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Customer Focus Eliminates Waste

Recently, my wife had an experience with supplier that wasn’t focused on us as a customer and it created great waste for the supplier.

The shop was low on a particular candle that we buy from a local handmade supplier.  The product is great and it sells really well.  My wife emailed the owner to order more candles.  In the email, she asked if the owner could send a list of spring related scents as we phase out the holiday related scents, so we could pick out what we think our customers would like.

We didn’t hear from the owner for about a week or more.  Then the owner shows up with the candles we ordered plus three new spring scents.  We didn’t like one of the scents.  We said we wouldn’t take that one and discussed other possibilities to choose from.  A different scent was picked and a few days later the owner returned with the new scent.

When the issue of not responding was brought up to the owner, the reply was they were so concerned that we needed the candles right away that they just made them as quick as possible and brought them over.  My wife explained that we don’t need things immediately, especially after the holidays and if there is ever any question to just ask.

The owner wanted to please us, but didn’t focus on what was truly important to us which is the scent selection.  The owner ended up causing waste of defects/rework (making new candles she hadn’t made), waiting (us waiting longer to get the order filled) and transportation (driving to our store twice).

Have you or your company ever rushed a product or service to market because YOU thought that was what the customer needed and then if failed?  What were you focused on?

If you aren’t sure what your customer needs are…ask.  Be clear and focus on what they need, not what you think they need.

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Value Stream Management at Schlitterbahn

My family and I had a nice day at Schlitterbahn waterpark a couple of weeks back.  It was a lot fun and the rides were great.  While waiting in line for each of the slides, I couldn’t help but think about the very poor value stream management for the rides.

For one set of three slides,  the line was split in two.  For two particular slides the line was to the right and for the third slide the line was on the left.  When you got to the top the lines then crossed each other causing a ton of confusion and a park employee trying to keep the lines separate and correct.  See the diagram below.

Schlitterbahn_Lines

Also, if one of the first few didn’t want to ride one of the two slides from the line on the right then that slide would sit idle for a few minutes until the riders on the other slide unclogged the line.  It was a waste of time and use of the one slide.

There was a second group of three slides at another part of the park.  At this group of slides, two of them needed mats to ride down and the third needed a tube to ride the slide.  They didn’t mark this line with two separate lines so people had to tell you there were two lines.  Also, the mats for two of the slides were not stored at the entrance to the slides but at the exit.  You had to fight people through the exit, get a mat, then walk back around to the entrance.  All the tubes were stored at the entrance for the one slide.  This caused over an hour wait for the one slide but only a 10 minute wait for the 2 slides with the mats.

The way the park handled the value streams for the slides caused unbalanced lines and confusion for anyone that had not been there before.  It was a great lesson in making things visual and easy to understand in order to make a better experience for the customer.

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.

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.

Granddaddy of Them All

If you are a Big Ten or PAC-10 college football fan, I am not referring to the Rose Bowl.  I am referring to Over Production.  The granddaddy of all types of waste in the lean world.

Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over Production, Over Processing and Defects.  These are the 7 types of waste.

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why is Over Production the granddaddy of them all, because Over Production can lead to more of each of the other 6 types of waste.

Transportation: If you are over producing then you are transporting more product then you need to transport.  This could lead to paying for more trailers then you need affecting the bottom line directly.

Inventory: This is the direct result of over production.  If more is produced than needed, the extra product goes into storage and sits and waits until it is needed if ever.

Motion: Storing all the extra product in inventory takes up more room.  This means a bigger space is needed to do the same amount of work which leads to all the extra motion around the inventory.  If you put 10 skids between two machines instead of two skids then when the operator moves between the two machines there is an extra 8 skids of distance to walk.

Waiting: If the product is not needed, it goes into inventory where it sits and waits.  Waits to be sold.  Waits to be finished.  Waits to be thrown out.

Over Processing: The excess product can be reworked into a similar product with a few modifications.  This over processing what is needed to get the product right would not have happened if there was not excess product to modify.

Defects: Storing inventory can lead to crushed boxes destroying product or product that becomes outdated and must be thrown out.

Over production is the worst of the worst.  As hard as it might be to shift the mentality, it is better to see people standing around than it is to watch them produce more than is needed in order to look busy.

Are Cell Phones Causing Process Delays?

It’s the beginning of a new year.  OK so we are almost two months into the year.  Being the start of the new year, it means checkup time for me.  Dental checkup, physical and any other routine checks to be sure I am still healthy…preventive maintenance for the body if you will.

Needless to say, I have been spending a lot of time in waiting rooms at the doctors’ offices.  Usually, the first thing I do is get out my smartphone and start reading updates from blogs or checking email.  Then at my last doctor’s appointment I noticed a receptionist.  She looked in the direction of a person who was on their smartphone playing a game or reading.  I’m not sure.  She started to say something then stopped.  Saw the other receptionist wasn’t busy and started talking to her.  After 3 or 4 minutes she called the person that was on the smartphone over for some questions.

That got me thinking about delays.  Before smartphones, a person was lucky to have a magazine in a waiting area to read or even a TV with looping with the same news over and over again.  People found this to be a painful way to be spending their time.  Time that could have been used running errands or doing something enjoyable.  Now people have a way to stay connected and do things that pass the time in a way each individual finds enjoyable.  Whether it be reading a blog, playing Angry Birds, or even watching a video on our smartphones.

Because of this, are people becoming blind to delays and the amount of time they sit and wait?   Do service providers take extra time or delay because they know people are preoccupied with their smartphones?

I like to think not, but after what I saw at the doctor’s office maybe in some cases it is.  Maybe a mechanic takes a little extra time in returning the keys after the repair because a person is preoccupied?  Maybe the DMV is even slower in their responses knowing people are looking at smartphones?

It may only be a few minutes here and a few minutes there but I know I have witnessed it at least once.  Plus, on several occasions I can recall getting lost in my smartphone and before I knew it 40 minutes or so has passed.  When I realize it I have gone up to ask what is going on and within a minute or two I am taken care of.  Why wasn’t I taken care of earlier?  I know my timing isn’t always that good.

The delay may not be a conscious decision but I believe it is happening.  Would you consider this a waste of your time?  Or is the smartphone helping you to multitask so you are doing work in parallel?  What do you think?

Applying Lean to Training

I found this video a few days ago.  It is a video of Todd Hudson, from the Maverick Institute, giving a class about applying lean to training.  The video is about 13 minutes long and isn’t the whole presentation, but it is very intriguing.

Todd asks the question, “Can we learn twice as much in half the time?”  It is a great question.  His point is that people thing that is a crazy idea, but we won’t hesitate to ask, “Can we get twice the production in half the time of equipment X?”  Excellent point.

In the video, Todd starts to talk about the waste in training.  He provides a statistic that says only 15% of what is heard during training is retained.  WOW!  I never put a measurement on it but my experiences seem to be very similar, which is why applying and reflecting after learning is very important for the learning cycle.

I’m disappointed the video is not longer.  I would like to hear more of what Todd has to say about applying lean to training and learning.

Has anyone applied lean to their training?  I would be interested in hearing more.

Email and Transportation Waste

Technology has helped us in so many ways.  I know the perception is that lean thinkers do not like technology.  That is not the case.  We just like to be sure it supports our process and helps to eliminate waste.

With that in mind, has technology really helped us with waste in regards to information transfer?  Especially, in a building?  My observations say it has not in certain instances.  It has just shifted the waste from one form to another.

Here is the example that caught my attention.  Before email and transferring documents electronically we would have to send a paper copy through inter-office mail or mail it.  During that transportation time, the sender would contact the recipient and let them know it was coming.  The recipient was expecting it so when it arrived it would not sit very long before the value was added.

Now with email and notifications of a document being ready in a system, the recipient receives something immediately from the sender.  It is so quick, the recipient may not be looking for it, know it was coming, or even be available when it arrives in the inbox.  So now the work sits and waits and waits before the value is added.  So the total time between activities is not much different than the old way.

I’m not saying email and technology is bad, I’m just wondering did we shift the waste from being transportation to waiting?  Did we get to the root cause of why the waste even exists?  What are your thoughts?  I know it has helped, but how much?  Am I completely off base with this?

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