The Value of Certifications in Our Industry
Today’s post is from a guest blogger. Connie Tolman has a career that has spanned the aerospace, military, medical device and biotechnology industries in Southern California. Her career has been in Manufacturing Engineering until last year. She implemented lean manufacturing practices in the 80’s, moved to Six Sigma with GE Healthcare in the 90’s, Lean Sigma in the early 2000’s and was introduced to Toyota Production System Lean in 2007 which is her current passion. Connie is currently working as a Continuous Improvement Manager at a biotechnology company in San Diego.
What is the value of certification in general? There are lots of people, old and young alike, who think that if they get a certification, they’ll get a job!
First of all, this is wrong. It might get your resume looked at, if it is a prerequisite to get through the screening process, but you have to know what you are doing. At this point with all of the certifications floating around, it is fairly easy to get a certificate by not telling the truth about the projects you have completed and just studying and passing the test.
On the other hand, if you know what you are doing and do it well and nobody outside of yourself has recognized that, then a certificate can help get you recognized.
I have a project management professional (PMP), Six Sigma Black Belt from ASQ and have just gotten my Silver Lean Certification from AME/SME. I am most proud of the Lean certificate. It was really hard – no cake walk. They dug deep to find out if I knew what I was talking about.
At first I got my PMP so that I could get a better job. I found that it did get me past the first gate of keyword search by the computer. Then I got my Black Belt through ASQ but I had the backing of the GE Healthcare University to help me with the projects and studying the material. The test was harrowing. I had a pile of books 3 feet high with sticky notes attached to the pages where I could flip to different sections as needed. I did study questions for hours and hours on the weekend. I spent much of my personal time to prepare. I did this mid-career and this is what I found.
It was very helpful for me to get back into the practice of test taking – to read carefully and slow down before answering the questions. I actually learned a lot in both the PMP and the Black belt literature. Did I use it in my work? Some of it. To be honest, not very much. But I had the foundation and the backbone to know when I could use something and when it didn’t apply. Unless you are working in construction or defense, the project management professional roadmap doesn’t apply. Hardly anybody uses Earned Value System. Six Sigma is useful if you work in a company that has lots of data and ability to affect the variability.
However, lean is another story. I find it applies to everything I do both personally and professionally. Who can’t apply 5S to the cabinets and drawers in the bathroom? Who can’t use visual systems to allow others to see the progress of their work?
But AME/SME (the certification is actually backed by SME, AME, ASQ and Shingo prize – so it has prestigious companies behind it) lean certifications are very different. The books that you have to read really give you the picture of how revolutionary lean can be. Based on the Toyota Production System and authors like Womack, Liker and Dennis, you are getting exposed to the very difficult path of transformation. It has led me to Mike Rother and Toyota Kata which I think is needed to change the way we think. Liker has teamed with Rother in his Kata Summit to explain that without a way to learn new behavior we are forever stuck in using tools and not having success in implementing lean.
In the end, what is the value of a certification? For me, it meant reaching a personal milestone, having the ability to get the agreement from others in the business that I know the material and have proven it in the workplace and maybe it will help me to get a job that is satisfying and rewarding.
One Man’s Lean Journey: Simulation Helps to Fail Fast, Fail Cheap
In a previous post, I talked about learning a software package that allows people to model and simulate a factory before making any physical changes. After the building of the factory that failed to implement pull, my role was to model current production lines when changes were recommended and to model the proposed model lines for new products.
One of the new production lines that I modeled was for a new television technology. The Liquid Crystal on Silicone (LCoS) television sets. This technology was about a year ahead of LCD TVs and was cheaper to produce. It was only 18 inches deep which is laughable now but at the time was about half as deep as typical big scree projection TVs.
The manufacturing engineers came up with a design for the new production line. By all means, it looked like a line that would meet the production needs and on paper the number of stations and equipment needed looked perfect.
The model was built and simulated with actual unit testing data as well as workstation operation times. It was a great thing we did, because we could have had another fiasco if we didn’t.
The simulation showed the back of the line being severely starved and the front of the line being overwhelmed. The line would have produced at only 66% of the rate it needed to run. The animation of the simulation showed how many TV sets were being kicked out into the rework loop and the backup it caused. It was a perfect example of the Markov Chain in real-life.
We were able to redesign the production line to be 33% shorter and have the ability to produce at a rate high enough to meet demand and allow for growth with no investment.
This was a great example of fail fast, fail cheap. It took less than a month to build the simulation, test, analyze, rework and get approved. The company saved thousands of dollars and the product went to market on time.
I know simulation software packages aren’t cheap, but it was cheaper than building the production line seeing the failure in real-life and then scrambling to fix it or build a second line.
How does your company fail fast, fail cheap?
- The value of prototyping and understanding before going full out is ALWAYS understated
- Simulating with cardboard boxes to computer software is an important part of making changes, especially big changes.
- Always better to fail early on with something that doesn’t cost much vs. finding the failure in full production mode. Doesn’t matter if it is a new marketing idea (test in an area) or manufacturing.
Lean Culture Change
Recently, I had the opportunity to tour a local company that does sheet metal work. The company does not advertise being lean, although they are a part of our lean consortium. When you walk in the manufacturing facility you would be surprised at what you DON’T see. There aren’t 5S markings or visual production boards or kanban levels anywhere to be seen.
What the company is doing is the hard work. The are working to change their culture. They are focusing on it everyday from the leadership down to the floor.
The company is Webco Manufacturing.
What they have done is come up with The Webco Way. Thirty-one fundamentals for everyone to focus on improving. Here are just a few:
- Do the right thing
- Check your ego at the door
- Take ownership
- Practice blameless problem solving
- Be process oriented
- Continuously improve everything you do
- Embrace change
These are just a few. I encourage you to visit Webco’s website to see the complete list and a description of each.
You might think 31 is a lot to remember. I did too, but it is working for them. They focus on one fundamental every single day.
A fundamental is chosen for the week. A member of the leadership team sends out their perspective of the fundamental for the week every Sunday night to everyone with e-mail in the company. During the week, every meeting consisting of more than 2 people is started by reading the quick description of the fundamental and giving an example of how it is brought to life.
This includes meetings with supplier and customers. The meeting could be 1 Webco employee and 5 suppliers but they will start the meeting with the fundamental of the week. This is to let customers and suppliers know what they are trying to do and helps to drive the same expectations from their customers and suppliers.
Webco may not claim to be lean, but the culture they are driving and the way they are going about it sure seems like a lean culture to me.
What are your thoughts?
Counting Down the Top 10 Viewed Posts of 2013 – 5 Thru 1
2014 is now in full swing. Before 2013 is too far in the rear view mirror, I thought I would recap the Top 10 most viewed posts on Beyond Lean for 2013.
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!
Lean In Project Management
Like so many that started learning and implementing lean in the late 1990s/early 2000s, I started applying lean principles and concepts in manufacturing. I spent nearly 15 years applying lean thinking in a manufacturing environment. I absolutely loved seeing the immediate change in material flow or the feedback from operators that someone listened to them and they were able to make things better.
It is no secret. A manufacturing environment is a tangible environment to see the improvements and get quicker feedback back on how you are applying lean thinking because of the immediate visual results.
A couple of years ago, I moved from the manufacturing environment to the office/project management environment. This was quite a change and one I looked at as a new challenge. I took it on. I have worked with product development and retail management teams. Not even thinking twice as to what I was doing…until recently.
This summer I took on the role of project manager. I am managing the deployment of technology to our retail environments. The changes are not as immediate and not as visual as a manufacturing environment. After a while, I questioned whether I was still applying lean principles to my work. Finally, I took a step back to have a serious reflection and what I discovered is my previous 15+ years have engrained the thinking and principles without realizing it.
I have been directly observing the work as activities, connections and flows by sitting with the teams developing and testing the technology. I see how the work and how the product works. I have gone to a few retail stores to see the technology being used so I can bring those observations back to the team. I also went to other retail stores using similar technology and talked with the store managers about what is working and what isn’t working for them.
The principle of systematic problem solving comes to light with using visual boards to status the project and highlight the problems that need to be worked on in the next 24-48 hrs. We are trying to surface the problems quickly, so they can be resolved. We have broken the issues down into categories to know which are the highest priority.
Systematic waste elimination comes from defining new processes that will continue once the project is launched. We are working to improve and make them as efficient as we know how today.
Each day at standup, we are establishing high agreement on what we are going to be working on and how we will go about working on it. This establishes clear ownership of the work and an expected due date.
Finally, we are learning about the product, the technology and our processes with every iteration. Getting feedback incorporated into the product as quickly as possible.
The reflection helped me understand how I am using the lean principles everyday even if it is not in a tangible manufacturing environment.
How about you? In what type of environment are you using the lean principles?
Bill Waddell Highlights the Importance of Quick Changeovers
Recently, Bill Waddell published a great blog post highlighting the benefits of reducing changeover time. The post was about reducing the manufacturing cycle which is the time it takes to produce every product. Bill used an actual story from a client of his.
To be sure there were other inputs to the improvement – a simple demand pull method and more statistically valid methods of determining the inventory needed to cover the cycle, but set-up reduction was at the heart of it, and the improvements there translated into significantly less inventory, better on time delivery and lower costs.
Hearing stories like the one Bill wrote about just reaffirms the importance of reducing changeover time. It is something that companies take for granted. Most companies don’t see it as critical to achieving the business needs and goals.
Bill gives two great examples of where changeovers have been deemed to critical or their business would die.
I recently saw a cruise ship go through the change-over process and it is really quite similar. Dock and disembark some 3,000 passengers and their luggage and take on 3,000 new ones, restock tons of food and supplies, perform necessary maintenance to the ship, then sail again all in the course of a few hours. They have all sorts of specially designed devices and a very well trained crew of folks to do it … but they have to. That turnaround is the key to their success. In that regard they are a lot like the NASCAR or Indy cars – change-over fast or die.
Manufacturing companies don’t take this view. My question is “Why not?”
If results like the company Bill talks about receives such incredible benefit that help them stay viable and profitable, why aren’t more companies doing it? What other evidence is needed?
Does your company consider quick changeover critical to it’s success?
JIT…A Failure Story
During the past weekend, I end up reflecting on how I have spent some summers of the past. I don’t know why. I just did for some reason. There was one summer 17 years ago that ended sticking in my mind that I thought I would share.
I was working for a consumer electronics company that had manufacturing in the U.S. and in Mexico. One fall, I was asked to help design a new manufacturing facility to be built in Mexico and they wanted it to be a Just-In-Time facility. This was my first time hearing about JIT, so I read up on the concept. Of course, 17 years ago almost all the material was about what it was and not how it worked.
The goal was to only have 2 hours of production materials at the production lines. I made a super fancy spreadsheet that showed how much square footage was needed in each area based on line speed, shelving, component size, packaging, etc…
In July, I was approached again and asked if I would spend the month in Mexico straightening out what was going on. The JIT system wasn’t working. There wasn’t enough room for everything.
My boss and I went over the spreadsheet three times before we went on our visit and verified all the calculations and formulas. It was all fine.
When we arrived the first day, we toured the plant. We where horrified. Televisions that were designed to stack 3 high were stacked 6 or 7 high. Boxes were being crushed and leaning. They looked like they could fall at any minute. Areas that were not designed for storage were stuffed and there were approximately 100 trailers in the parking lot with materials in them.
This was a brand new facility. It had only been open about 1 or 2 months. It was a disaster.
The first thing I learned was there was no ramp up period. On a Friday, one facility was closed. The following Monday this facility was opened and expected to run at full capacity. I had never seen any company do that before or since. There is always a ramp up period.
The second thing we learned and more importantly was there had been no training on JIT, what it was or how it worked. The facility was operating under old batch-n-queue mentality causing space to quickly fill up.
My manager and I were able to get the inventory under control through some strict inventory management processes and even get a more consistent delivery of materials to the assembly lines.
In the end, the company was not ready to run any differently. It was a shame. They ended up expanding the building and continued to run in a batch-n-queue manner. I believe the facility has been closed in the last 3 or 4 years.
It was my first exposure to JIT and all that it takes to run a JIT system successfully. I call it a system because it isn’t just about space and delivering parts. It is the management mentality to reduce changeovers, run in much smaller batches and solve problems. It really showed me how everything must work together.
Does anyone else have any horror stories from trying to implement a just-in-time system?
Book Review: The Lean Turnaround
Art Byrne is an execute that has been implementing lean in several companies around the world. He started our with GE and gained experience with Danaher Corp before becoming the CEO of Wiremold where their lean turnaround is featured in the book “Better Thinking, Better Results“. Since leaving Wiremold Art has used lean to turnaround companies as a partner with J.W. Childs Associates. Art brings his vast experience to the readers.
Name of the Book: The Lean Turnaround: How Business Leaders Use Lean Principles to Create Value and Transform Their Company
Author: Art Byrne
Publication Date: 2012
Book description: what’s the key message?
Art really drives home the message about a company can only be truly lean if the leaders are setting an example and leading the way. A lean executive does not dictate what others need to go do. A lean executive does it himself.
Also, the executives have to transform the people. Get everyone to buy-in from the shop floor to the executive suite. There is no room for people that won’t buy-in. In order to do this, as the leader you need to engage in the change and lead it. Not support it.
Art lays out his principles to follow to becoming lean:
- Work to Takt Time
- Create one piece flow
- Utilized Standard Work
- Connect Customers to Work by Using a Pull System
What are the highlights? What works?
Art does a fantastic job of giving multiple examples of how he engaged employees and led the change even as a CEO. This brings to life how it can be done and the thought isn’t some dream a consultant made up.
I really like how Art lays out obstacles to achieving his lean principles. Accounting and standard costing is the biggest obstacle because it can show a negative result or cause bad decisions when doing things that are helping. He then explains the changes that are needed and gives examples of the changes and how the finances would look different.
There are more examples of other metrics that Art recommends for a lean company.
Another powerful section of the book is how he used lean to grow businesses and profits even during tough economic times. Art even lays out a strategy for looking at companies when thinking about acquisitions.
The real life examples as a CEO and board member of companies really drives how a lean turnaround can be achieved. A CEO must do a 180 from the traditional methods to do it and a leap of faith will be needed, but the reward is very high.
What are the weaknesses? What’s missing?
This is a really good book, but I do see one thing missing. Art speaks from a CEO or executive viewpoint, which is great, but what if you aren’t an executive?
One question I would like to see answered is how do lower level employees help executives want to do a lean turnaround? Sure, one answer could be give them the book, but that probably won’t change everyone’s mind with just a single read. How do you help an executive that seems to want to do it, do it? Give them that final push and really start to see the benefits?
The book can also give the feeling that if you don’t have an executive leading and doing everything in the book then you might as well not go through with lean because you won’t be successful. Art does not say that explicitly. The book just gives that feeling.
How should I read this to get the most out of it?
I recommend this book for anyone but especially high level level executive or CEO. Art lays out a great game plan and a compelling case for the executives to transform their work and create a lean turnaround. Read the book straight through and then re-read it as you develop a plan to change your company.
I would also recommend it for more Wallstreet and finance people. It would enlighten them on how to look at companies that deliver long term value to their customers. Not just short term gains.
H&H Color Lab – American Company Growing Through Lean
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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Small Change vs. Large Change
Small change vs. Large change is a debate I hear quite often within the Lean community.
The meaning of kaizen is to continuously make change for the better. Implied is to make small changes everyday and over time it will add up. Paul Akers at FastCap often talks about the 2 second kaizen.
Every improvement counts. This is small change.
The flip side of the discussion is large change. Transform the work into something new. Redesign the process, the layout, the flow. Act in a completely different way.
My opinion…they are both right and you should do both. The key is understanding what your organization needs and when.
If it is a traditional batch and queue organization (manufacturing or service), then as you start your lean transformation I would recommend large change. Create a pull system where the parts or service flow uninterrupted. Dramatically change the way you operate.
Once the large change is done, the improvement never stops. This is when you start looking for the 2 second improvements in the process. Everyday the process should be better. Keep making small changes.
This isn’t the only way to go about a lean transformation. It is just one way. If you want to be successful with your lean transformation take the time to really consider your strategy for going about the transformation.
All in all, some improvement is ALWAYS better than no improvement…small or large.