Friday, December 31, 2010

Annual Management Improvement Carnival 2010 Lean for Everyone

For the second of four blogs reviews in my contribution to this year’s Annual Management Improvement Carnival, I will feature Lean for Everyone written by Jon Wetzel.

This year I stumbled across this new blog which started just last December. Jon is the owner and operator of Lean for Everyone, located in Farmington Hills, Michigan, working to help teach new and small companies how to use Lean Six Sigma in their workplace.

I am a new reader of Jon’s posts and became an instant fan. The first thing I noticed about Jon’s posts are his long, intriguing titles that grab hold of you and draw you into his lean story. Many of his posts are inspired by daily activities in his life centered on his home which many us can relate while drawing some excellent lean learning. With a biotech background, entrepreneur spirit (he invented and patented Scented Pen) and the skill to make twist balloon animals (not kidding), you can imagine the cool insights and different perspective bursting from his mind and found in his lean posts.

Here are a few of his best for 2010.

Lean on TV: Kitchen Nightmares – Gordon Ramsay from Hell’s Kitchen a change agent?
Jon Wetzel describes the rapid restaurant improvement event steps that Gordon Ramsay uses to save a struggling restaurant from extinction. If you overlook the not-so-shy, in-your-face confrontational style of Mr. Ramsay, you learn that his recipe for improvement is actual quite appealing.

Lean for Health: I’m performing a kaizen on myself at
Jon Wetzel writes a series of posts on his personal fitness improvement journey using highlighting the helpful visual controls found on this website.

Lean for the Home: 4 Simple Steps to Doing a Red Tag Event in Your Closet
Jon Wetzel provides a simple, visual method for seeing the waste in our closet of clothes that we no longer wear.

Lean for Home: Creating an emergency checklist for when the power goes out
Jon Wetzel illustrates the power of the simple checklist and standard work as applied to a home emergency.

5 lean things your accounting dept. can do immediately to help cash flow
Jon Wetzel provides a few simple and effective ideas for our accounting department to look at their procedures with an eye for improvement.

Lean Biotech: I got to dumpster dive in Pfizer’s supply closet. It was not a Lean place
Jon Wetzel connects with his inner Indiana Jones as he pilfers through the abandoned supplies of a closed Pfizer facility, piecing together the remnants to tell the story of their not-so-lean supply chain practices.

Please be sure to continue reading Jon Wetzel’s Lean for Everyone in the future and comment on his posts.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Annual Management Improvement Carnival 2010 - Improve with Me

It’s that time again for the Annual Management Improvement Carnival which is orchestrated by John Hunter, creator of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog. I have the privilege to help by reviewing four excellent improvement blogs, Improve with Me, Lean for Everyone, My Flexible Pencil and Training within Industry. Following suit with the great review formats of Jamie Flinchbaugh and Tim McMahon, I will review each blog in separate posts over the next few days.

I’ll start things off with Improve with Me written by Brian Buck. Brian is a lean healthcare practitioner from Tacoma, Washington and started writing his blog back in December 2007. I sadly missed a couple of opportunities to meet Brian last year as I traveled to Seattle but hope to met him on one of my future trips.

As a regular reader of Brian’s posts, I have gained a broader perspective on improvement. Here are a few of his best for 2010.

Strategy Deployment Challenges at a Hospital
“Just because a project is a good thing to do does not mean it should be done now. It is very easy to spend time and resources on these “good” projects if your organizational strategy is not deployed throughout all levels. The challenge our organization is facing is there are other strategic initiatives losing momentum due to competing resources.” This post links to a nice video feature Dr John Toussaint from ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value on their hospital lean strategy.

Advice for First Time A3 Authors
“Writing an A3 is a wonderful tool to solve problems and share the thinking that goes into resolving issues. I have some tips to help first time A3 authors that I hope will be valuable for you.”

Doing Silly Things
“It is amazing to me how often people want to implement something or suggest how to change a process without ever connecting their thoughts to a problem or desired outcome. As an internal consultant at a hospital, I frequently get presented with proposed changes where we have to back-track to discover the problem. Here are some reasons I think this happens”

Fire at Will
Brian Buck provides some thought provoking points to the “Burning Platform” approach to drive change.

Don’t Call HR Yet!
“If someone isn’t following standard work then it becomes an individual performance issue. Have you ever heard a leader say something like that? It is important to help leaders understand that there are many reasons why standardized work may not be followed and creating a human resource performance improvement plan should not be the first step.”

A.C.O.W. Tale
“Does your hospital have a system to ensure nurses have working equipment or they know how to get them fixed? I recently visited a hospital where the answer would be “NO”.”

I like Brian’s posts because he presents great examples from his lean healthcare experiences that stretch my manufacturing-centric point of view on lean improvement along with providing his insight to the lean approach.

Please be sure to continue reading Brian Buck’s Improve with Me in the future and comment on his posts.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Managing Mura

One of our challenges in lean manufacturing is to try to level unevenness, called mura, through the value stream is improve the flow. Mura is one of the 3 M’s along with muda (waste) and muri (overburden).

When thinking of mura, we typically think of the demand pattern for our product or service. A cyclical demand profile is fairly common with many products especially seen in seasonal products like lawn mowers, snow blowers, Christmas trees, fruit cake, swim suits, etc. Even caskets have a seasonal pattern, believe it or not. It seems to be the nature of most products and we accept it.

But what about self inflicted unevenness?

I was visiting a company (not a client) recently that has a problem with mura (unevenness). Every month 50% of the total monthly sales occur in the last week of the month. This pattern is pretty consistent each and every month. As you can imagine, the impact through the value stream is like a pig going through a python every month. During the last week of the month, the plant is running high overtime to meet this demand and the following week they are having down days due to low demand.

I learned that they have a monthly sales target to hit every month. This metric is one of the “Must Do” metric driven by management with all the normal rewards and punishments the go along with it. Hit the target means raises, bonuses, promotion and keeping you job. Missing the target means poor reviews, no increase in wages, performance turnaround plans and job loss.

Under this “Must Do” metric, the sales department made decisions and acted to meet the target every month which, in this case, meant making “deals” that cut the price at the end of the month. It did not take long in the market for the savvy customers to see the pattern of price deals towards month end. So as you can imagine, more and more customers waited until the last week of the month to buy which exasperated the situation.

Bottom line, this mura has not only resulted in higher cost but lower sales revenue (however they are making up for it in volume, right?)

I have seen the same push at year end especially when bonuses are at risk. Do anything to make bonus is the primary short term mindset. Is this happening at your company this time of year?

The main problem with goals like monthly targets, quarterly targets, year end targets and bonus driven targets is they potentially can drive the wrong behaviors. Goals and targets are not bad things to have either professionally or personally, they are great things the have. Just be aware of the behaviors and actions that go along with effort to achieve them.

For simplistic countermeasures: Stop doing that. In this case, don’t make the ritual price cuts at the end of the month. Look deeper at how sales promotions affect the value stream. Try to think more long term and figure out what behaviors (ie number of customer touches) are desired to achieve the results (sales generated). Focus on these behaviors deemed to have the most impact. Brainstorm with your team (sales and operations together) to find a better way.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Management Improvement Carnival #118

Got Boondoggle is proud to host another edition of the Management Improvement Carnival. Please check out the following posts from follow lean thinkers in recent weeks. Enjoy and learn!

Who is Responsible? by Jon Miller – “The word "responsibility" means to bear a duty. When one is responsible, it is because one has taken on a burden or duty. In keeping with lean principles this should not be overburden, or unreasonable duties, but it is critically important that individuals take responsibility for the role they have accepted.”

Guest Post: Going to Gemba with Grandma by John Wetzel- “I saw something that I would never have discovered if I hadn’t gone to the gemba.”

Hoshin Kanri: Steel, Needles, Tubes and Logic by Ron Pereira – “And as it turns out, during the taping of Gemba Academy’s Lean Lingo course, Brad broke down the characters of this mysterious word. And in doing so, really opened my eyes to what this word means.”

He Should Have Seen It by Mark Rosenthal - “We talk about 5S, separating the necessary from the unnecessary, a lot, but usually apply it to things. What about information?” (Also read the link in this post!)

Voice of Customer (VOC): What does it mean? By Mark Wheeler – “Most companies have some type of VOC program in place. Many programs fall short of delivering measurable value. This failure often lies at the definition level of VOC. But how do you actually define it?

Friday, November 05, 2010

Lean Safety

Can you kaizen a process making productivity gains without using a stopwatch?

Most of us practice and teach the value of data driven improvements however there are ways of getting the same results without clicking a stopwatch. One such kaizen approach is described by Robert Hafey in his book Lean Safety: Transforming your Safety Culture with Lean Management.

While leading a kaizen event, Bob directed the team to leave their stopwatches in their kaizen toolboxes and use direct observation of the process with an eye towards safety. More specifically, the team was trained to look for only four conditions in Gemba: Out of Neutral, Excessive Weight, Straining, and Repetitive Tasks.

Out of Neutral: A condition when one of our body parts are out of the neutral position while performing a work task, i.e. when our arms go above our shoulder, our shoulder joint is out of neutral.

Excessive Weight: When someone moves or lifts a heavy object.

Straining: When someone strains to exert physical force to an object.

Repetitive Tasks: Anytime someone is asked to repeat short duration tasks repetitively.

As the team took note of each occurrence, they brainstormed ways to eliminate the condition. For instance, if they observed the operator lifting a heavy object, they did not reinforce the proper lifting techniques. Instead, they looked for ways to eliminate the need to lift in the first place.

After implementation of these improvements, the job was easier and better which led to productivity gains. The interesting result was the natural evolution from a batch process to one piece flow based on improvement of these ergonomic elements.

Sounds like a simple and focused way to make a job easier and better looking at muri (overburden) versus our traditional viewpoint of always looking for muda (waste)!

In Lean Safety, many of the lean tools like A3, 5S, standard work, poka-yoke, 5 Whys and process mapping are adapted towards improving safety. The tools are not new however the applications towards safety give us a different take in using our lean tools. In addition, Bob has provided many examples and real life experiences from facilitating lean safety kaizen events. Overall, this is a very good book written in an easy to read format with a passion for safety that all lean practitioners can learn from.

For more information on Lean Safety, Bob has a new blog site called Lean Safety which he started posting his thoughts and ideas on continuous improvement focused on safety.

Welcome Bob to the blogging community! And as Bob says. “You can continuously cope or you can continuously improve, the choice is yours.”

Monday, November 01, 2010

Driving Lean Across the Organization

One of the more unfortunate expressions, in my opinion, found in the lean community is “driving lean across the organization”. I hear and see this all the time. It can be found in lean books, articles, job postings, job descriptions, reviews, etc. “I want someone who can drive lean across the organization” or “To drive lean across the company, we need …..”

What comes to your mind when you hear the expression “driving lean across the organization”? How would you drive lean across the organization?

Is this what we really need to do to move towards being a lean company? Can we sustain efforts if we drive them? What happens if the driver leaves the company? What about respect for people or engaging the employees?

As a lean leader (both internal and external), I have been asked in the past to “drive” lean across the company. Having someone, especially an outside consultant, tasked with driving lean is not the best way to become lean. Sure, you most certainly will get some fast results but it will not be sustained and it may cause more damage to the organization than the gains you achieved.

To begin changing our lean culture, instead of using the term “driving”, can we choose better words to reflect a better approach? How about leading the way, guiding, teaching or setting the example?

Now, how would you lead the way? How would you set the example of the lean approach within your organization? Would your course of action be different than if you drive lean?

(photo credit: AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

If Air Travel Worked Like HealthCare

Here is a quite funny video on the problems(opportunities) within our healthcare system as presented in an air travel parody and a case for Lean Healthcare. Enjoy and laugh (or cry).

Inspired by Shingo Again

A personal highlight for me at the 2010 Northeast Shingo Prize Conference this week was the opening keynote speech and the opportunity to learn from Mr. Ritsuo Shingo, President of the Institute of Management Improvement and son of lean genius, Shigeo Shingo. I was overjoyed getting the chance to meet him after his keynote and talk with him about lean thinking including sharing with him my first lean lessons taught directly by his father back in 1985.

Mr. Ritsuo Shingo lean leadership experience is vast in his own right, working 34 years for Toyota in various positions eventually becoming President of Toyota China in 1998. After Toyota, he worked for Hino Motors China and was elected President in 2007. Mr. Shingo recently retired from Hino Motors in 2009 only to take up his father’s quest to teach lean with the Institute of Management Improvement.

One of his major keynote points was on the principle of “Go and See”. He said it was not enough just to go and see rather we should “Go and Watch.” Go and See may imply just taking a factory tour much like a tourist walks around to see the sights. Go and Watch stresses the idea of going to gemba with a purpose, staying in one area for a length of time. The process itself will tell you what is wrong with it, if any. Mr Shingo suggested that every management person should go to gemba at least once everyday, and stay in one spot for at least 30 minutes to observe. This is EVERY person in management, not just the plant production leaders. Can you imagine the impact if just this one behavior became part of our company’s culture?

Another point linked to Go and Watch was the steps to problem solving. Many of us know the steps in one form or another, but he stated them in this order:
1. Grasp Facts
2. Find the Problem
3. Cause Analysis-5 Whys
4. Countermeasure (Both temporary and permanent)
5. Implementation

The key point is that finding the problem comes after grasping the facts. Many of us think we know what the problem is and jump right into solutions. Mr. Shingo stated we should cast out a large nets to capture the all the fish to understand the problem with the fish representing facts. From the facts (not opinions or assumptions) we should separate the unrelated facts from the related facts and arrange the related facts in order (i.e. time sequence). We will find the problem from the fact.

Mr. Shingo went on to explain that his definition of a problem is a deviation from a standard. Without a standard, we will not be able to find the problem. He stressed that it is a management problem by not showing what is the standard. How many of us have clearly established standards? Standards are one of the foundations of a lean system yet for many of us, if we were to be honest, might find that we have a weak foundation.
If we have them, are we following them?
If we are following them, are we improving them?

Perhaps we should Go and Watch.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lean Bloggers at Shingo Conference

One of the best reasons to attend Lean Conferences like the NE Shingo Prize Conference held in Providence, Rhode Island this week is to meet fellow lean thinkers and sharing our lean experiences and ideas. As seen pictured above (L to R) are Mark Hamel (Gemba Tales blog and author of Kaizen Event Fieldbook), Tim McMahon (A Lean Journey blog), David Kasprzak (My Flexible Pencil blog) and myself-Mike Wroblewski (Got Boondoggle blog) who met up at this Conference. We had excellent opportunities over the course of the conference to discuss all things lean, attend great sessions, get inspired by lean stories and dig deeper into many lean topics. What a great way to learn from true lean thinkers that not only “get it” but actually “live it” which personally fired me up to get back to work helping others on the lean journey.

But it did not stop with just fellow bloggers. I met and talked with many lean thinkers and practitioners included my new friends at GBMP (led by Bruce Hamilton as seen in the Kaizen Toast Video), Jeff Fuchs (Director of the Maryland World Class Consortia) and many, many others.

Gochiso-sama! This is Japanese for “it was a feast” and an expression of gratitude after a full meal. Our discussions and learning at the NE Shingo Prize Conference left me filled with ideas much like a Thanksgiving feast only without the ready-to-nap feeling, more like ready-to-RUN!

Thanks guys for helping me expand my lean thinking. Kampai, my friends!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

TPM in Action

While recently teaching about Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) using the learn-by-doing approach, we were presented with a great learning opportunity. Our first task was to get our hands dirty in giving the selected machine a deep and thorough cleaning. This cleaning is not just to make the machine look good; we were inspecting the machine while cleaning. This deep cleaning process paid particular attention to those hard to reach spots not normally seen by the machine operator on a daily basis.

We did find many issues with this machine that required repair during this deep clean. This was also accompanied with many comments like “I never knew that before”, “What’s that?”, “I can’t believe how much dirt and chips were under here” and “No wonder it leaks, all the drain holes are plugged up.” There were several other comments made that would make a sailor blush and I’ll just leave it to your imagination.

In the middle of our partial disassembly of the machine to reach those places where the sun don’t shine, we found one major problem, a significant rip in the protective sheath of the main control wiring under the machine against the chip conveyor system. It would have never been seen walking around the machine under normal inspection.

With the wires unprotected and naked to the world, we have the potential of a major breakdown. Not only would a failure involving these wires cause a very expensive repair bill with significant downtime, we have the serious potential of electrocuting someone.

Preventing the loss of life is the highest of priority over any of the six big losses found in the OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) metric.

After doing some root cause analysis, the team concluded the original poor design of the machine (thinner sheath material, plastic elbow joints and poor routing location under the machine) was the main root cause. After the new and improve material arrived the next day (thicker sheath and cast metal elbows), the team replaced the wire covering and re-routed the wiring to the back of the machine (instead of under the machine) making it free and clear of the chip conveyor system.

Our TPM approach included corrective and preventative actions by improving the machine design. The end result is a more reliable, more efficient, safer machine available for making parts.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Is Social Media the Next Lean Tool?

This year, facebook reports membership at more than 500 million active users with over 50% active each day and more than 30 billion pieces of contact shared each month. This would make facebook the 3rd largest nation in the world behind China and India, easily exceeding the US population.

Twitter seems to be the dominate microbloging player with 75 million estimated users although the numbers are not confirmed. We have LinkedIn, Blogs, YouTube, iPhone Apps just to mention other popular communication tools.

With the growing popularity with these forms of social media and the vast number of communication offerings, can they be used to improve how we conduct business or more specifically, can they be used in a lean transformation?

This is just one of the experiments that Xerox is trying in their Lean Six Sigma initiative according to Aqua Porter, VP corporate Lean Six Sigma Operations in her presentation today in the Lean Manufacturing Track at Noria’s Reliable Plant Conference 2010.

This is not the case of a hammer looking for a nail. No, it is simply a method to bridge poor communication. This includes slow communication, lack of sharing best practices, lack of interactive communication, etc. It is viewed as the way to improve customer dialogue as well as internal communication, both vertically and horizontally within the company.

One application in particular under test at Xerox is the use internal microbloging tool Yammer. Yammer describes their platform as "a tool for allowing companies and organizations to become more productive through the exchange of short frequent messages. The standard Twitter question is "What are you doing?", whereas with Yammer you answer the question "What are you working on?'".

Since this is still a new tool to their Lean Six Sigma approach, the results are still pending. I applaud Xerox for their boldness and open-mindedness to experiment with social media.

Despite the overall popularity of social media and unlike Xerox, the typical corporate viewpoint on social media is not one I would consider “embracing with open arms”. In my experience, the typical corporate viewpoint on social media is based on fear, control and legal protection. It is not viewed as a positive tool and certainly not something to be done “while on the clock”. Does this closed-minded view limit us in tapping into the power of social media might offer?

What do you think? Is your company embracing social media? Does social media mix with the lean journey?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Spare Parts

What do you see in this picture? Beside a lack of any real 5S, what thoughts come to your kaizen mind about the motors?

Perhaps you may think about what are the motors used for? Do we really need them? Are they critical? How fast can we get one if we needed it? What is our process to decide what parts to keep in stock? Or how much do they cost?

One of the elements of a solid Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) program that does not get much attention is our spare parts. By simply taking good care of our machines and equipment does not entirely eliminate the chance of them breaking down. When that happens, the fire drill begins.

Go to any Maintenance Department in any company in the country and you find many things in common like a storage area for supplies and parts. Since this is typically viewed as a non-production area, we tend to ignore it.

With a kaizen approach, we need to improve all areas of our company including spare parts. With good TPM program, we should develop standard processes that establish the method to what parts we keep on hand.

First, a team based approach is best used to identify the critical parts that we may need. We can use the recommended spare parts list by the manufacture but only as a starting point. Many times this list of parts can include more parts than we should keep. Look at the machine history but also take care not to include a part just because we got burned back in 1982 when it broke down for 6 months.

As a guideline, critical parts can be identified as recent chronic problem areas and difficult to obtain within 24-48 hours. Cost should NOT be a factor. If the chance of a problem is high and we are left waiting days or weeks for the parts to come in, it’s better to keep these parts on hand no matter what the part cost is. Compare it to lost business, customer disappointments, etc to factor in the decision. Discuss this with your team and company management to determine what makes the best sense in your situation.

Once we have a plan, set up a spare parts list by each pieces of equipment and clearly identify them in our stock area.

As all things in lean, this is not a static process, it’s dynamic. The spare parts list needs to be reviewed on a regular basis, perhaps once a year. Machines fall out of warrantee or the manufacturer not long supports this model in either service or parts.

Without a standard process for our spare parts, we may find parts on the shelves like the picture above.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

In Defense of Kaizen Events

Over the past several years, I have encountered a growing negative view towards kaizen events, continuous improvement events, rapid improvement events, kaizen blitz or any other name we assign to a typical week long, team based improvement activity. I have been told by one company executive “That kaizen events are too expensive and the results are not sustainable.” I have heard from many different people that “Kaizen events are just a way for consultants to make quick and easy money.” The negative comments go on as one senior company executive told me that “Kaizen events are a sign of immaturity on the lean journey.”

In reflection, all these comments about kaizen events may indeed be true depending on the circumstances. I have seen kaizen events which are expensive along with a high amount of backsliding from the initial results. Certainly, there are many lean consultants and practitioners out there that use kaizen events as their primary (only) method of getting process improvements. But the comment that had the most impact to me was the last one, kaizen events are a sign of immaturity.

As an infant straight from the womb, our single source of nourishment was milk. In the beginning, that is all we need and the only thing we could digest. Eagerly, we suckle the warm milk and we begin to grow. As our bodies grow and mature, we soon need more than just milk. Our diet starts to change. First we move to soft foods which satisfy our new needs. After a short time, our development continues and we have greater needs. Slowly we add solid food. Before we know it, we have a complete diet.

Much like milk, kaizen events are the sole source of our nourishment as begin our lean journey. It is all we need and we are not ready to consume anything else. The main purpose of a kaizen event is to grow and develop people. To help us practice observing, solving problems and experimenting in a high energy, fast paced environment. Events are great team building experiences. Kaizen events should engage people to improve, a chance to experiment and fail, to learn from our mistakes and to hone our thinking skills. Ultimately, we begin owning the improvement process, growing and maturing as we add more to our lean diet.

If all we feed ourselves is milk, we will restrict our growth and development. As lean leaders, if all we teach others is to warm milk, what results would you expect? The key is add to our diet as we need it and can digest it; going from milk directly to solid food will not work and may cause harm. Adding to our diet as we grow and mature does not mean that we completely abandon drinking milk either as some may suggest. The nourishment found in milk does not change.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Motor Intake TPM

Here is a simple kaizen for motors which can be part of our Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) program.

1. Remove the motor intake cover over the fan.
2. Clean and repair fan as needed.
3. Re-attach cover and place filter over vent area.
4. Add motor inspection and filter replacement to operator checklist.

It does not take much dirt to collect in the fan to restrict airflow which causes the motor to run at higher temperatures and leads to premature failure.

Which is easier, better, faster and cheaper: Replace a filter or replace a motor?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beer Kaizen

If you like the Toast Kaizen Video like I do, here is a funny parody video called "Beer Kaizen" done by KCOE. Laugh and Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Lean Blog 2LP

I stumbled across a relatively new lean blog called 2 Lean Principals or 2LP for short. It features lean thinking from Jason Ballard and Tom Riney. Welcome to the lean blogging world, Jason and Tom. I hope to learn much from the both of you.

Kaizen using Tennis Balls

Here is a great “creativity before capital” idea using tennis balls. I have actually seen this used with excellent results in a plant lunchroom. Put tennis balls on the legs of the chairs.

Without this tennis ball protection, the chairs can mark up the floor as it slides around resulting in extra work to clean the floor. In addition, the noise level of chairs screeching across the floor is disturbing to the nearby office and training room. The tennis balls act as sound deadening devices. To some this may not appear too stylist however it is an inexpensive solution that is easy to do! What do you think?

For more tennis ball ideas, check out a post from the past by Jon Miller, A few more kaizen ideas involving tennis balls.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Toxic Employees

Over my career, I have run across “difficult” people. These include no particular group; they have been bosses, co-workers, employees, team members, rank-and-file, clients, suppliers and customers. Most cases, these difficulties are overcome through improved communication and team building behaviors. In the cases that are not so easily improved, I typically find a “toxic” employee.

What I mean by toxic employee is one with a negative attitude and makes it part of their mission in life to drag everyone around them down to their dark side view of the world. They are the hard core, concrete heads that fight all improvement efforts. They seem to always have a sarcastic comment about every topic and management decision. If things go their way, all is good but stand back if things go counter to their liking. They could be openly negative or take little shots from a distance. They sap the energy and life force from everyone around. In general, most people don’t like to work near them.

What do you do in a situation like this?

But what if this employee is a rock star salesperson or contributor but has the bad attitude? Do you put up with the attitude issue for the great performance?

Does performance override character? Or do we want performance and character?

What if this person when confronted, justifies their behavior with “it’s the truth and I’m the only one with the guts to speak out”? What if this person is a top executive with political ties to the company President yet others below feel the pain?
What if this person is not an employee but a customer?

Is it following our “respect to people principle” by not addressing this person’s behavior?

Do you have toxic employees in your organization?

Back from my Summer Break

As you may have noticed or perhaps not, my posting has been non-existent for the past couple of months. No worries, just focusing on my clients, traveling and taking a little family summer vacation hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to recharge. New and exciting posts about my lean learning will follow. The mountain water was extremely cool on a hot, humid summer day!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us

Here is an amazing presentation by RSA animate with a talk by Dan Pink on what motivates us. Great information. Enjoy and learn.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tear Down This Wall

“The Air Conditioners versus Non-Air Conditioners”, this is how one employee explained it to me today, from his eyes on the shop floor, of the great wall that still exists between management and shop floor operators. This wall that can feel as vast as the Great Wall and as high as Mount Everest remains one of the most difficult and lasting challenges in our quest for productivity.

Salary versus Hourly.

Management versus Shop Floor.

Management versus Union.

The list of labels that designated each side of the wall goes on and on.

From my first days on the management side of the wall in the early 1980’s, many of the ways we treated each side differently, easily seen by the perks like reserved parking lots, separate dining facilities, country club memberships, huge bonus and stock options etc, have long gone the way of the dinosaur. Well, at least some of them have disappeared. This has certainly been a positive step to bring down the wall but we still have a long, long way to go.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is not a big problem today. This wall still very much exists and continues to divide us. Just as we must see the waste before we can eliminate it, we must acknowledge this great divide before we can eliminate it.

If I knew the answer to this problem, I probably could go to sleep tonight a very wealthy man. Like many of the problems we face, there are no easy, quick fixes. It will take focus, a willingness to solve the problem along of plenty of hard work. Building trust and true culture change takes time.

As company leaders, do we put the same passion and drive into tearing down this wall as we have for cutting costs?

Altering slightly the words of President Regan in his famous Berlin Wall Speech, June 1987:
“If you seek profits, if you seek prosperity for the company and all the stakeholders, if you seek productivity: Come here, to this gate. Mr. CEO, open this gate. Mr. CEO, tear down this wall.”

Friday, June 04, 2010

Northeast Shingo Prize Conference 2010

The Northeast Shingo Prize Conference will be held in Providence, Rhode Island on October 19-20, 2010. This is another conference I will be attending this year and thrilled to be invited as one of the speakers. Please stop by if you are attending.

Reliable Plant Conference 2010

The Reliable Plant Conference 2010 will be held in Nashville, Tennessee on August 31 thru September 2nd. I plan on attending and honored to be included as one of the speakers in the Lean Manufacturing section talking about my favorite topic SMED. If you are able to attend, I would enjoy meeting with any fellow lean practitioners.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Show Me the Results

One cultural aspect of American business that is both a driving force and a curse is our obsession with getting results. It does not matter if we are looking at company performance or individual performance. It does not matter if we are looking at strategy, marketing, sales, manufacturing, or finance. Neither does it matter if we look at our lean progress or any other business approach, our business metrics or our stock performance. Bottom line, everything and everyone is rated and evaluated on results and only on results.

Just as in sports, all the matters is the final score, who won. What do we see in the majority of sports headlines…who won, who lost and the score.

For most of us, this is just a fact of life, a given, part of our competitive nature, our culture. I can not argue against results entirely, results are important.

Sometime we can easily quantify the results making them objective. Sometime we can not. Results that are subjective are like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. Despite our efforts to make all results objective and quantifiable, in many cases, subjectivity remains.

Overlooking this problem, we obsess over results. What is our stock price? What were our quarterly financials? Did I hit my quota? What is our 5S audit score? What is our OEE? What is my direct labor costs? Was this project a success? What are each employee’s talent matrix rating? Just tell me the score.

But does this tell us the whole story? Are we focused long-term? Does it reflect the struggle? What about the knowledge gained? Does it matter? What impact will it have on our future? What was the cost of our success? Were there any negative consequences in getting our results? Do we care?

In our obsession with results, do we actually miss something, perhaps something greater?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to Kaizen

It is not important to know “how to kaizen” as it is “to kaizen”. It does not matter so much if we start with 5S on our lean journey as it is to start our lean journey. It does not matter how to use each of the lean tools as it is to use the tools to solve our problems.

Kaizen is a messy, bumpy struggle to improve. However, it is in this struggle that we will learn and gain knowledge. This is the only knowledge that will truly help us succeed in lean.

Each of our lean transformations will be different. It will not be like it says in any one book or how some other company operates in their lean approach.

Do not wait for perfect kaizen rather just kaizen continuously. Results from any kaizen are secondary to the act of kaizen itself. The only failure in kaizen is to no longer kaizen.

There are no right and wrong ways to kaizen, only the way we kaizen and better ways. There is always a better way.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Winning Poker Hand of Corporate Metrics

When we say company metrics, many of us quickly think of Cost, Quality, Safety, Delivery and Morale. All are important metrics for any company however we tend to view them differently. Specifically, we focus our time and attention to one or maybe two metrics while virtually ignoring the rest because some are valued higher.

The King of all metrics is Cost.
The Queen is Quality.
The Ace is Safety.
The Jack is Delivery.
And the lowly 10 card is Morale.

Many companies consider these to be the top company metrics. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of companies focus primarily on COST as THE key metric. How do I know?

Just look at your company’s key performance indicators (KPI).

How many ways is cost charted, measured and analyzed? Could it be…
Sales dollar per employee?
Sales dollar per Direct Labor Manhour?
Direct labor cost per department, per shift, per plant, per product, per on and on?
Overtime cost?
Piece part cost?
Purchasing variance?
Overhead cost?
Capital budget?
The list goes on and on.

The metric that the majority of companies focus the least amount of their attention is Delivery. How do I know?

How many ways is delivery charted, measured and analyzed? Could it be…
On-time Delivery?
And that’s about it.

Quality, safety and even morale have more than one KPI.

Similar to delivery, morale does not rank high on anybody’s list of metrics. Many of us may think morale is too vague, not quantifiable and too hard to measure much less have any control in improving it. So we tend to ignore it, unless it is close to contract time for those of us in union shops. Besides, we can still post stellar financial results with low morale.

In any management meeting when the company metrics are reviewed, how much time is spent discussing cost? How much time is spent discussing delivery? And when was the last time morale was even mentioned?

Quality and safety are somewhere in the middle and time spent on these metrics is directly proportional to the number of safety incidents or customer complaint issues of late. No issues, not much discussion. But when an incident occurs, the discussion time goes up.

As a lean thinker, how should our time be spent with regard to our metrics? In my opinion, we should spend the majority of our time on Delivery, Quality, Safety plus Morale and spend less time on Cost. If you think about it, improvements in delivery, quality and safety are process focused while Morale is a good indication of employee engagement (ie employee suggestions). Focusing on these areas will end up improving cost.

As for single delivery KPI of on-time delivery, this is the perhaps the easiest one to achieve in most cases…just increase our inventory level, right? But is this the best course of action? Is on-time delivery the only measurement we should concern ourselves with? What about leadtime?

How many companies focus on leadtime reduction? Now how many of us relentless pursue leadtime reduction with the same passion as we tend to do in cost reduction? In our kaizen, do we focus on eliminating waste to reduce costs or shorten leadtimes? Do we understand the difference?

If we focused the majority of our time and attention on cost, our King card, it would be like holding a handful of kings. The best poker hand we could hope for is a four of a kind. But if we aligned the whole organization to follow suit, holding each our metrics in our hand, we beat a four of a kind every time, royally.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Is U.S. Productivity at its Limit?

According to the USA Today, printed in the Friday, May 7th, 2010 edition, a glimmer of economic hope is seeming given with news of U.S. productivity and our job market. The slowing of U.S. productivity to a mere 3.6% annual rate in the first quarter and applications for unemployment dropping over the last three weeks led analysts to predict an increase in hiring as growth in production, the output per hour of work, is predicted to slow even more.

As quoted in this article, Nigel Gault of HIS Global Insight stated, “Companies are close to the limits of what they can do with their existing staff. They are going to have to start rehiring people.”

Hogwash! Not even close! Yet Mr. Gault's prediction may end up correct despite the flawed data, in my opinion.

Instead of looking at their spreadsheets and computer models, these analysts need to go to gemba to see for themselves. The only problem is that they probably don’t know what to look for if they did. From my gemba perspective, limited to the small sample size of companies I know about, U.S. manufacturing companies have only made a small dent in productivity. They same goes for our service industries or any other category for that matter.

There are still vast amounts of waste remaining in our processes if we only could see it.

So I believe that there are still enormous opportunities in the U.S. to substantially increase our productivity.

On the other hand, I see limitations in what companies are doing to improve and the rate of their improvement. The majority of companies in the U.S. are not relentless pursuing a path of waste elimination and continuous improvement. As demand picks up (not really noted in the predictive analysis), companies may in fact start rehiring.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Management Improvement Carnival #97

Got Boondoggle is proud to host this edition of the Management Improvement Carnival. Please check out the following top posts from follow lean thinkers in recent weeks. Enjoy and learn!

Don’t Do 5S by Jamie Flinchbaugh – “So make sure that using 5S, at any point in the journey, is solving actual problems that you currently have. Start with the problem statement, then pick the tool. Don’t start by picking the tool.”

The Will, the Willow and the Frog by Jon Miller – “There are many stories from many cultures that remind us that with faith and will, nothing is impossible. The irony is that if you don’t believe this, you will never find out whether it is true.”

Leadership: The Power of Influence by Tim McMahon – “The challenge is to get people to follow in a direction they might not otherwise go.”

Continuous Improvement by Lee Fried – “Thus, there is no way an organization can claim to be promoting continuous improvement through events or projects. It will only occur when improving the work is the work.”

Kaizen in the Laundry Room and My Domestic Shortcomings by Mark Hamel – “Kaizen opportunities are often best identified (and done) by those who do the work.”

Lean Thoughts During Saturday Errands by Mark Graban – “In the course of these errands, I had some thoughts about lean or related to it (or just fun thoughts, maybe), including: Why 100% utilization isn’t possible or optimal, Visual controls with moving tape and Good “flow” from a store to a dental practice office.”

Some Growth is not Visible by Pete Abilla – “When you think about it, that’s how a culture is created. Not through some big program, or some big push top-down. Instead, true, long-term cultural change happens over a long period through many, many, small micro-interactions.”

3 Tips for Continuous Improvement by Ron Pereira – “In this article, I want to share some ideas for how to approach things such as workout programs and continuous improvement as they are surprisingly similar.”

Toyota the Bad Guy by John Shook – “Even so, we must recognize that even at its peak as an organizational GPS, Toyota was never as good as its reputation in some ways, but better in others. Both at once.”

The Human in the Loop by Mark Rosenthal – “If we truly want to construct a work environment where people make the best possible decisions, it behooves us to rid ourselves of decades old stereotypes and convenient beliefs about why people decide what they do.”

The Secret to Successfully Running a Lean Office: Daily Management by Jeff Hajek – “Daily Management is a proactive, systematic approach to balancing capacity and expected demand. In a nutshell, it is a process for using Deming’s PDCA cycle to manage a workday.”

Should I Pursue Waste Elimination or Lead Time Reduction? by Michael Balle as the Gemba Coach – “To respond to your question directly; there is no debate: Kaizen without a pull system will be disappointing.”

Bagel with a side of Jidoka by Evan Durant – “And the more we explore the concept of Jidoka the more we are forced to challenge our assumptions about what exactly the human and machine elements are. Often there are untapped opportunities to separate the two.”

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

We can't Handle the Truth

In the movie, A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson playing the role of a hard-core, old-school, tough-as-nails Marine Colonel delivers the famous line in a military court, “You can’t handle the truth” in answer to Tom Cruise’s cross examination demanding the truth about a code red.

This is a problem for many of us. We can’t handle the truth. Maybe our huge egos prevent us from seeing the truth. Perhaps it is rooted deep in our survival genes to protect us from harm both physical and non-physical. Maybe it is our arrogance from our over-the-top self-image or self-importance. Whatever the reason, we can’t handle the truth if it is not in alignment with our thinking.

We all believe in truth however the truth is not always easily believed. What blinds us from seeing the truth? What in our minds automatically blocks us from seeing the truth? Why do we not want to believe the truth? How do our perceptions create different lenses in seeing the truth?

According to Jon Miller in How to scold like a Kaizen Sensei, the role of the Sensei is “to speak truth to power in ways that a member of the organization could not.” This honest, insightful and raw truth telling skill has very powerful results depending on the delivery by the sensei and the reaction of the learner. Regardless if you are an outside consultant or inside the company, there is a risk in truth telling.

It is easy to see why this truth telling skill does not work coming from within an organization. Unfortunately, the proverbial “kill the messenger” is alive and well in American business. People who speak the truth are often labeled as a non-team player, a disrupter, a trouble maker or the current tag of being “not a good fit”. End result the person either quits or is fired.

Have you ever compromised the truth to keep your job? What about keeping silent? How does your company leadership handle the truth? How do you handle the truth?

It doesn’t take much to see that the truth can get watered down, altered or hidden entirely inside a company, especially as it moves vertically up the ladder. We may believe, at least in the short term, that this is the best way considering the risk, political correctness and social politeness but at what cost? In the long term, is the cost greater? Doesn’t this render our problem solving capabilities as impotent? Isn’t our continuous improvement quest towards perfection halted without seeing the truth?

“New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become.” Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Management Magical Mystery Tour

I strongly believe that one of the keys to a successful lean transformation is management involvement, not just management support. Involvement means full contact, hands-on, go and see for yourself approach. Involvement means leadership. That means more time away from the comfort of your desk and spending this time on the shop floor, in the office areas, in the warehouse, or going to customer sites.

Company executives have gotten so comfortable with seeing their company through the lenses of reports, emails, charts, graphs, boardroom meetings or what their staff tells them that many never venture out for a first hand experience. Charts and graphs are fine tools however I would prefer to know about my operation by experience. Which gives you a better understanding of Hawaii – a) reading travel brochure, looking at pictures and hearing stories by people who went there or b) by your own travel adventure walking on the warm sands of Maui, taking in a deep breathe of ocean air and seeing the waves crashing onto the shore?

Unfortunately, we get distorted glimpses of C-Level executives going “undercover” in TV shows to see first hand what is going on in their company as some great revelation. Kevin Meyer has a great post, MBWA is not a Gemba Walk, that I tend to agree with.

Closer to reality is the planned visit by the high level leader to a site which turns into huge parade of leaders trying to look their best, normally part of a Management Magical Mystery Tour. It’s just like if you invited your priest or pastor over for dinner, you get your house all cleaned up and a special meal is planned and prepared (not a typical night at home, right?).

The plant is notified well in advance so the facility is cleaned up (even to the extent of hiding stuff out of view until after the show) along a pre-determined tour route. Everybody practices and rehearses their lines for the presentation. The smell of fresh paint is hanging in the air. We are ready. Places everyone.

The show usually starts in a conference room with a presentation by the plant staff. If the plant manager is cunning, he will give the executive time to pass on some words of wisdom which can easily take up some of the time for the planned tour. At best, the tour will be rushed which minimizes the chance for problems to surface. It is even possible that the tour is canceled because the meeting, which there was great discussion, took all the time allocated for the visit. Then the C-Level and his entourage travel to the next site.

The only thing missing is the official tour t-shirts. What a wasted opportunity.

How can we get out of this management magical mystery tour routine. First, the C-level executives should visit so often that the event is not special. Second, a visit should not always be a planned event that prompts a show and tell. Third, the C-level executives should not make it a visit to punish but a visit to learn, teach and mentor. Fourth, visit with a purpose and not make it a social hour. It’s nice to talk with people but don’t let that become the mission. If a problem is found, help by coaching and not seeking to blame someone. This would be a good start.

A true lean transformation changes the way the entire business operates from sales to the shop floor. This requires a hands-on, personal approach that cannot be delegated to staff or outside consultants. It is a new way to run the business that requires behavior changes. It is not a project or event. It demands leadership based on first hand experience and it must start at the top.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Cats and Dogs in Manufacturing

Many times in manufacturing career I have struggled in dealing with the dilemma of producing the cats and dogs. The cats and dogs are those parts or products that are typically the small volume, hard to make, mainly less profitable, or generally the pain in the ass parts that cause us headaches and disrupt the harmony in our manufacturing flow.

Since our lean manufacturing focus is to improve flow, how do we deal with our cats and dogs?

Do we outsource our cats and dogs so we can maximize our internal efficiency by producing only our high runners? Do we discontinue making the cats and dogs entirely if they are not profitable? Do we outsource some of our high runners to work on the cats and dogs? Do we separate the cats and dogs from the rest of the pack?

It would be easy for us to take the path of least resistance and either outsource them or drop them from our product offering. Life is too short so why struggle with the headaches day after day. With our short term thinking and pressure for quick results, we can present convincing arguments to get rid of these cats and dogs and do it fast. Especially if we are not making any money on them, it should be a slam dunk to get rid of them. Let’s just focus on our core competency and we will be more profitable.

Sounds logical or not?

From my experience, I do not completely trust our accounting systems in determining the profitability of individual parts or products. With the typical standard cost method, erroneous data, estimated inputs based on some formula or worse, some average and our sometimes strange allocation of costs; how can we really make good decisions on true profitability on a part by part basis? Just take a stopwatch to gemba and do a simple random audit to see that our data is as reliable and trustworthy as a celebrity in rehab.

If we outsource these cats and dogs, passing the headache on to others to deal with, we will only add additional waste to our overall process. We will need to increase our efforts to insure the quality of these parts now on the outside, increase our inventory levels to protect our delivery to our customers and most likely soon end up paying more for these parts. Before long, we will end up dropping them because they will be deemed unprofitable.

In the book, The Birth of Lean, Taiichi Ohno faced the same dilemma at Toyota; his thoughts on this issue were described as follows:

“A lot of people in the company thought that we should outsource small-volume parts to low-cost contractors and make the large-volume parts on our own, like bicycle manufacturers did. They figured that we could build an export business by getting the contractors to supply parts on a just-in-time basis and by assembling vehicles from those parts and from the parts that we made in-house.

I argued for taking the opposite approach. I insisted that we should produce low-volume items in-house and buy large-volume parts-stuff that anyone cold make inexpensively-from outside suppliers. Making the low-volume parts in-house would mean high unit costs, and that would pressure us to tackle kaizen improvements and cost reductions.”

What a great viewpoint, to send out the easier, high-volume parts and keep the hard ones in-house to pressure our kaizen efforts. Think about that for a moment. Do we trust outside suppliers to kaizen better than we can internally? Do easy, high volume parts present the same kaizen opportunities that low-running parts provide? Which would challenge us to be better problem solvers? As for our customers, which kinds of products are growing in demand, the generic, high-volume products or the custom, low-volume products? How about the trend in the future?

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mocking Boards

As we embrace many of the lean ways including shifting to a more visual management approach, be careful not to turn a good visual management board into a mocking board.

Let me explain. Recently, while on a gemba walk through a plant, I spotted a new TPM board by one of the machines. TPM stands for Total Productive Maintenance. From the aisle, I could see some cool stuff on the board including a TPM map, TPM checksheets, timelines, problem logs, problem tags, etc. Excited and curious about this new visual management board, I approached the operator and asked her about it.

Her reply surprised me. “Oh, that. It’s my mocking board.”

I asked her what she meant by mocking board. She explained that the board was just put up a month ago by maintenance. She even attended a training session on filling out all the forms and how to do tasks to check on the machine herself. The first couple of days, they (the maintenance guys) were responsive to fixing items on the machine but than nothing.

For weeks nothing more happened despite all the tagging and logging of items requiring attention. She had asked her supervisor, on several occasions, on the status when maintenance was going to fix the items. No answer and no action.

As a result, she now views the visual board as a mocking board. All the items stay on the list, always in front of her, mocking her, because they are still undone. It is a visual monument to all that is wrong and broken with her machine with no activity to fix it.

Wow. Here are the beginnings of a cool visual management system that is quickly turning into a clear message that as managers we do not care.

The good thing is that this problem is quite visible and all we have to do is see it and take action to correct it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Where's the SMED?

The SMED system which stands for Single Minute Exchange of Dies, developed by Shigeo Shingo and published in his 1985 book, guides us to achieve a machine setups in under 10 minutes. The quick changeover thinking has been around for a couple of decades now but many companies still have not achieved this level of changeover. To this day, we have setups taking 60 minutes and longer. Why?

Are these long setups not viewed as a problem?

Do we just accept the status quo of long setups?

Do we even track and monitor setups?

Is it easier the just buy faster (more expensive) machines than to roll up our sleeves and figure out how to reduce our changeovers?

Is it not a priority? Are we too busy with out limited resources (yet we let go resources in the last layoff)? Short term thinking wins again?

Where’s the SMED? Can any company report that all of their setups are 10 minutes or less?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Best Kanban Signal of All

There are many types of kanban. A kanban could be cards, bins, containers, trays, carts, spots on the floor, golf balls, ping pong balls just to name a few. What’s the best kanban signal?

First, what is a kanban? A kanban is simply a signal used to authorize production in a production system. Any method of signal works can work well if we are disciplined to follow and maintain the system. A kanban is typically tied directly to the physical parts making it easier to keep in synch with demand. As parts are pulled for consumption, this signal is sent to the supplying workstation or source as authorization to make more parts to replace the ones used.

However, before we automatically jump to using any kanban system just because we believe it is the “lean” thing to do, is there a specific problem or need in the first place? This is one of the most common mistakes made on the lean journey. We see a lean technique and rush to put it in use everywhere we possibly can. It’s like holding a hammer and running around looking for nails to hit, soon everything starts looking like nails. We rarely take the time to really understand our problems or needs before we act.

What if we can produce products for our customers in one week while the customer delivery expectation is two weeks, would we set up a kanban system to replenish parts? No, just build to the actual customer order which is the best kanban signal of all.

In this example, there is no need for a typical kanban replenishment system at this time. But if our leadtime extends beyond our customers delivery expectation, we certainly have a need to set up a production system to satisfy our customer with the least amount of inventory. After gaining a better understanding of the problem, we might consider using a kanban system while we are working on reducing our production leadtime within our customer delivery expectation.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Lean Six Sigma Survey

James Marsh, Senior Researcher at Sheffield Hallam University is requesting our help in the lean community on his research project exploring Lean and or Six Sigma and its environmental benefits/tradeoffs. It takes 5-10 minutes to complete and is completely anonymous.

Please click on this link

Thank you for your help!

Top 14 Ways to Reduce Changeovers

If you are looking to boost your output or increase your responsiveness to customer demand but want to avoid the significant capital costs of purchasing new equipment, take a look at reducing your changeovers or setups. If you typically spend one hour to changeover a machine and run 8-10 setups a week, you are wasting a whole day a week or up to 52 days a year of potential machine time. Try focusing on these few things and you can spend less time in your changeovers almost immediately.

1.Have Everything Ready for the Changeover Next to the Machine Ahead of Time. This means everything- material, tooling, tools, fixtures, paperwork, check gages, etc. Our goal is not to leave the machine to search for anything while doing a changeover. No more walking around and searching. Create a home location staging area for these items or use a tool setup cart and make it easy to find these items in order of need during the set up all within reach. Anyone can really lead this activity once trained in what needs to be collected up-the machine operator, the setup person, the leadperson, the supervisor, a temp employee, or even one of the office employees. Even if you don’t do any of these others items list below, DO THIS ONE.

2. Use a Checklist. The easiest and simplest way not to forget any items needed for each changeover is to list everything on a checklist and use this list to verify things are not missing ahead of time. A pencil and paper is all you need to create a checklist.

3. Fix Broken Equipment. What gages, tools and equipment are broken and we force the setup operators to workaround these problems? Find what is broken and repair it.

4. Keep up with Current Events. Make sure all the data (program numbers, machine settings, etc) are the latest and greatest. The only thing worse that not having information is to have conflicting or wrong information. Review all the standard set up documents and make sure all the right information is recorded and consistent.

5. Just Ask. By simply talking with the set up operators and asking what would be helpful to make setups easier, you can find out what they need. If you ask, be prepared to act on this information fast. If not, you will be sending a message that management doesn’t care and this valuable source of information can be lost in the future.

6. Look for Cheat Sheets and Share the Knowledge. Some operators who perform changeovers have a log book or set up notes to help them remember setup information. Use this information to look for helpful “tricks” or techniques that is undocumented. Officially record this information to eliminate the need for having personal notebooks and share it.

7. Improve Homemade Work Aids. Perhaps the setup operator has made up some cool homemade work aids to position, lift, gage hold, align or perform some other function in a setup. How can we improve this homemade devises?

8. Double up the Changeover Team. Most setups are done by a single person which can add to the wasted time in a setup especially when we need to work on both sides of the machine. What would happen if we used a two person team for changeovers? More likely we can cut our setup time in half and do tasks in parallel.

9. Don’t Skimp on the Tooling. Invest in additional sets of tool holders so the tooling can be pre-set ahead of time. But before you wake up your purchasing person to start ordering all this brand new tooling, do a plant wide sort (step 1 from 5S) and see if there are any underutilized tooling that can be used. Check the auction pages for potential sources of used tooling. Go to local shops or manufacturing facilities to see if they are willing to sell any of their tooling. You don’t have to duplicate all the tooling immediately to make a big impact, target a few critical setups and concentrate on getting a few holders to start.

10. The Best Changeover is No Changeover at All. What opportunities are there to dedicate equipment to certain parts thereby eliminate the setup completely?

11. Don’t Screw Around. How much time are we spending bolting, fastening, blocking and clamping the tools? Can we reduce the number of bolts and clamps? Can you use ¼ turn bolts or other quick clamps? Can we replace manual tools with an air ratchet?

12. Throw Away your Hand Tools. Taking the last step a bit further, can we eliminate the need for hand tools all together? Instead of using allen head screws or bolts, can we use hand twist ¼ turn fastener?

13. Put it Away Later. Sometimes in our eagerness to maintain an organized workplace, we have conditioned ourselves to put things away immediately. This is a great behavior but don’t delay a setup with putting items away. Wait until the machine is up and running and then put everything back in it’s home location.

14. Don’t Go the Mountain; Make the Mountain Come to You. What resources demand the setup operator leave the machine? For example, do we have to take the first piece parts to a Quality Lab for approval? Instead of going to the Quality department what if we had the Quality department came to us? Take a close look at our quality procedures and requirements with the goal of approving the part at the machine with no waiting. What do we need to make this happen? Can’t we get the quality inspector to be at the machine when needed? Do we really need to use that monument QA equipment instead of portable check gages or go/no-go gages?

Monday, February 01, 2010

Leaving Batesville Casket

It is with mixed emotion that I am officially leaving my position as Lean Sensei at Batesville Casket Company. I am happy with all that we accomplished the last several years however not satisfied since there is so much more to do. All the milestones I first set out to accomplish were completed and the lean journey at Batesville is stronger as a result. I wish all my friends at Batesville many years of continued lean success.

Looking forward, I am extremely excited about my new adventure working with Jon Miller as part of the Gemba Research team helping others on their lean journey. If you ever considered bringing in lean consultants on your lean journey, please contact me. Our staff at Gemba Consulting North America are all top notch lean practitioners with many years of successful lean experience. I will continue posting ideas, thoughts and stories as I continue learning and sharing on the lean journey.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Go to Gemba

Knowing is better than guessing.
Seeing is better than hearing.
Doing is better than talking.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pursuit of Perfection

One focus on the lean manufacturing path is the pursuit of perfection. When this point is brought up, many people don’t believe perfection is possible so this objective is pushed aside as not realistic so why try?

The same goes for goals of zero inventory, zero machine breakdowns, zero accidents, zero defects and zero customer disappointments. How many of us believe these goals to be impossible? So why try?

After all we are just human and humans are imperfect and make mistakes. So why try?

All systems are imperfect including lean manufacturing so why try?

Looking to religion, as Christians we are on a path to live by the example that Jesus Christ has given us. In other words, we try to be Christ-like in our words and actions. Many other religious beliefs, if not all of them, teach each follower to become better in their life. All religions acknowledge our human imperfections yet each pursue a path of perfection in life. Perhaps the quest to be better is at the core of being human.

I believe that is our purpose in life-to become a better person so “trying” is what life is all about.

The same goes for our pursuit of perfection in lean manufacturing. It is all about the never ending pursuit of perfection. Emphasis is on the pursuit and not on perfection. Are we moving to be better today than yesterday? Can we be closer to perfection each day? Do we learn from our mistakes?

Do we see the gap between where we are today and our vision of perfection? Do we view this gap as the impossible or as an opportunity? Do we view this gap as a pointless journey or a path of many small steps?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

English Speaking Lean

After reading Mark Graban’s post, 10 Things I Wish Lean Practitioners Wouldn’t Say in 2010 on his Lean Blog, I thought it was interesting that 4 of the 10 things were aimed against using Japanese terms. Mark clearly states he is not opposed to Japanese terms but asks if we might be “getting a bit carried away in embracing Japanese words.” He further suggests that we should avoid using Japanese words in an English-speaking environment, and just use simple, plain English.

But perhaps simple, plain English is not what we believe it to be. Although it is difficult be exact with our dynamic and expanding vocabulary, it is estimated that over 80% of our English vocabulary has come from other languages (source: Most of our English words come from Latin, French, Italian, and Greek origin to name a few. Due to contact with other cultures over the centuries in conquests, commerce, travel and immigration, the English language has adopted or derived many words into our fold. As our world gets smaller and contact increases with the speed of the internet and television, I can easily speculate that our “English” language will add many more words in the future and at a much faster rate.

If we choose the path of halting the spread of Japanese words in our lean approach except for select few like kaizen or gemba, would we be promoting the status quo (oops, Latin)? Maybe we should form an ad hoc (Latin, again) committee to set a policy on the use of Japanese words in our company? If we can’t decide, we can leave it up to the head honcho (Japanese) to put the kibosh (Yiddish) on this glitch (Yiddish) in our improvement path.

Instead of sending our kids to Kindergarten (German) we should say we are sending them to Pre-First Grade. Or should we simply say we live on a quiet, dead-end street instead of a cul-de-sac (French)? Instead of going out for sushi (Japanese), let’s go out for some raw fish..yummy. States like California (Spanish) and Colorado (Spanish) would be shopping for new names. No more going out on Karaoke (Japanese) night , let’s just go out to the local bar to sing off key to taped music after drinking some liquid courage. We would also give up using words like café, chipotle, chocolate, ballet, protégé, entrepreneur, blasé, gaffe, whiskey, banana and mosquito.

My personal bias is to use the Japanese words in talking and teaching lean because I was taught by Japanese Sensei for the first 10 years of my lean journey. It has become second nature to me and I embrace the words as I embrace the lean thinking.

This does not mean that Japanese words need to be used by everyone, it is up to each person to decide on their own. The use of Japanese words is not to impress or exclude, it is just to seek greater understanding of the meaning. Hopefully we won’t get lost in translation.

Update added (1/7/2010)
There are certainly many great comments on this topic. Thanks to all!
Please check out these other posts on this topic by :
Mark Rosenthal's post on The lean Thinker
Brian Buck's post on Improve with Me
Ron Pereira's post on LSS Academy