Saturday, May 29, 2010

Read the Small Print

 This is from gemba panta reiYou want to become lean?  Better read the fine print:

So here again is my offer:
Lean Brings You Fast Results! Recognition, Pride and Prosperity Can All Be Yours with Lean! Try Lean Management Today!
May require significant changes to leadership behavior. May require dismantling existing reporting structures, organizational boundaries or performance measurement schemes. Positive results due to employee empowerment may be accompanied sense of grief due to perceived loss of power, position or authority. May cause adverse interactions with existing accounting systems, ERP systems and vendor management systems. Results may be delayed due to resistance from key stakeholders. Side effects may not be reversible even if lean management is abandoned. Seeing bottom line results may depend on business growth or restructuring. Actual results may vary. Sustaining of results may require constant effort. Not applicable in industries and processes where waste does not exist. One per customer. Some restrictions apply. Offer void where prohibited by law.

Friday, May 28, 2010

What Get’s In the Way of Successful Kaizen?

A dirty little secret is that kaizen efforts often go nowhere, or don’t go very far. In too many cases I have seen very successful kaizen workshops or kaizen blitzes seem to be huge successes, only to have them fade within months or even weeks.
 What do I mean by successful workshops?  A team focuses on a work group or operation.  With the help of a facilitator they identify and figure out how to eliminate waste. The facilitator, who may or may not be an outside consultant, teaches how to look for waste and the strategies to accomplish its elimination. These include moving operations closer together, moving the operations into a U-shaped cell, doing away with batch processing and putting one-piece-flow in its place, and balancing the operation with takt time and cycle time studies, to name a few. The team figures how to accomplish these ideas in this particular case. 
At the end of the workshop, there is a dramatically different situation.  Fewer people are required to produce the same amount. Throughput time is drastically reduced.  Quality is documented to have substantially improved. Everyone agrees; this is better.  This is great stuff.  (Another example might be a SMED workshop that cuts changeover time from over two hours to forty five minutes.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

An Important Form to Speak with Data

One of the most useful forms for recording and presenting data, for speaking with data, is the production control form.  I am including a sample here.
This form tells us how a production line, a production cell, or a single production operation is running hour-by-hour.  When used to its greatest advantage, a manager or supervisor can walk through a department and tell very quickly what operations most require attention.  The leaner the operation, the more critical this information can be. The information is recorded each hour by a production operator.

In the example above, the first column divides the day into one hour blocks.  In this case, we have started at 7 a.m. and carried it through 4 p.m.  The information in this column can be modified depending on the start time and the length of the shift.  For example a ten hour shift would have a couple more rows.  The form can have extra rows to be used when the operation is running overtime. A chart for second or third shift would have appropriate time labels in the first column.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Good Signs, Bad Signs

I see a lot of signs posted on factory walls that make very little sense to me.  Some are clearly useful: exit signs, signs indicating where the fire extinguishers are, labels that tell you what should be stored in a given spot (a section of floor, a rack, or a bin on a shelf).  The signs to which I object are those that seem slightly insulting, admonishing you, but not making it clear what you are expected to do.
“Quality is everyone’s responsibility.”
“Quality starts with you.”
“Safety first.”
“A safe factory is a happy factory.” “A clean factory is a safe factory.”
“Keep this area clean.”
Signs such as these are from a paternal the company telling us to be good, in a very general way.  In no case are they telling us what is expected of us.  What do you want me to do?  What do you want me to not do? What precautions do you want me to take?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Speak With Data

I worked with a group of ten women who worked on an assembly line and had been given the opportunity to meet weekly to discuss, with their supervisor, what could be done to improve their assembly line.
The product that they assembled was a model of a remotely controllable, outside rear view mirror.  The control was a mechanical device in which three wires moved the mirror when a knob was rotated. The ends of the wires had ferrules that were crimped into the knob assembly by a crimping machine.
There was a consensus about the biggest problem.  The crimping machine often broke down, bringing the line to a halt, sometimes several times a day.  When the line stopped there was a wait for maintenance to arrive and tinker with the machine.  The team took pride in reaching its production targets, and this machine interfered with that goal far too often.
The supervisor agreed that this was a problem.  He too was frustrated that the fix was never permanent. He had complained up the line with no results. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Look Back

These are the postings that I have made to this blog so far.
Some people say that to improve the workplace all we have to do is follow common sense.  I suggest that what is presently considered common sense can sometimes be the obstacle to making things better.
All results come from processes. If we want to improve results, we need to examine what in the process is leading to the current results.  Inspection as an approach to quality is sometimes the best we can do, but will be an unreliable way of preventing defects to reach the customer.
Organizations lie on a continuum between Fire-Fighting and World Class. Understanding the characteristics of each extreme can help the leaders of an organization understand what needs to change to move towards world class.
Lean Manufacturing involves eliminating batch processing as much as possible. Making batches often seems easier.  Why is it important to move toward one-piece-flow?  [thirteen more topics below the fold]

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Not Common Sense or Common Practice

Maasaki Imai, founder of the Kaizen Institute and author of two bestselling books on Kaizen, has often said that the Kaizen approach and Lean Manufacturing are common sense approaches.  If they were common sense, why are they not common practice?
Imaisan is one of my teachers, from whom  I have learned a great deal. I differ with him on Kaizen approaches being common sense.  People differ widely in what they consider common sense.  A supervisor told me that he had always been told that assembly lines should be laid out  in one long straight line.  To him, that was common sense.  He also felt it was common sense to have plenty of material near the line, in case there was a problem with some component, we could always open another box.
I have met managers and company owners who tell me that they do not need to apply Kaizen.  If subordinates only did what they were told and used common sense, they would have no problems.  I some cases we agree on what it would be better for people to do.  What we differ on is whether it is actually common sense.