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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Visual Management

Visual management means to direct or administer using methods of instructions involving the sense of sight.  Consider the popular sport of baseball. Why do avid fans glance repeatedly at the scoreboard when the action is clearly on the field? The scoreboard answers important questions about the status of the game. It tells us how our team is doing in relation to the goal (to win the game!)
What is being measured? What does it mean to win? What do we need to do to win? Are we winning? Do we even have a chance? How many runs do we need?
The scoreboard also provides real-time information about other important game parameters:
What inning is it? What is the count? Was that a ball or a strike? How many outs? How many hits? How many errors?
The scoreboard generates and maintains interest. It provided unambiguous feedback about performance. It presents the same information to everyone, whether owner, manager, player, or spectator. Most importantly, it keeps us focused on the measures that are important and lets us know what must be done to win the game.
By analogy, true visual management shares real-time information about the status of a factory:
What are our goals? What are our key measures? How is the factory performing in relation to those goals? What is preventing us from reaching our goals? Most importantly, how does my individual effort contribute toward success.
Imagine a game - baseball, football , whatever - where no one knows the score. Scoring defines what it means to win. It tells players how the team is doing and how their individual efforts contribute to its success. It tells the team or individual what they need to do to win.
Visual management is the company-wide “nervous system” enabling all employees to understand how they affect the factory’s performance.
Using simple visual signals that provide an immediate understanding of a situation or condition will clearly define the normal or desired condition and expose the abnormal undesired condition.
Visual signals are efficient, self regulating, and worker managed.   They can be Signals, Floor markings, Codes, Supply Replenishment Cards, Supermarkets, Measurements, Performance Metrics, Color Coding, and/or Labels / Signs. 
You know you have been successful using visual signals when anyone can walk into a workplace and visually understand the current situation (self-explaining), understand the work process (self-ordering), know if you are ahead, behind, or on schedule (self-regulating), and see when there is an abnormality (self-improving). 
Here are some examples:

Remember to manage from the floor, not from your desk!  Keep it simple and keep it visual, and continuously improve!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lean Engineering Event

Within the past year, many companies have experienced an industry downturn; however, the opportunity to work on new programs and the engineering effort that goes with them has never been higher.  The decision was made to hold a lean engineering event with the intention of removing waste from the design process.  The team was assembled and consisted of multi-disciplined team members heavily involved in the new product design and development process. 

It was explained that we didn't just want to change the development process and have a theoretical outcome, but we should also try the process on a real product.  At that point we broke the team into 2 teams with one focused on improving the process and the other focused on a new product.

This new product we determined to work on had volume potential up to 10,000/year, however the price target was under $300.  A similar product currently sold for over $1200 a piece.  We had just notified the customer that delivery of the initial prototype for the new product would be in 6 months.  We did not know if we could achieve the cost target.  The team went to work starting with a phone call to the customer (who was pleasantly shocked to learn that a team was now focused on his project).  A schedule with responsibilities for the week was established, a supplier was brought in to meet with the team, and in 3 days the team had great success. 

The design was completed in a cross-functional environment, with open communication and out of the box input from team members, especially those who were not experienced with this particular product line.  The cost of the product was reduced from $1200 to $190 with firm supplier quotes leaving us with good margin at $300.  Best of all, a schedule with clear accountability was established (see post on Gantt Charts) to deliver initial units to the customer within 2 months.  The customer was very excited and after the initial units were successful, he received an additional customer order for over 750 systems.  Many of the cost savings ideas were implemented on the similar product selling at $1200 allowing us to take at least $200 of cost out for an annual savings of $100,000.

The second team also completed their project of improving the design process.  Improvements centered around utilizing focused multi-disciplined teams working in a very defined timeframe to accomplish the design.  The concept of freeze gates was implemented to eliminate mistakes and back tracking.  To be successful at focusing effort, a better system for establishing product line priorities is also being implemented.

Both teams agreed that a focused burst of effort was significantly faster that the current way of designing product and the initial open communications allow s the team to really optimize the design for cost & quality.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Eliminate the Eight Wastes!

Understanding “Waste” is an integral step to your lean journey.  Some have 7 wastes, however, I teach 8 wastes.  I remember them by the acronym “DOWNTIME.” 
The first waste is “DEFECTS.”  Defects include making bad parts, scrap, and/or doing rework.  Causes include a lack of in-process checks, incapable equipment, poor quality materials, poor product design, inadequate training, or poor work instructions.  Each time a defect is passed onto the next process, it takes 10x more money to solve the defect.   
The second waste is “OVERPRODUCTION.”  Overproductions means making more products than the next process (the customer) needs.  Causes include just-in-case thinking, misuse of automation, long set-up times, inadequate forecasting, & keeping busy. 

The third waste is “WAITING.”  Waiting includes idle time created when waiting for materials, machines, inspection, & information.  Causes include an unbalanced work load, equipment breakdown, upstream quality problems, & imbalances in scheduling.  Waiting is very difficult for everyone!  William Feather said, “The hardest job of all is trying to look busy when you’re not.”
The fourth waste is “NON-UTILIZATION OF TALENT.”  It is no secret that some people are talented in certain areas where others may not be as talented.  If we ignore this basic truth, we are creating waste.  As managers, we must discover talents, with persistence develop it to the extent leading to perfection and dedicate it for best use within our facilities.
The fifth waste is “TRANSPORTATION.”  Excessive Transportation includes the movement of product and materials from place to place.  Causes include poor plant layout, large batch sizes production, & storage.
The sixth waste is “INVENTORY.”  Unnecessary Inventory will include any inventory other than what is needed right now to satisfy the customer is considered waste.  Causes include making extra in case of scrap, reward based on output only, scheduling not leveled, poor market forecast, & supplier problems. 

The seventh waste is “MOTION.”  Unnecessary Motion means any movement of people that does not add value to the product or service.  Causes include poorly designed process, lack of standard work methods, poor work area design, & disorganization and clutter.  A good rule is to eliminate the “Ugly INGs.” These include: Searching, Lifting, Bending, Choosing, Carrying, Arranging, Walking, Stretching, Reaching, etc. 
Finally, the eighth waste is “EXCESSIVE PROCESSING.”  Inappropriate Processing is the effort that adds no value to the product from the customers’ viewpoint.  Causes include customer requirements being unclear, overcomplicated paperwork, lack of communication, & redundant steps.  The Process itself is Waste! Peter Drucker wrote, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
Now go out into your facility and take a “WASTE WALK.”  Don’t forget to have fun!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Problem Solving Exercise

The following is a fact finding problem solving puzzle.  This could be used as an ice breaker or an introduction for a problem solving class. 

Key Learning Point:
The objective of the exercise is for the team to work together, not to solve the puzzle correctly!


  • Distribute the cards as evenly as possible among the team members.  For a greater challenge, give the card with the question to a quiet or passive team member.
  • Tell the team, “The instructions are very simple…solve the problem.”  That’s it!
  • The rules are simple…each team member can only look at his/her card(s).  No peeking at anyone else’s cards or passing the cards around.  No writing on the cards.  They can use anything in the room to help them (flipcharts, equipment, etc.).
  • The time limit is up to you.  It’s a tough puzzle, so I recommend about 30 minutes.  The shorter the timeframe you allow, the more tension you create for the team!
Facilitator Observation Questions:
  • What method are they using to communicate and organize the information?
  • Did they define the problem (question)?
  • Are the communication lines open?
  • Is anyone trying to dominate the team?
  • Is anyone hiding?
  • Are they organized?
  • Is anyone taking the lead?
  • Are they using the flipchart board or any other tool in the room?
  • Are they moving the info from the cards onto something visible to the whole team (flipchart)?
  • How much confusion is there?
  • Is anyone getting angry?
  • Are they working together?
Exercise De-Brief Questions:
  • Did you like this exercise?
  • Did you arrive at a solution?
  • Did everyone agree to the solution?
  • How did you arrive at your solution?
  • Did the time factor affect the team?  How?
  • Did you work together?  How?
  • What went well?  What didn’t go well? Why?
Misc. Facilitator Notes:
  • Don’t give them any hints or clues during the exercise!  It’s okay to laugh with them, but not at them.
  • Whether or not you give them the solution is up to you.  Remember, the key learning point of the exercise is for the team to work together, not to solve the puzzle correctly.  If you decide to show them the solution matrix, don’t give it to them until the last possible moment (when all debriefing is complete).
  • If they insist on knowing “how they did,” just ask them right back “how do you think you did?”
With respect to performance on the puzzle:
  • 90% of the teams are able to define the problem “What is the salesperson’s last name?”
  • 75% of the teams setup the info matrix in some format or another
  • 50% of the teams get all the hints correctly entered in the matrix
  • Less than 10% of the teams arrive at the conclusion using the correct logic & deductive reasoning
  • Nearly all the teams end up guessing when the time deadline is reached

Fact Finding Problem and Rationale

Turney is the salesman!

  1. Turney drives an American-made vehicle (card 8).  Since it can’t be the Toyota van or Honda sports coupe, it must be the Plymouth coupe.
  2. Harlow borrows a vehicle from the Manufacturing Manager that can hold his five family members and their camping gear (card 5).  Since it can’t be the Honda or Plymouth coupe, the Manufacturing Manager must drive the Toyota van.
  3. Therefore, because Turney drives a Plymouth (#1) and the Manufacturing Manager drives a Toyota van (#2),  Turney can’t be the Manufacturing Manager
  4. Harlow can’t be the Manufacturing Manager since he borrows the Manufacturing Manager’s vehicle (card 5).
  5. Because Turney and Harlow can’t be the Manufacturing Manager (#’s 3&4), Benson must be the Manufacturing Manager and drive the Toyota van.
  6. Because Turney drives a Plymouth (#1), and Benson drives the Toyota van (#5), Harlow must drive the Honda sports coupe.
  7. Since Carroll knows nothing about music (card 3) and Trent is the Political Science major (card 6), Brown must be the customer with the music major from the Julliard School of Music.
  8. Therefore, the customer who drives the Honda sport coupe and needs a larger car for the cello (card 7) must be Brown.
  9. Because the Julliard School of Music graduate (Brown #7) drives the same car (Honda #8) as the engineer (card 1), and since Harlow drives a Honda sport coupe (#6), Harlow must be the engineer.
  10. Since Benson is the Manufacturing Manager (#5) and Harlow is the Engineer (#9), Turney must be the Salesman.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spaghetti Diagrams

Essencially, Spaghetti Diagrams are maps of the area that you are working in.  The maps (floor plan) can be hand drawn, or computer generated.  They consist of paper and a colored pen /marker or two.   
Spaghetti Diagrams are an inexpensive tool used to track flow; the flow of people, paper, product or information.  These easy to construct maps also allow you to track time, distance and value / non-value added steps in your process. 
Start with a layout of the area.  If layouts are not available the one step equals 3 feet & 1 second will give you a good starting point.  Define the starting point of the flow you are tracking.  Start lines to each of the next steps until the process is complete.  The messier the better!

Spaghetti Diagrams will quickly identify time and distance traveled.  The maps will allow you to instantly observe if your proposed changes will reduce non-value added motion, and by how much.
Here is an example of a spaghetti diagram I made tracking ONE mission:  Buy a pair of pants from GAP.  Shopper #1 is my wife, and Shopper # 2 is me...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Low Hanging Fruit

Low hanging fruit describes the big bang for the buck projects that can jump-start Lean Implimentation for a Lean Project/Kaizen.
They are the  solutions to problems and opportunities that are easy to implement with relatively little effort and will have a significant impact on your goal for that particular project.
The following is a simple exercise to figure out what constitutes a 'low hanging fruit.' After the team has determined the various tasks needed to'complete a particular project or kaizen event, place each task on a post-it note seperately.  Then draw a 2X2 chart.  The horizontal line is labelled "Ease of Implementation" from 'Easy' to 'Hard'.  The vertical line is labelled "Level of Impact" from 'High' to 'Low'.  Now have the team determine where each tasks falls on the chart with regard to both ease of implementation and level of impact.  Anything that falls in the lower right-hand quadrant is considered Low Hanging Fruit and should be attacked immediately by the team.  If you have the resources to complete the items in the upper right quadrant, then have them done.  Your next quadrant to attack should be the lower left.  Your team should not spend time or resources worrying about the upper left quadrant.
Just don’t get into the habit of only going after the easiest projects.  The other tasks/solutions brought up by your team must be placed on what I call a 'Parking Lot' list for later completion.
As you attempt more challenging projects, you will see those skills grow. Fruit that used to be too high will become the low hanging fruit as you get ‘taller’.
Have Fun!