With any improvement philosophy, people always want the BIG improvement. When there are none to be had a re-organization or a shift in direction is implemented. This may work for a short period of time, but eventually the results normalize back to their old levels.
A uniqueness with lean is creating a focus on getting better each day. Even it if is just a second or two better. Saving 1 second each day while maintaining the savings from the previous day will yield 8.7 hrs of savings after a work year. What would you do with a full extra day of capacity?
Paul Akers has called this 2 second lean. It is extremely powerful.
Focusing on small improvements means focusing on what bothers you and your customer and fixing it. It could be as simple as always having to search for a stapler when doing paperwork. Or moving the placement location of a label. This saved a group I worked with 1 second per label…we timed it. Over the course of the year, that was a savings of over 30 hours for the team!
People don’t like to focus on small changes because it isn’t “sexy”. Guess what? Sexy falls apart quickly and usually has no substance.
Build lasting change a little at a time. It takes patience and understanding but two years from now you will have better actual results than people chasing only the “big” improvements that never get completed.
All too often, this aspect of lean is missed. Most people are looking for the BIG savings. They don’t deem 2 seconds worth the savings. People miss the value of a bunch of 2 second savings adding up quickly and creating a lot of capacity and savings.
Recently, I was working with a group that found several 2 second savings in their area and it added up to over 200 hrs of gained productivity over the year.
The picture below is an example of a 2 second savings they found.
The box on the right shows where the label was outlined to be placed. The label is low and is blocked by the lip of the shelf. Every time a person has to put something in the box they have go scan the label, so they have to push it back to scan the label and then pull it forward to put the item in the box. Several people doing this over 300 boxes with upwards to 20 items per box.
The box on the left shows where they moved the label. Now a person does not have to push the box back and pull it forward saving about 2 seconds per box per item. This alone saved over 28 hours of time during a year. That is over a full day’s worth of worked that can gained from this simple change.
All savings are important. Seconds matter. Save them every chance you get.
There is a lot discussion around big changes and improvements from lean thinking. Usually, this discussion is around how to realign manufacturing processes in cells or value streams or sitting people across a value stream together for better communication in a business process.
I have taken a page from his book and done this with my routine at the gym in the morning. After working out, I get ready for work at the gym. I used to just grab everything out of my shaving bag and put it on the counter. Then I noticed I always brush my teeth first. I was taking my toothpaste out of the bag first, setting it on the counter, getting everything else out, then picking up the toothpaste, put it on my brush and then putting the toothpaste back on the counter. Later I would put the toothpaste back in the bag.
My 2 second improvement. I get everything out of my bag first. The second to last thing I get out is my toothbrush and the last thing is my toothpaste. I don’t set it down though. I get the toothpaste out, use it and place it right back in my bag. When I am done with my toothbrush, it goes right back in the bag too.
It doesn’t seem like a lot, but combined with other improvements I have started to save significant time in the morning. It allows me more time to workout.
What 2 second improvements have you made?
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.
There are examples of visual management everywhere. Walk into a store and the departments are labeled so you know where to go. Go to a Subway restaurant and the ingredients available to put on your sandwich are displayed right in front of you. Or look all around the U.S. road system. It is filled with visual cues and information.
This one is simple and can be handy.
Gatorade’s water bottle has a transparent stripe down the side that allows you to see how full the water bottle is. This conveys a single message (how much fluid is in the bottle?) simply. Sure you can pick it up and easily tell by the weight. What if you are an equipment manager for a sports team and you have 10 more of these to manage during a game. Instead of picking each bottle up several times to see if it is close to empty, a quick glance allows the equipment manager to know which ones to fill immediately.
It may seem like such a small improvement, but that is part of the essence of lean. Improving everyday. Saving even two seconds will amount to significant time as that process is repeated over and over again. This is something Paul Akers stresses at his company, FastCap.
What have you done to save 2 seconds?
It is Labor Day in the U.S. and I plan to spend time working in the yard and around the house today. If you enjoy yard work and being more efficient with your time, you will definitely enjoy this video.
I enjoy Paul Akers passion for lean. What I take away most is fixing some of the small things. Fix what bugs you is his mantra. He does it at home too.
I want the lawn mower wash. I don’t have a riding lawn mower but I do have two kids that would love playing in it!
Happy Labor Day!!!
Paul Akers is a great lean practitioner and advocate. I really enjoy watching the improvement videos they place on YouTube. Here is one that I liked because it was in the office. It shows how improving the filing system can help become more efficient in finding files and free floor space. What I like most is, the improvement is based off a suggestion from a tour group. It is great to see all the small improvements add up like they do at FastCap.