Wednesday, October 22, 2008

2008 AME Conference Experience

What a great experience to learn from so many lean leaders and practitioners. After two days of attending sessions and networking with others on the lean journey, I have to say I have learned a lot.

I really liked the opportunity to talk with others on the lean journey and share our stories. It is amazing to hear all the great lean stories and there are so many of them out there. It renews my energy levels and fills me with hope for our manufacturing future in America.

Honestly, not all the sessions were flat out homeruns but I learned something in every session none the less. I just wish I could have attended more sessions and didn’t have to choose between so many good stories.

Here is a quick list of lean points that I am taking back to Batesville Casket.

From Dan Jones, Chairman of the Lean Enterprise Academy, UK: We need to accelerate our lean journey and close the performance gap. It is not a choice anymore, it is mandatory for survival. Ask the right questions rather than issue instructions and telling the staff what to do.

From Ken Goodson, Executive VP Operations, Herman Miller: Capture the gains and reinvest. As you free up resources, move them out and give them other tasks.

From David Mann, author of Creating a Lean Culture: For daily accountability-ask why and follow root cause. For visual controls-focus on process and capture the misses. For Leader Standard Work-We should maintain the visuals, convert the misses to improvements then sustain the improvements.

From John Shook, author of new lean book Managing to Learn: When you tell someone what to do, you take ownership and responsibility away. Create a process and provide an environment for improvement. A3 makes it easier to persuade others and understand your thinking. The A3 process leads to effective countermeasures and problem solving.

I did get a few moments to talk with John one-on-one between sessions earlier this morning. We specifically talked about Batesville’s lean journey and lean beyond the shopfloor. I did get a copy of his new book, Managing to Learn and I hope to pass on my review soon. Thanks John!

Other points:

* Hire best fit with emphasis on attitude and trainability
* Lean without education and training is not sustainable.
* To change your culture, you have to work within your current culture to do so.
* Lots of examples of employee led training and developing topic champions within your company.

My session this morning went very well and there were some outstanding questions throughout from an engaged audience. I hope to improve my delivery on a few points in the future but I felt that I got our lean message across. Thanks to all those who attended!

Tomorrow is the last day for me as I head back home. I plan to listen to Steven Spear, author of the new book Chasing the Rabbit (I got a copy of this one too), in the morning and hit a couple of other sessions. I’ll pass on any lessons in my next post.

Monday, October 20, 2008

AME Conference Toronto

I made it to Toronto tonight for the AME Conference this week. It should be an outstanding week and I look forward to learning more on operational excellence from my fellow lean practitioners. As the week goes on, I’ll post on my experience.

Try Something Different Today

One of the barriers to Kaizen is found in the comfortable arms of the status quo. For most of us, we have difficulty breaking away from what we feel secure in doing. If you really think about it, we are creatures of habit.

The biggest reason preventing us from change is fear, either real or imagined. To help us overcome our fear, we should embrace opportunities to practice doing things a little different. This spirit of adventure is extremely helpful in embracing the kaizen way.

You don’t have to do anything radical in trying something different. Pick a small change but pick something. For instance, it could be just trying a new way to go to work or picking a new restaurant for lunch or dinner.

Just last week while in Chihuahua, Mexico, I took this challenge. For the first time, I rented a car for the week and drove myself around in a foreign country. I did have a little help from a co-worker who knew his way around the city which made it a little easier. Certainly, there were some anxious moments but the experience was thrilling to me.

On the way to Toronto, Canada today for the AME Conference, I sat on the plane behind a family of four going on vacation. The two kids were probably 4 and 5 years old on their very first airplane ride. As we took off, the kids were looking out the window, really excited to fly.

Even as we hit a few bumps soon after take off, they filled the cabin with laughter like we were on some amusement park ride. Their laughter was contagious as all the adults around us started to laugh with them. These two kids embraced this new experience with complete joy and pure wonder.

For our lean journey, we could learn plenty from those two young kids. Embrace the experience of trying something different today.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Where There is No Standard, There Can Be No Kaizen

These words spoken by Taiichi Ohno have been one of his most popular and well known sayings within our lean community. Typically, we use his famous words to stress the importance of establishing standard work as a baseline to measure any changes to signify actual improvement in our process. Without standard work, we can not be sure what impact our changes had on our process. The emphasis of standard work is clearly placed at the beginning of the kaizen process.

We teach the kaizen process to be four distinct steps:
1. Establish the existing standard work.
2. Analyze the current process
3. Make improvements (PDCA)
4. Document the new standard work

From these steps, we see that standard work is both the beginning AND the end of the kaizen process cycle. Not only is standard work required to begin kaizen, we also need standard work to finish kaizen.

How many kaizen events do we conduct where establishing the new standard work is not completed by the end of the event? Does our activity to document the new standard work normally end up on our homework list? What happens to our kaizen if the new standard work is not documented?

Documented standard work is just a simple written description (with pictures) of the safest, highest quality and most efficient way known to perform a given task or process. It is best written by the associates who actually performs the task and should be written in the most direct and simplest form possible.

How many tasks and processes do we perform daily where there is no documented standard work? How many of the tasks or processes have changed while our documents remain the same making them outdated.

In my experience, we do not place enough emphasis on documenting the new standard work in our kaizen event process so we easily backslide. The result is still the same. If you don’t document the improvements into new standard work, there is no kaizen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mi Mejora Continua

While rolling out our My CI program to all our manufacturing facilities, we learned that acronyms do not translate well. In our Chihuahua, Mexico plant, where I am currently consulting on two kaizen events this week, the use of CI (short for Continuous Improvement) was not well understood.

As a result, we changed the name to “Mi Mejora Continua” which simply drops the acronyms and spells it out as “My Continuous Improvement”. By the way, this employee suggestion program has had a fantastic start with over 50% participation level in just two months. We have expanded our kaizen wall fame twice already and filled all three walls up with implemented ideas from our associates.

As for acronyms, I have written in the past about the problems of acronyms as a barrier to better communication. Please avoid them as much as possible. It is amazing how acronym use has embedded itself deep into our culture. Think text messages. How many things are not completely understood in our daily life because of an acronym?

It is just not text messages. A few years ago, while helping my father-in-law out at his shop one Saturday afternoon, a wedding reception was about to begin at the local VFW Hall, which was located next door. As the wedding party made its way down the street to the VFW Hall, all the horns were blaring and people stopped to cheer them on. My 10-year old nephew, who was helping us out, watched with the rest of us as the cars parked out front and the wedding party made its way into the hall.

My nephew looked up to me and asked what the “V” meant in “VFW”. I told him the V stood for Veterans. He didn’t say anything at first and had a puzzled look on his face. So I went on to explain that VFW stood for Veterans of Foreign Wars and a little about this organization.

Oh, he replied and then added that he always thought the F stood for Funerals and the W stood for Weddings and he just couldn’t figure out what the V stood for.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Greensburg Honda Begins Production Today

At 7:50 am this morning, the first Honda Civic production vehicle, a 4 cylinder, 4 door, crystal black pearl sedan, drove off the assembly line here in Greensburg, Indiana. It was cool watching what once was cornfields transformed into a world-class manufacturing operation designed to be a zero landfill waste operation from the start. Check out the details from the press release at Inside Indiana.

Spirit of the Toyota Suggestion System

Yuza Yasuda, author of 40 Years, 20 Million Ideas: The Toyota Suggestion System, describes the spirit of the Toyota Suggestion system in this simple thought- “I want to make my work easier to do, even if only a little bit.” He goes on to say “If people are on the alert to detect problem points, and the environment is created that makes it easy to notice problems, the supply of creative idea “seeds” will not run out.”

Our job as lean leaders is to help create that environment and inspire everyone to act, to take action to make improvements. With the My CI process, we have seen hundreds of small, simple improvement ideas already implemented to make our jobs easier just a little bit.

A recent My CI idea by a shop floor associate was to add material stops on the end of a conveyor track. In twenty years of operation of constantly monitoring material on this conveyor and occasionally picking up material from the floor, this “problem” was just considered as part of the job. Not anymore thanks to an alert associate. His supervisor commented that it is amazing that this problem was not “noticed” for so long despite so many people working around it everyday.

The opportunities for improvement are truly infinite.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Kaizen 30-Day Homework List

At the end of a fast paced, energy draining, week long kaizen event, despite all the improvements achieved, our teams always ends up with tasks that they did not complete during the event. Even with a well defined scope and dedicated kaizen team, some items from our kaizen newspaper still remain open. During the kaizen report out, these items show up on our kaizen 30-day homework list.

Some things to think about……

Are kaizen 30-day homework lists considered good or bad?

Can we complete a kaizen event without having a 30-day homework list? Should we?

What does this say about the effectiveness of our kaizen event?

What items are allowed to end up on the list?

Do we intentionally leave items off?

Do we put the same high level of energy and focus on completing the 30-day homework list as we put forth during our kaizen event itself?

Do we follow-up on the 30-day homework list?

Are homework items tracked, measured and reported?

Are people held accountable? Don’t blame the dog!

Do homework items get done?

How can we improve our 30-day homework process?

Do certain items habitually find themselves on our homework list? Is there a pattern?

What resources can we dedicate or make available during the event to help reduce the number of items ending up on the homework list?

What can we learn from our kaizen 30-day homework list?