Blog Archives

OEE in the Lean News

I saw a post from Michel Baudin, Is OEE a Useful Key Performance Indicator?  I don’t think it is.  A few years back I wrote a blog about OEE and how it is very unclear as to what is really happening in a facility.  It violates nearly every rule as to what is a clear and relevant metric.

Michel’s post started out with a bit from Jeffrey Liker’s post about OEE.  This is the piece I found interesting from Jeffrey Liker:

Ignacio S. Gatell questions whether companies using OEE really understand it, can explain it clearly to their customers, and understand what it means to compare OEE as a KPI across plants. He questions whether even plant managers understand how it is calculated and what it means.

The only good argument for OEE is that at a macro-level in a plant it provides a high level picture of how your equipment is functioning.

I have to agree with Liker’s statement.  OEE is good for a macro level idea of what is happening but you can’t understand what is happening without splitting it up into the components.  Seems like Michel Baudin is thinking the same thing.

It is an overly aggregated and commonly gamed metric that you can only use by breaking it down into its constituent factors; you might as well bypass this step and go straight to the factors.

This is one of those blogs that gives me some of my sanity back.  OEE seems to be so entrenched in “good business practices” it is hard to get people to move away from it.  I get a lot of looks like I am completely crazy when I bring up my point of view.  Thanks, Jeffrey and Michel.  I see I’m not the only one now.

Advertisements

Managers Are Crucial to Problem Solving Success

One of the fundamental differences in a lean company versus a traditional company is how they go about problem solving.  In a traditional management company, problems are hidden and managers want the problem “solved” and move on.  This usually leads to problems having band-aides being put into place.  Later the same problem surfaces again and another band-aide is put on again.

In a lean management company, problems are looked as a way to get better and are not hidden.  Managers want the root cause of the problem found so the issue doesn’t arise again.

In both traditional and lean mindsets, I do believe that managers want the issue resolved so that is never arises again.  It is there behaviors that truly dictate whether a band-aide is put on the problem or if the root cause is found.

A traditional mindset manager continually asks, “Is it solved yet?” or “When will it be solved?” or something very similar.  They are pushing for action to be taken without understanding anything about the problem.  It is a ‘just solve it and lets move on’ mentality.  Hurry up!

A lean mindset manager asks questions also, but more to get an understanding of how your process is coming along and driving to complete the next step of the process.  Questions might be something like, “What have you discovered about the problem?” or “What have you learned?”.  The manager understands there will be a lot of time spent in the discovery mode investigating the problem.  The manager supports the process and helps the person through the process.

An example from my personal experience.  I was working on an issue that had been around for 40 years.  Everyday my manager asked, “When are you going to have that solved?”  Finally, I said “The problem has been around for 40 years and no one has solved it.  I think I get 3 months not a week.”  Not the smartest thing to say to your manager but in this case it gave me some room to find the root cause, which the team did.

Later that year there was another issue that we had to work 16 hour days to solve but we followed the process and we nailed it.

After that extremely hot issue, my manager saw the benefit of following the process.  He then would ask, “Where are you on that problem?  Are there roadblocks I can help with?”

It really changed the environment to problem solve.  In fact, the problem solving process started moving faster and he ended up getting the results he wanted faster.

The lesson was the manager’s mindset, attitude and support around problem solving creates the type of results gotten.

What is your mindset towards problem solving and supporting your employees?

Guest Post: Can Lean be Taught to Children?

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.

Lean is something that is often associated with businesses and focuses mainly on reducing waste and adding value. However, lately I have been pondering the thought “Can lean be taught to children?” Wouldn’t it be great if children learned the concepts of lean at a young age? My mind literally boggles at the sheer possibilities. I’m not talking about sitting children down in a classroom and teaching them lean exclusively like reading or math, but instead just weaving the concepts of lean through life’s regular and everyday activities.

Imagine the Possibilities

The concepts of lean have been credited with high levels of success in the workplace, so why can’t the same concepts be beneficial in other areas of life as well? The truth is, they CAN! Creating a generation of innovative thinkers, ready to add value to society sounds like a pretty wonderful idea to me. Many of us have not been introduced to the concepts of lean until later in life, and unfortunately our minds have not had the opportunity to truly expand and grow with the concept. However, we can change that with the introduction of lean.

How to Start the Lean Mindset

The first thing we have to remember is that children are just children. We cannot expect them to act like adults. However, one of the benefits of starting lean concepts early is that when children are young their minds are very malleable. If children are taught to reduce waste and participate in value added activities early in life, that mindset will usually follow them through into adulthood. The key is to really start out simple and introduce the obvious and most tangible ways to reduce waste. This may include engaging in activities such as reusing and recycling. Instead of simply throwing out old clothing that does not fit, teach children that it can be reused and given to places such as the “Goodwill” or “The Salvation Army” so other children can wear the clothing, thus adding value for another person. Engaging in activities such as this puts the act of reducing waste into terms that children can understand. Furthermore, children can also be involved with activities such as household chores to practice lean. In fact, lean can be weaved into even the simplest task such as dish washing. For example, loading a dishwasher by putting all forks in one compartment and all spoons in another takes less time to unload since the flatware has already been separated. Doing this reduces wasted time.

The possibilities are limitless when it comes to the lean mindset. The truth is that lean can be implemented anywhere and everywhere; it is not just strictly for business use. When lean concepts are implemented and practiced at an early age they become just a normal part of life. Providing children with the tools necessary to be independent thinkers, who are capable of seeking improvement and reducing unneeded waste, will help to create a society of endless possibilities and opportunities.

Process Work Changes People’s Thinking

I am still amazed at what can be accomplished by improving the process first and then looking at how technology can support the process.  I have always been a big advocate of looking at process first.  Yet, still today I see great cases of studying the process first and then implementing supporting technology.  In most cases, the technology needed to support the process is simpler than the original technology plans.

The rewarding part of the work is having success in an area that was hesitant to have the process work done.  An area claiming just to need the technology.  After completing the process work and seeing the benefits, that same area starts to ask for more process work to be done.  That is a great feeling.

Another benefit of getting people to see the benefit of doing the process work first is they start to ask more questions around the end-to-end process.  People start to see the entire process and the affects a change has in one area can have on another area.  The end-to-end discussion becomes easier for people to have.

This shift in mentality can start to break down work silos and get more people engaged in the entire process.

Are you doing end-to-end process improvement at your company?  Is it starting to change people’s perspective?

Waiting is Less Expensive

“Paying people to produce excess product cost more than paying people to do nothing.”

-Jean Cunningham

This is a quote I like to use when trying to change people’s mindsets around the 7 wastes.  It is human nature for people to want to look busy or “do something” when they are at work.  Especially, in today because our minds start to think, “If I’m not doing anything, they will think I’m not needed and cut my job.”  The managers and supervisors feed this mindset by pushing people to produce more and “keep the machines running” in a manufacturing world.

We need to switch this mindset and let it be known it is alright to be doing nothing if there is nothing to produce.

Overproduction (producing more than is needed or producing too early) is the waste that can create the other 6 wastes which in turn adds product costs.

It may be hard to see someone standing and waiting, but if a person is waiting and not working when there is no production needed they are not adding any more cost to the product.  They aren’t building up inventory of components that may not be used or later are found to be defective or become defective from sitting around waiting to be used.

Also, when a person is standing around waiting it highlights the imbalance in the work flow and can lead to problem solving around creating a better flow further reducing costs.

We should try to eliminate the waste of waiting, but we should do it the right way.  By highlighting the imbalance in the work and then create a better process that eliminates the waiting time.

In the end, waiting is less expensive then over producing product you don’t need.

Lean Says, “Do the Right Thing”

A question that I get quite often is “What does lean say to do?”

My short answer, “Do the right thing for your situation at this time.”

When lean is not understood people think lean has magic answers for them.  This is easy to do when the mindset is lean is a bunch of tools and concepts that just need to be put into place.

They think lean can answer their questions.   Lean does not answer your questions.  Lean helps you to be able to answer your questions.

When lean is understood to be a way of thinking, a set of principles to help guide how you go about solving a problem then it is easier to understand that lean says, “Do the right thing for your situation at this time.”

A popular example is when people think “Lean says I have to have level flow, because I have to eliminate waste.”  If their business does not allow level flow or it does not make sense at that time they can get discouraged and believe lean is not for their business.

Hospitals are a great example.  Early on they tried to implement level flow, but they couldn’t because people getting sick is out of their control.

When it is understood that lean is about creating value for the customer, people have a different lens.  One way to deliver value is to eliminate waste so I have more capacity to do value added activities.  Level flow is one way, but in a hospital there are many other ways.  Once the thinking was understood, hospitals started to embrace lean.

The next you you hear someone ask, “What does lean say to do?”  Answer by saying, “Think in a different way and do what is right for your situation at this time.”

Yes…if

One of the hardest things to do during a lean transformation is change the mindsets of the employees.  Usually for good reason.  In the past, the employees have probably not been asked for their ideas or when asked for ideas they were never acted upon or told those weren’t the type of ideas they are looking for.  During a lean transformation one of the top priorities is to get the employees engaged in problem solving.

How many times have you heard, “We have done that before and it didn’t work.”  Or “That won’t work, because…..”  I spent years hearing those type of comments.  Then about 3 years ago I came across a great idea to change the mindset.  People are not allowed to say “No…..because…….” they have to say “Yes…..if……..”

I have made this one of the rules of every improvement event that I facilitate.  It is a subtle change that adds a positive spin on the whole event.  I have to point out when someone might need to flip their statement but it works really well.  You go from “That won’t work because we can’t see what work is coming to us.”  To “That can work if we can see the work that is coming to us.”  That slight flip in thought then spurs other questions about how the group can see the work coming to them and before you know it, they have come up with a countermeasure and something to try.

Give it a try and see how it works for your groups.

Share