Sunday, September 25, 2005

Point Kaizen

One the most powerful and exciting Lean improvement techniques is a Kaizen event. Typically, only one week in duration, a kaizen event is where a team works feverishly through a targeted area implementing process improvements. In addition to a great sense of accomplishment, a highly energized team gets results and is motivated for more!

A variation of this common version of Kaizen is what I call a "Point Kaizen". Here is how it works. A point kaizen is focused on one small improvement to be implemented in a matter of a few hours by a team of one or two people already trained in using lean tools. Using all the same steps and techniques that occur in a week long Kaizen only highly condensed. The idea is to complete a single point improvement as quickly as possible.

An example of a recent point kaizen I completed occurred at a final inspection station. I saw that the inspector was placing a red nonconforming tag on a defective unit and pulling the unit off line for repair. The red tag was single sided printed card stock. The strange thing I noticed is the inspector was not using the printed side at all. He used the blank side to write the type of defect and taped the tag on the unit.

In addition, there were at least a dozen cards with various defects written on them taped all around the inspection station. I asked the inspector, "Why do you have all these tags here?". He said, "These tag are expensive so I try to reuse them". The tags had no dates, names or any other information.

In just a few minutes of asking why? five times and having different employees explain the problems with this system ( tags falling off, tags too complex, not sure if units are repaired, how long it has been sitting in repair, etc.) , I quickly evaluated the current process and potential improvement.

I replaced the red tag that was ordered from a printer at $0.06 to a simple word document formated tag printed on red paper at $0.005. The tag could be printed as needed in small quantities versus minimum lot size in the thousands from the printer. The simple form was easy to fill out with name, date and defect. It also had a sign off for completed repair. After use, it was trashed. Net results were an improved nonconformance identification process at about $1,000 annual savings all completed in under 2 hours. It also helped 5-S the inspection station.

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