Monday, November 26, 2007

Go Big Green and Red

Let’s hear it for the big green and red! A powerhouse team that is unbeatable.

No, this is not to cheer on a particular college or pro team. If I was yelling out team colors it would be green and gold for the Green Bay Packers. A dominate (and surprising) 10-1 record to date in the NFL season with a big game coming up against a worthy Dallas Cowboy team (also 10-1). It should prove to be a great game on Thursday night. Enough locker room talk and back to business.

No, this is not to celebrate the holiday season typically represented by the colors of green and red. Some could even argue that these colors represent the money (green) and debt (red) with the commercialization of Christmas and the hyped shopping season. Again, I digress.

No, it’s not to support a healthier lifestyle by eating more fruits and vegetables by colors (as in more greens and reds in our diet). Although this is a good message for the holiday season, we are faced with increased temptation of holiday snacking and desserts during the festive season.

What I am cheering for is the powerhouse team of green and red in our visual management system. How many times have you looked at a chart, graph or dashboard metric in typical black and white, needing a few minutes to determine the numbers to figure out the status? Sometimes it takes more than a few minutes. With the low cost of color printers, color markers and color tape, there is no reason not to use the power of green and red.

For example, the basic metrics of quality, cost, delivery and safety in most policy deployment charts could be highlighted in a green box (for good) or a red box (for needs improvement). Or you could use a dial gage indicator with green and red zones for the same effect. Take a look at your metric chart. Is it visual? Is it simple? Is it clear?

Another chart that I see typically in black and white is the work cell hour by hour chart. It is difficult to quickly determine the status on most hour by hour charts that use just a black marker. How about adding the power of green and red? Use the black marker for the target numbers and either green (made target) or red (missed target) for the actual numbers depending on the actual results. With the power of green and red, anyone one quickly see the production status.

Can you think of any other visual management areas that can be improved with the power of green and red? How about 5S audit sheets or project status charts?

So this holiday season, I wish everyone peace and joy. And remember to cheer for the Packers, reflect this holiday season on good will towards all man over gift giving, eat healthy with more fruits and vegetables and most importantly, may the power of green and red be with you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

One Kaizen Goal + Safety

A kaizen event should be focused on only one goal plus any safety improvements you can make to the process. Many times I have worked on kaizen events with multiple goals only to see the team lose focus in the middle of the event or the team splitting up to work on them individually.

This is not to say that multiple accomplishments can not be achieved during an event, only that a single focus is better to keep the efforts of the team on track. In my experience, a simple productivity goal works best for a kaizen event. This can be measured in time and/or distance.

It is not uncommon to see a WIP reduction goal on a kaizen event. Any WIP reduction should be a result of kaizen and not specified as a targeted goal to prevent teams from simply removing this inventory without process improvements. With actual process improvements, the need for excess WIP will be removed and the reduction will occur with better, sustainable results.

With one focused goal, many of the brainstorming activities will be improved by increasing the quantity of ideas on one topic area versus multiple ideas across a wide topic range. It forces that team to think deeper into ways to achieve a focused objective.

As for safety improvements, I recommend a small target of 3 to 5 safety improvements per team. This helps emphasize the importance of safety in conjunction with kaizen and may prove challenging in some processes. We should always work at making our workplace safer at every possible opportunity including kaizen events.

Lean Sensei

As you may have noticed, my posting activity has slowed down a bit over the past couple of months. It was not my intent to limit my posts lately, just a result of completing work for a few clients and starting my new role as Lean Sensei for the Batesville Casket Company.

It is an honor to be worthy of such a title and with this honor, a deep sense of responsibility to help guide a lean journey. Even though I will be the corporate lean teacher, I will always remain a student.

My consulting company will continue to operate with the help of others however my involvement will be limited as I focus my full time efforts with Batesville. I will continue blogging about my experiences and lean lessons learned.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Anyone who describes the lean journey as a well defined, narrow, straight line path, filled with do’s and don’ts or absolute right’s and wrong’s, ending up with a completely waste free organization has not traveled very far down this road. In my opinion, the lean journey is more like two steps forward and one step back with plenty of winding curves, wrong turns, pot holes and other road hazards to make life interesting.

How many companies, including Toyota, can honestly say that their lean journey is smooth sailing and trouble free?

The lean journey is difficult, messy, and even uncertain at times. That is why we do not see many organizations as examples of long term lean success. Some just give up or rationalize that we are lean enough. Can anyone really be lean enough? For others, the risk in trying something new is just too high of a price so the status quo wins out as the safe bet. For many, there is simply no interest in the lean journey.

I must admit, part of the allure of the lean journey for me is the challenge. It’s not about the challenge to master the lean tools. It’s not even about the challenge to eliminate waste. For me, the challenge is helping create a learning culture that drives continuous improvement forever, even as we go two steps forward and one step back.