Del Rosario are Filipino business and career bloggers. They work at Open Colleges, one of the pioneers of Online education in Australia and one of the leading providers of diploma of management and small business courses.

In every business there are defined leaders that help steer teams in the right direction. Problems arise when these leaders put antics before strategy and begin to conjure up different and detrimental ideas about how the business should be motivated to operate. These antics have the potential to change the course of project or company and can be either the success or the downfall of an organization.

If you are a leader, chances are you are aware of the tactics and strategies you use to keep your employees motivated. What you are likely unaware of is the true impact this can have on their motivation and work performance – that is until you get the end results and then it may be too late. Here are some of the top antics to avoid doing as a business leader.

  • Don’t treat employees like a number – Your employees are people. They come to work like you do and they have lives away from the office like you do too. Treating your employees like a number and pushing away their personal needs is a sure fire way to lose acceptance in your leadership skills and respect for your position.
  • Don’t forget your own mission statement – You may have sat down with your team to outline a mission for a project or for the company, but can you remember all of the components that went into drafting this important statement? As a leader, you must live and breathe this mission statement in all you do and all you motivate your employees to do. Not knowing it shows a lack of care on your part and your team will notice.
  • Don’t forget to encourage positive performance – Praise goes a lot ways, especially in the workplace. When you praise your employees, you inspire them to continue doing their best. When you recognize them for nothing but their downfalls, they will curl away from you for fear of more lashings and not have the motivation to do better.
  • Don’t leave your team behind – When you show up late and leave early every day you are sending a signal to your team that you have no care for your position or for their hard work. Instead, as a leader you should stick by their side as they tackle a difficult project or encourage them as they put in the extra effort it will take for your team to go from good to great.
  • Don’t look like a slob – Non-verbal cues are just as meaningful as what you say. When you show up dressed like you just rolled out of bed with stains on your shirt and your hair a mess, your employees will see your lack of care for your position before they hear it. Instead, wear clothing that you will be proud to be seen in. This will allow you to command respect instead of disgust.
  • Don’t blow off e-mail or voicemail responses – When a person takes the time to e-mail you or call you, they have spent a portion, albeit a small portion, of their time reaching out to connect. When you blow off this connection you essentially let the other person know that you have no respect for what they were calling to tell you leaving them feeling frustrated and pushed aside. This can be detrimental to team morale. To avoid it, keep current on your e-mails and do your best to call people back quickly.
  • Don’t make threats – Threats can come in the form of something as simple as telling someone that they could be easily replaced or by commenting about future performance reviews. If an employee needs a boost a better tactic is to encourage and mentor them to achieve their best.

As a boss, the way you act and speak has a profound impact on an office. Use these tips to help remember what not to do.

Guest Post: The Manufacturing Institute

Today’s guest post is written by The Manufacturing Institute, an independent charity in the UK. They deliver a wide range of high quality education, training and consultancy services to build operational excellence in manufacturing companies – whether its through innovative thinking, lean transformation or skills enhancement. They also deliver charitable campaigns such as Make It and Fab Lab which help to improve the image of manufacturing amongst young individuals and drive grassroots innovation. You can visit their website at www.manufacturinginstitue.co.uk.

Typically, I don’t have guest posts promoting a business or organization. This one I felt was a good fit because it is a non-profit organization focusing on developing manufacturing. It is UK based, but I think what they are doing could be used by other countries to help their manufacturing efforts as well.

Companies Can Inspire, Educate and Develop Their Workforce with the Manufacturing Institute

The manufacturing industry is one which obviously demands a strong work ethic from its members, with some tasks being extremely laborious and highly skilled. With dangerous machinery, long hours and a hazardous environment all playing their part in many areas of the sector – it is of paramount important for employers to find staff who are motivated, inspired and proactive.

Training Programmes

With this in mind, the Manufacturing Institute plays a key role as an independent charity established to aid this process via a system of courses and programmes. Their work has been instrumental for firms across the United Kingdom as they look to improve, inspire and appropriately educate their workforces. The comprehensive range of training programmes available build operational excellence by encouraging pragmatic thought process, lean transformation, skills enhancement, the improvement of process and leadership development.

Make It and Fab Lab

In addition to this the Manufacturing Institute promotes operational excellence through a number of charitable campaigns such as Make It and Fab Lab. These encourage skilled youngsters to help improve the image of manufacturing as a vocation and promote grassroots innovation.

Manufacturing Careers

The Manufacturing Institute website contains a wealth of information for any individuals interested in their work and training. Whether this is youngsters looking to get into manufacturing as a career or existing manufacturers wanting to develop their already existing skillsets – the videos, documents and content at http://www.manufacturinginstitute.co.uk will make an enthralling read. One such news item which has been gaining a lot of exposure of late is the Six Sigma Green Belt, a hands on course focused on eliminating waste and increasing efficiency across the whole operation and along the supply chain.

Shingo Model & Prize

TMI are also the only UK educational partner for the Shingo Model and Prize. This outfit provides manufacturing companies with a blueprint to achieve the best possible operational excellence and also promotes the drive lean transformation, going hand in hand with the wider Manufacturing Institute ethos.

Further background to the kinds of work undertaken at The Manufacturing Institute can also be followed via the site’s comprehensive news section. This is updated on a regular basis with up to date news on the goings on at the charity as well as wider news in the manufacturing industry across the United Kingdom. Manufacturing enthusiasts can also subscribe to the TMI newsletter to ensure they do not miss a single news item.

This article was written on behalf of independent charity The Manufacturing Institute from the UK.

Poll Results – Thanks for the Feedback

I want to thank everyone who participated in the polls about a month ago.  The information helped me learn more about who is reading the blog and what topics are preferred in order to drive to a higher satisfaction rate of the readers.

Who is reading Beyond Lean?

  1. Mid-Level Managers = 40%
  2. Senior Level Managers = 20%
  3. Consultants = 20%

I suspected this may be the case.  Part of the reason, I am a mid-level manager so my natural perspective is that of a mid-level manager.  It is great to see so many senior level managers reading the blog also.  What encouraged me the most was seeing the fourth largest group to read the blog was direct line employees (17%).  I try to write so it relates to all levels and positions.  Seeing the wide spectrum of positions reading Beyond Lean signals that we are relating to a variety of people well.

What features/topics are favorites?

  1. Posts on Principles/Concepts/Tools = 28%
  2. Posts by Matt and Joe = 25%
  3. Lean Series Week = 14%

Seeing the lean series week get a good response is encouraging because it was something we added this year.  It seems it has been a success.

Do people enjoy the posts on principles/concepts/tools because the posts help the reader address something they are working on and how to apply it?  I hope that is at least part of the reason.  We strive to make the posts applicable and easy to relate to.

The feedback does not mean we will stop posting topics and features that rated low.  The feedback allows us to focus our content.

If you have any other feedback on how to improve the content, please leave a comment.

 

Saving time: How Visual Management Benefits Knowledge Work

Today’s guest post was written by David M. Kasprzak.  David has worked with all levels of management in large commercial organizations and government agencies on budget development, project planning & performance measurement. Over the course of his career, he has realized that it is the qualitative elements of work that determine success or failure.  Based on this realization, he began to explore the principles of Operational Excellence and Lean process improvement, and apply those concepts to other areas of both work and life.  In 2010, David created the My Flexible Pencil blog to share his ideas on these topics.

Time, as we’re all well aware, is our most precious resource.  When it is gone – it is gone for good.  It doesn’t change form or turn into some other less complicated element – it is simply gone.  When it is used well, we can say that our time was turned into some useful activity or tangible product.  When it is wasted, the shame is greatest, since the time is gone for good and nothing of value was created to take its place.  Yet, for some reason, wasting time seems to be, by-and-large, perfectly okay.

Think of this: What if you hired a group of people to plan, coordinate, and execute taking thousands of dollars from people.  The group you hired became so adept at it that they were able to take that money from people who were so duped they gave it willingly.  What’s more, those who took the money then lit it on fire.

Doing such a thing is, of course, both bizarre and criminal.  However, when we set hapless managers into an organization where they have little ability or willingness to work on the business and not just work in the business, time is taken from people at every turn without so much as an afterthought.  Boring, useless, meaningless drudgery that simply wastes time is so frequently the norm that it is not just tolerated, but expected.

How can this tremendous waste of time be prevented?  Take a look at the typical office environment and you’ll see an immediate answer.  Or, rather, you won’t see it – because you can’t see much of anything.  Most of the workers and, therefore, the work are both hidden behind rows and rows of neutral-colored cubicles.  While some of those workers are, indeed, wasting time by delving into any number of distractions while hunkered down in their fabric-covered boxes, this is not the norm in most places.  The greater shame is that the way they are going about their genuine work is entirely out of the line-of-sight of anyone who is trying to see the work progress through the organizations.

While the completely open office environment isn’t the answer, either (it’s much too distracting and too noisy for people to concentrate), there is a need to invoke some visual controls in the office environment too.  How is that new software development project progressing?  Is there a clear, visual roadmap that lays out the steps the project must go through and status boards to communicate progress?  How do you know who is working on what – and not just as a general assignment, but in terms of who is working on what for how long right now?  How do you know when that person is stuck, waiting on some input?  What’s the status of that input?

In most places the answer requires sending emails, calling meetings, or – heaven forbid – getting up and going over to talk to someone.  All of which leads to information standing still or, at best, travelling much too slowly.  If, however, more visual cues were invoked so that information was shared more openly, more quickly, and with greater appreciation of the need for immediate, intuitive understanding of how work is progressing (or not) – information would transfer faster.  Instead, things are typically thrown into a powerpoint presentation that is shared in a meeting once a week – which is the equivalent of a factory floor batch-and-queue process that builds up a bunch of widgets only to release them to the cell once a week – whether the cell is ready for the batch or not.

Committing to visual controls information moves faster.  The greater the velocity of information exchange, the greater the awareness of potential problems and ability to take action before those problems materialize.  By adopting better visual controls, knowledge work environments can greatly increase both the amount and velocity of information moving through the organization.  While this seems obvious, it is a bit daunting that the habits and practices that have been developed outside of the shop floor, such as hiding people and work behind tall cubicle walls, do more to hinder the flow of information than to facilitate it.