GBMP is thrilled to launch The Lean Thinking Network community blog site. Along with our YouTube Channel and the Old Lean Dude blog, we hope to be able to provide participants with a plethora of places to access exceptional content on all things Lean & Continuous Improvement – plus several ways to network with a like-minded community of Lean practitioners. Don’t forget. In the interest of Continuous Improvement, please do not hesitate to let us know if you have any suggestions on how we can improve. (To subscribe to listen to them using I-Tunes, go to I-Tunes, select podcasts and then search for the “lean thinking network” and then subscribe.)
There are two types of podcasts we feature here: e2 podcasts and “sacs” podcasts.
1. e2 Podcasts are “twitter – like” – 5 minutes or less and easily digest. We call them “Dwight’s pwitters” focusing on the people side of continuous improvement.
2. “Sacs” (Scientific Application of Common Sense) Podcasts are short stories, told by continuous improvement practitioners, concerning complicated problems being solved by simple, effective and sustainable countermeasures.
Use the categories on the right to find what you’re looking for or just scroll down the home page to see what’s new. Interested in developing a regional network? We can help you keep everyone in the loop (See our PA Lean Network link.)
We have been doing things pretty much the same for years now. How we do things doesn’t make much sense to me, but I’m used to it and feel comfortable working in chaos, its normal.
I get my own work, fixtures and tooling, do my own setups, and find the parts I need. It gets frustrating when I can’t find something I need or when my machine breaks down (happened twice last week and then I get yelled at for poor production) or when my boss comes by to tell me to jump on to a rush job (usually towards the end of the month). Rush jobs are a pain, an extra setup, everybody asking me when it will be done; in fact this is about the only time I see management come down to the shop. With all the rush, we usually let some small defects go, because we need to ship it. I am proud of the parts I make and feel really bad when something not right is shipped.
Now our continuous improvement team and the consultant seem to be everywhere. We are getting these long training sessions that have lots of Japanese words and concepts. I don’t understand it, we do not make cars so how can the Toyota Production System work here? What is this Kaizen stuff? If it’s Continuous Improvement lets call it that.
The first thing they did was clean up my department. I think they threw some things away, or whatever red tagging is, that are valuable and we might need someday. I like having extra stuff around for when something breaks, or I need a shim or when and old part gets reordered. They moved my fixtures to a central location and created a visual system so it would be easy to see what we have, what we need to get and what needs to be repaired. Hey, I knew all that before they did anything. I had my own system.
Next they came to my machine to work on setup reduction. They told me I could reduce my setup time from 1 hour to 30 minutes or less. I said, no way, if I could do that I would have done it years ago. I think they just want me to work harder. In fact one of the guys said where he used to work they did all this stuff and then moved production to Mexico. I don’t trust management. I wish I knew why they were doing this stuff.
Well the setup reduction actually worked. Everything I need is organized onto a setup cart, which is prepared in advance for my next setup. They even listened to my ideas for standardizing some settings and offsets and I felt good about that. Maury who runs my machine on second shift thinks it pretty good too.
It’s starting to look like some of this stuff may actually work here as long as management doesn’t screw it up.
Sound familiar to you? Perhaps understanding what your people actually think about the change might be beneficial. Remember, “people are our most important resource”`
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Interview with Mark Gebbie of Excelsior Printing
A new line of greeting cards was located in their North Adams facility which came with the production system used in the past. This brought high labor and high inventory costs.
Focused on assembly process building packets for finished goods stock. We observed the current process and discussed with the operators. The operators made many suggestions and the experiments began. The result, an improved process requiring one assembler rather than two to keep up with customer demand.
The stocking program was examined next. Two packet quantities existed for all 200+ sku’s (shop keepers units), 6 per packet (95% of volume) and 12 per packet (5% of volume). We decided to make the 12 per packet units to order while maintaining stock of the 6 per packet sku’s.
As a result we reduced inventory $ by 50% and labor by 50%.
** You can see the results for yourself and speak with Mark at the next Western Massachusetts Lean Network Meeting – Thursday, August 16th, 2012 at Excelsior Printing, 60 Roberts Drive in North Adams, MA. Advanced registrations is required. Please visit our the GBMP website/events calendarto learn more and register. **
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So you think your company is good enough to stop concentrating on continuous improvement………..really…..do you really believe that. Instead of reflecting internally, lets look at others.
Do you know of a company that is currently good enough that they can stop focusing on continuously improving operations and still be among the best companies in their marketplace next year? How about 3 years from now? 5 years? I don’t, probably because no company, no matter how good they currently, can rest on their laurels and expect to remain ahead of their competition. What would your competition think if you decided to rest on your laurels. I suspect they would be delighted to taking market share from you.
But we do lose our focus. It’s natural after years of hard work we deserve a break now and then. Continuous improvement is very hard work and can be overlooked for all it adds to your organization when exhaustion sets in. What happened to our energy and focus? What happened to all that enthusiasm your team had when you began your lean journey? What happened to the action that used to regularly immediately follow an idea? Are they running out of ideas for improvement……..in the “we already did or tried that” psychological slump?
I have a rule of thumb: Anytime you think your operations are good enough you are wrong. Everyone has problems and if they stop looking for/at the problems they will slowly – or perhaps not so slowly – lose their competitive edge. Once companies lose their competitive edge it is very challenging to get it back, and takes much longer than we think it will. After-all, if you have lost your edge, your people may think you have given up and trust can be lost. Value adders may think leadership has given up.
Earning trust back requires patience, consistency, honesty and courage. Most of us have all we can do to handle big problems and when the big problems stop screaming at us we think we are ok. Be honest, most companies have that tendency……..if it doesn’t hurt now, things are ok, just some minor issues, keep working around them so we can make this months quota. We can look at fixing those small things later. Problem is, those small things add up and suddenly we have big problems.
I believe that not improving is not an option? Without continuously improving someone will take your business. EVEN THOUGH …..This everybody – everyday thing is hard work we need everybody working on improvement every day.
What can we do when our continuous improvement efforts have run out of gas? How can we re-invigorate our people, the ones who got us to where we are today.
Leaders…….now is your time to lead. Take command, create focus in your team, energize them through support and intention. If the weather is hot, buy your people ice cream.
“Being brilliant is no great feat if you respect nothing.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
An organization takes on the personality of it’s leadership and even brilliant leadership cannot overcome negative culture if no respect for the people doing the work is demonstrated.
Culture is a little like dropping an Alka- Seltzer into a glass:
you don’t see it,
but somehow it does something
- Hans Magnus Enzensberger
We all want that “something” that culture does to be good, have an eye for improvement, be consistent, feeling a joint sense of accomplishment, upbeat and fun.
What is that “something” that carries with it both good or bad outcomes? It’s that something that creates a wonderful atmosphere in silence, it creates safety in laughter as laughter is not “at someone” but with someone. It makes it safe to make a mistake, therefore allowing experimentation focused on improvement to flourish without fear of reprisal or shaming. Are you the primary cultural influence in your business, plant, or department? How would you know? If you are not the primary cultural influencer, who is and why? The answer is NOT “that is just how it is.”
Maybe you have experienced something like this example of cultural weakness:
The team was excited about the 5S project in the cell. The cell was a mess and was driving all three shifts, a total of 15 people, crazy and the customer was increasing it’s demand steadily. The cell operators couldn’t find tools, parts, product or information with out a lot of searching. Sometimes they found what they are looking for and sometimes they didn’t, often creating the expense of overnight shipping. In every case when they are looking, and more so when they don’t find what they are looking for, the customer waits, costs rise, customer satisfaction suffers and a customer relationship is threatened. The cell was cluttered with way too many tools, fixtures, materials, drawings…..just stuff everywhere. The team, first shift cell operators, kept saying “we just have too much stuff, but not what we need”. The second and third shifts agreed. The difficult job of sorting and red tagging was going well until Roger, the supervisor, became involved. We’re not throwing that away, we might need them someday. The “can do”, “hey, this just might work” attitude was gone and it was back to the good old way. Slowly but surely the team gave up.
I have a few questions about the social dynamics and the cultural mores unfolding here.
Why did Roger, the supervisor, say NO? Do you think he didn’t want a well organized cell, a workplace that is neater, cleaner, safer, making it much easier for the team to produce more good product?
He may know better than anyone in the company what is and isn’t needed but there is no way he could manage workplace organization over three shifts by himself.
Do you think Roger might be afraid to make a mistake and take the blame for throwing out those important (hasn’t been needed in 2 years) things?
How might Roger’s boss manage? Command and control?
Do you think his boss is a “blamer” and therefore likely to come down hard on Roger?
Do you think Roger’s boss might be a hoarder too? Roger and his boss may both be brilliant, but their intelligence did not help them in this situation.
Is this a moment of truth?
How should a leader handle this situation?
Who is driving culture in this scenario?
If you were in Roger’s shoes, how would you handle this moment of truth?
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Who, What, When, Where, Why and How
Gemba means “the real place”. I like to think of it as where the action is. The effective use of Gemba supports the “go see” principle.
The Gemba walk affords company leaders, managers and supervisors a simple, easy means of supporting overall continuous improvement and process standardization while helping to insure alignment of the efforts of all teams.
Let’s discuss the who, what, when, where and why’s of gemba
Who – Company leaders, managers and supervisors
Where – Begin at the last step of your value stream in your facility, then walk upstream through the process. This is a simple means of noticing key issues such as“pull” and “flow” and real priorities (or lack there of). We recommend one issue (two as a maximum) to maintain focus and alignment supporting stability and continuous improvement.
When – Everyday, to once per month depending on the “who” and “what”. Leaders may only need to gemba walk once per month, however, if you’re new to lean or there are significant problems the frequency needs to increase.
What – Your focus, if your company is just beginning lean, could be perhaps 5S, zone stability, quality, downtime etc; if you are more experienced you’ll likely focus on major problems, “red indicators” on your A3 report. It’s important to have a clear and obvious focus, don’t look for everything or you’ll likely accomplish nothing and confuse everyone as to priorities and overall alignment.
Why – If done regularly, with clear and obvious stated intentions it will consistently demonstrate commitment, alignment and support of the continuous improvement process.
In “Kaikaku, The Power & Magic of Lean” Norman Bodek writes the significance of noticing posted measures & charts and asking:
Who is responsible for updating them?
Do the employees look at the charts? How often?
What value do the charts have for employees?
Do customers ever look at the charts? Do suppliers?
Do you think the charts have an overall effect on operations?
In addition, Bodek offers the following:
The power of gemba lies in:
Selecting a theme for each walk
Questioning the supervisors about observed conditions
Listening attentively – a learning experience for all leaders, managers and supervisors.
Sharing what you learned during the gemba walk
Writing and posting a brief memo publicly sharing what you learned
Following up – monitoring the process
How do you get started? Some suggestions:
Leaders – talk with your lean champion(s) to determine the focus of your walk. Be certain to understand what is expected, when it’s correct and when it’s incorrect. Be noticed noticing.
Managers – Support your supervisors and lead people. Remember, “it’s the process” Toyata is kind to people but tough on the process.
Supervisors – you are likely very busy stabilizing and controlling your “zone”. Ask your manager and company leaders for help by being noticed noticing those areas you are stabilizing.
Like any new process, initially Gemba walks may be confusing, time consuming and difficult to perform. Plan>Do>Check>Adjust… don’t give up, stay focused and it will work for you and your company. Perhaps this information will help to reduce those problems and quickly make Gemba walks a critical and effective tool for your lean conversion.
Good luck! We look forward to hearing your feedback – successes, challenges, obstacles overcome, etc.
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Today Dwight interviews Tom Carey, a logistician from United Parcel Service (UPS) in the greater Boston area.
Many of us find logistics to be complex, time-consuming and costly. But, according to Tom, it doesn’t need to be. During this brief conversation, Tom shares real-life examples and solutions to identify scalable best practices and free, existing technologies to reduce the complexity, time and cost of logistics processes for any size company.
(Click on the image to listen, or if you can’t see the image, click on the post title to go to the website)
Timing is Everything
Thoughts on Supply, Demand and Synchronization
The need for coordinating efforts exists in many aspects of life:
Preparing a meal
Your morning routine
Catching a train, bus or plane
Traffic – rush hour
And many, many others
Another aspect of life where timing is critical is sports, such as football.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, more of an average fan, but the experts (on the NFL network, ESPN you know …….) tell us:
At the beginning of each play the offense has a bit of an advantage over the defense as they know when the play will start (when the center snaps the ball). They know the timing, direction and plan (the target condition) for each play.
When the offense is not synchronized to the snap of the ball a 5 yard penalty is called for “false start”, or even without a penalty, a mistimed play frequently results in nothing good such as a loss of yardage or sometimes ball possession.
Each play is meticulously timed and practiced again and again to synchronize efforts. The offensive line delays real blocking when a screen pass is called, a draw play as well to draw the defense past the runner, thrower or receiver and essentially out of the play.
Most pass plays are based on timing, plays in which a receiver and quarterback need to be in sync. The receiver makes his cut and the quarterback releases the ball synchronized to within less than a second to maximize the separation between the defensive player in coverage and the receiver. If the ball is thrown too early or too late, results are often poor for the offense.
Do you sometimes feel like you threw a pass too late to your shipping department? They were “open” but insufficient attention had been paid to synchronizing efforts, the result being, missed shipments and worse an unhappy customer.
Many of us realize the importance of operations being in sync with customer demands but are we working towards improving this all-important synchronization? What are we doing to improve this synchronization? Do we know when you’re in our out of sync to customer demand? Is your company a playoff team, or do you fail to make the playoffs, year after year, being eliminated by your competition?
Today, did production produce what was scheduled to ship?
Do our customers always wait for service?
Do delays due to lack of coordination create problems, rework, mistakes?
Did we ship on time to our customers or have many “false start” penalties?
Are we oversold and therefore struggling to ship on time?
Do we have an expeditor or two?
Do we frequently interrupt production to insert an expedited order?
How do we decide what is and what isn’t “an expedite” and which of the expedites is most important?
How many times a day does the “most important order” change?
Are our subassemblies, tooling, materials, people and machines coordinated with our actual production needs?
Did our cell, line, department, plant have a good day? Why or why not?
It could be that your business needs to constantly work on balancing our capacity to our customers demand.
It is possible to increase capacity by synchronizing the flow of parts, materials and information, but without some measure of pace, it is extremely difficult.
Takt time, or the tempo of customer demand, is a tool critical to effectively coordinating your supply to your customers demand. Perhaps takt time could help your business.
Many companies, maybe yours, have monthly sales that, when graphed, look like a hockey stick, 10% the first week, 15% the second week, 25% the third week and 50% the forth week of the month. This uneven demand on capacity creates problems as capacity is underutilized in weeks one and two, week three more closely matches demand to capacity and week four brings massive stress on all systems. Stress means mistakes, frustration and higher costs. So why is the hockey stick so common, normal in fact to many of us?
Corporations, banks etc. carefully scrutinize monthly figures, short-term goals, forcing management to do what it takes to make every month a good month, while turning a blind eye to long-term stability.
Sales commissions are frequently paid monthly causing a push to maximize monthly sales
Some customers require shipment windows with deliveries at month’s end.
Our teachers speak of the identification and elimination of waste as one of the primary functions of a continuous improvement culture. We all know the 7 wastes referred to as “Muda” but what of the last two of the Toyota Production Systems “Three M’s”, “Mura”, waste created by unevenness and “Muri”, waste created by overburdening people or equipment? If the objective of continuous improvement is to make our processes and systems easier, better, faster and cheaper why do many of us ignore the negative effects of uneven demand and overburdened people and equipment?
Why can’t we level load demand to better align with capacity? What would it take to make some related improvements? Would this help lower costs, improve quality, reduce finished goods inventory, and reduce stress on your people and systems?
What is the root cause or causes of your sales hockey stick?
How would level loading your resources improve your conditions?
How frustrated are your people living with the ups and downs of a “we can’t do anything about it” (hopelessness) culture? What about you?
Why not create a weekly shipment graph for the last two years? Then if the hockey stick frequently appears decide to get to the root cause (especially those internal ones), and fix them. The benefits, both financial and psychological may be a pleasant surprise. More profits, a better working environment and more opportunities to enjoy your work and have fun await you.
This is a special Guest Blog by Andrew Bishop, Continuous Improvement Consultant, Lancaster, PA. Enjoy!
The fourth rule implied in the work observed by Spear and Bowen at Toyota (from “The DNA of the Toyota Production System”, Harvard Business Review) says that all improvement should proceed as close as possible to the front line, using the scientific method and under the guidance of a teacher. That’s great if you work at Toyota and your manager is a teacher of the Toyota Way… or if your company is already doing really well, so you’ve got a pile of cash to hire consultants to help you improve… but what about the rest of us, out on our own with little cash to throw around?
Reading books and blogs, taking classes and going to conferences is great (tremendous in fact – it’s the only way I know many of my teachers), but learning that isn’t IN gemba isn’t ABOUT gemba. You’ve got to go see. You’ve got to be there with a teacher.
Fortunately for me, coming from a cash-strapped organization and trying to boot-strap lean, I came upon a structured network of lean thinkers in our region early on in my lean learning. It has made all the difference.
We talked to each other, we toured each others work sites, and we talked some more. We shared stories of progress and frustration, and shared lessons learned and topics of interest. And while I learned a lot visiting other network members’ sites, some of the best learning came after the group toured my OWN operation and offered constructive feedback – support and criticism. The things they saw and told us about, the best practices and the problems, have helped us along the way.
When we don’t have mentors inside our organizations, lean leaders who already know the moves, to whom do we turn? Study what you can find and seek out teachers, of course, but don’t neglect the practical impact of networking with others practicing lean.
Welcome to GBMP’s “Everybody, Everyday” Podcast – “Don’t Give Me Data, I Want Facts”.
I am sure you have heard this before.
Years ago my consulting business focused on shop floor control. Back then (mid-1980’s) most companies did not have sufficient or timely information to effectively manage their business and/or make good decisions fast.
With scarcity of data as my opportunity and means of collecting more data my selling point, I would help business with their informational needs with the objective of having accurate and timely data to make better decisions. My personal objective was to become the local expert on shop floor control and eventually bar coding.
Years later I worked for a mid-range, Manufacturing Software company demonstrating the software up and down the east coast. Data again, was the sales focus and through this process I became more and more an advocate of less data was better.
Quite a transition from more is better to less is better. Now let me tell you my story as to how and why I developed this new thinking.
I have witnessed or heard the following:
We can’t have single piece flow, we would have to get up after every piece to enter the data into the production control system.
“I spend more time punching the clock than I do making toast” Bruce Hamilton from GBMP’s“Toast Value Stream Mapping” video
A experienced data entry operator will make one error in every three hundred key strokes. How many unintentional mistakes do you or your people make?
Our perpetual inventory control systems is out of control, I have to get up, walk to our materials department and check what we actually have, before I can answer a customers question.
Every time we have to make a substitute from our standard bill or materials I have to do two additional transactions…..1) add the standard part back in and 2) deduct the substituted part. Sometimes I just forget to do it, or don’t have the time. Hey my job is to get the parts to where they are needed when they are needed. The stupid system can wait.
I have learned that frequently, the more data you collect the more errors you collect. If you won’t bet a weeks wages on the precision of your data, then perhaps you should rethink your data system and needs.
What is your experience?
What is too much data?
When do you have enough data?
How accurate is your data?
Does your work-in-process move so slowly that you need to track each status change?
How much time do your skilled operators spend walking to and from the computer/bar code station and entering data?