Thursday, March 29, 2007

5S Assignment Chart

One of the best aids in sustaining a daily 5S process is found in the 5S Assignment Chart. This assignment chart lists all the 5S tasks to be completed in a zone (designated area) along with the frequency the task should be done (daily, weekly, monthly), the person’s name responsible for completing the task and listing of the tools needed for each task (broom, towel, etc). All you have to do is post this assignment chart in the zone to help insure the tasks get done. Sounds simple enough, right?

Like most concepts I have learned in lean manufacturing, it goes much deeper that what we originally think. That holds true for even the simple 5S Assignment Chart.

For one, the posting of the 5S assignment chart, or for that matter, any other document, sign, work instruction, standard work sheet or PM task list, itself does not insure that the tasks are completed or followed as described. You learn that rather quickly after the initial excitement of the newly posted item turns towards the mundane. We sometime fall into the trap that anything posted is important therefore everyone will follow it. Not true. Just look at speed limit signs as an example.

So how do you use a 5S Assignment Chart successfully?

Here are just a couple of ways I found that work.

1. In the first column, organize alphabetically by name, the person responsible followed by the task, frequency and tools assigned to them. Typically, we list tasks first which makes it more difficult to see who is responsible and harder for the person responsible to find their assigned task. Make it easy (more visual) for each person to find their own tasks.

2. Cluster all the tasks for each employee together if they have more than one task assigned to them. Again, makes it easier to find all your assignments.

3. Have all the team members divide up tasks and who is responsible. In most cases, a leader normally just assigns who gets what task and some people don’t like the results. A team approach on this point gets better buy-in.

4. Under frequency, be more specific. Don’t just say weekly, specify the actual day of the week, i.e.Tuesday.

5. In addition to assigning specific days, make frequency visual. For example, use a column for each day of the week adding a symbol on the assigned day for each task. If the task is daily, put a symbol in every column of the week for that task and put it in color.

6. Assign a daily task(s) to every person. The 5S process works best if done daily so base your task listing with daily assignments.

7. Keep assignments simple. Assigned tasks should be completed in a daily 5 minute period.

8. Have each employee sign off individually (and daily) after completing their task. This, by itself, is not the complete answer however it is better than having someone else (a zone leader or supervisor) signing off for all tasks.

9. Have the zone leader or supervisor (as part of their standard work) check and review each day that the tasks for that day were successfully completed. Their job is to coach and support employees. If a task was not complete, ask the person responsible “Why not?” and “What can I do to help you get it done?”

10. Use the best management tool, the power of “Leading by Example”. Every leader should have a daily assignment and complete them daily.

11. Rotate the task assignments often. Share the burden and eliminate the boredom.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Management By Standing Still

Early in my management career, the hot management technique was something called Management By Walking Around (MBWA). Basically, a good concept for the times since management rarely, if ever, got out of their comfort zone of the office and connected with what was actually happening at gemba (the actual place), on the shop floor. Some may argue the point that disconnected leadership, never-leaving-the-office types, still exists today and I would agree. However, at least a few company leaders saw some value to venture out to the shop floor and found gemba.

Did this technique work? I think it resulted in only a marginal improvement at best. Management learned how to find the shop floor but ended up not “walking around” but “walking through”. After a brisk walk through and an occasional stop to chat, they quickly got back to work in the office. It turned into an exercise of “being seen” then “to see”. Yes, there are some positive results that can be found in just being seen and showing a genuine interest in activities at gemba. But what you end up with is a mere snap shot of gemba when you could see a movie clip. From my lean prospective, you miss out on a great opportunity to “go to the actual place and see for understanding” (Genchi Genbutsu).

To seek understanding, we need to move away from Management By Walking Around to Management By Standing Still. Of course, this technique can be directly linked to the famous “Ohno Circle”, a circle drawn by Taiichi Ohno on the Toyota shop floor for engineers to stand in for hours on end “to see and understand”.

Yes, it takes a strong commitment to “stand still” at gemba and many may not feel comfortable to just stand and watch at first. This uneasy feeling quickly disappears the longer you stand still. It is amazing what you learn about your processes by seeing for yourself when standing still long enough. Don’t rely on assumptions on what you see, ask many questions. Take a small pocket notebook and pen with you to record your findings, thoughts, questions and ideas. I use this technique quite often with exceptional results. So next time you go to gemba, try thinking movies not snap shots.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Is Upper Management Support Enough?

Ask all the experts what is critical to a successful lean transformation and one item always surfaces to the top of the list, must have Upper Management support. This sounds like a reasonable and logical requirement but is Upper Management support enough?

No, I’m not asking if you need other items like solid training, good communication, competent teachers, value stream maps, a designated Lean Champion, or even a KPO (Kaizen Promotion Office). What I’m asking is aimed at the role of our Upper Management in a lean transformation. Is support all that Upper Management needs to give of themselves in our successful lean transformation recipe?

I guess that depends on our operational definition of “support”. If support means giving a speech/email/voicemail to state that “I support kaizen efforts”, or mentioning in the company’s annual report that we are using lean manufacturing principles to meet our competitive challenges, or just signing off for funds to aid kaizen efforts, then “support” is not enough.

In my experience, we need more that just support from our Upper Management for a successful lean transformation. What we need is active participation; we need our Upper Management to “Lead By Example”.

How can we expect all our employees to embrace lean if our Upper Management does not embrace lean?

Here are just a few examples of the type of “Lead By Example” behaviors that any Company Leader can do, should do, must do:

1. Use your office as a shining example of organization in 5S.
2. Eliminate office waste. For example, personally commit yourself to be on-time for all meetings, 100% of the time. Your employees will follow!
3. As you walk through your office/plant/warehouse, always pick up any trash in your path. Don’t step over it.
4. Add the responsibility of ownership in a 5S zone and regularly completing a cleaning assignment.
5. Exceed any employee individual goals or expectations. For example, if you set the expectation that every employee should provide two simple kaizen ideas per month, then you will provide 3 or more each month, without fail.
6. When reviewing kaizen efforts, don’t single out just the large dollar saving ideas or consistently focus on the dollars saved. Promote the number of ideas generated or the speed at which we implement the improvements.
7. Learn enough on any lean principle or tool to personally teach a class on the topic to your employees. Then teach it!

The Bottom line, Executive Summary and Elevator Speech:
Success in lean transformation is dependant on our Upper Management going beyond just support to actively participating in improvement efforts. Upper Management must Lead By Example.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

HOT Lists

With the reality of limited resources of time or process capacity, we need to focus on the “right” jobs first. Choosing the right job, in the best order to satisfy our customers, is no easy task. As our work becomes more complex, we look for help with the power of the computer. With MRP, ERP, CRM, or whatever acronym based tool we choose, we still are not able to react fast enough to our changing demands. As a result, we use a “HOT List” to set priorities.

First thing every morning, we check to see what’s “HOT”. We check to see if something requires our immediate attention over our normal, expected (planned!) work. It could be a job, a component needing expedited, or customer order that is “HOT”. The HOT List is used to prioritize jobs through the process, outside the normal order, to get these jobs complete first and without delay. This tool may work well if the HOT List is only used in case of emergency. However, that is not the case in my experiences. Every single day, we are faced with a HOT List.

After a while, the HOT List grows and grows until it no longer has a clear set of priorities. So what do we do? We create another list called the URGENT List. Now we complete the URGENT items first, followed by the HOT items and then the planned items.

Once again, our URGENT List seems to grow too large as did our HOT List. This leads us to create the CRITICAL List. Now we complete the CRITICAL items first, followed by the URGENT items, the HOT items and then the planned items.

In no time at all, we end up with more levels of HOT lists then the number of hot sauce levels at a Buffalo Wings restaurant. As our “HOT” priority system becomes more complex, we need more human effort to maintain it, track it and follow it.

It would not be uncommon that even the term “HOT” does not stir us to immediate action. I have seen parts clearly marked “HOT” bunched with other parts without any special action to move it ahead of the other parts. When asking about them in particular, the answer I usually get is that if it was really “HOT” someone would be yelling for it. So much for marking parts “HOT”.

How many different HOT Lists are you using? Do we just accept the use of a HOT List as a daily tool to set planned work? Maybe we could skip the planning all together and just use a HOT List approach?

Any process using a HOT List should look to convert it to a “KAIZEN List”. Try tracking each item on your HOT List and determine the root cause for it being on the list. Our focus should be on setting up countermeasures to prevent it from becoming “HOT” so the planned process will flow.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Website for Honda Jobs in Greensburg Indiana

For those interested, Honda recently announced a website to apply for jobs at the new Honda plant currently being built in Greensburg, Indiana. At this time, production associate applications are not open yet. However, some non-production associate positions have been posted. For more information, please visit

Best of Luck!