Friday, July 29, 2011

Try the fun 5S quiz

I have added a fun 5S quiz to my website.  Below is question 1.  If you like or think it could be useful for you download over at
1. 5S stands for:
    • Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize and Sustain
    • SSSSSimple cleaning
    • Shine, Spotless, Sanitize & Safety on Saturdays

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Doing Lean for the right reason

I had an interesting conversation last night with someone who had been involved with a lean 'project' at a previous employer.  His thoughts on lean were not positive. 
The company he had worked for had recruited a new CEO.  The CEO said that 'Lean' was the way forward and that that was what the company was going to do.  What instead my conversation partner had seen was a company were the books were being manipulated to sell the company at as much of a profit as possible.  And lean was just a tool to help make that happen.  Kanbans were used to drive down inventory costs and JIT to further reduce WIP.  Both improved cash flow and I suspect help improve margins.  What he did not talk about was how Lean had made anyone's work better, improved customer service or quality.  No surprise that Lean was not viewed positively.  He now works at Westjet a company that put incredible effort into engaging its employees to achieve their potential and into reducing operational costs.

As with any tool it can be used well or badly.  This time Lean was used as cheap trick.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The stats for why do lean

Typical of the benefits attributed to lean production are those cited by Kotelnikov (2001):
●  Reduction of waste by 80% (waste includes intellect, motion, overproduction, transportation, inventory, waiting, and defects);
●  Reduction of inventory by 80%;
●  Decrease  in  manufacturing  cycle  times  by 50%;
●  Reduction in labor by 50%;
●  Increased capacity in facilities by 50%;
●  Improved product quality by 50%;
●  Higher profits;
●  Higher system flexibility;
●  Better cash flow;
●  Just-in-time delivery

My source - Society of Wood Science and Technology .Kotelnikov is now the driving force behind (warning possible information overload)  The Kotelnikov paper is heavily referenced, I just have not been able to find the original available on the web.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Can you nudge your way to Lean, probably not

A few years ago 2008 the book "Nudge" came out.  Written by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler it promised that many small almost negligible changes to peoples behavior could add up to big changes.
Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness   Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness 

As Lean practitioners we are well versed in the idea that the sum of lots of small changes added together are often greater than a few big changes.  Example of the ideas:
From BMJ +
Alcohol - Serve drinks in smaller glasses
Diet - Designate sections of supermarket trolleys for fruit and vegetables
From the book:
In hot weather, people depend on air conditioners, and many central air-conditioning systems need their filters changed regularly. If the filter isn’t changed, bad things can happen; for example, the system can freeze and break down. Unfortunately, it is not easy to remember when to change the filter, and not surprisingly, many people are left with huge repair bills. The solution is simple: people should be informed via a red light in a relevant and conspicuous place that the filter needs to be changed. Many contemporary cars notify people when the oil needs to be changed, and many new refrigerators have a warning light for their built-in water filters. The same can be done with air conditioners.
Question is, do any of these nudges work?  From my own experience of being a backpacker in Australia in the 80s beer was served in small measures.  Bottled beer is still served as stubbies, the name reflecting the small size of the bottle. Australians and I still managed to get drunk very easily.  The idea of small bottles was explained to me as a way of keeping the beer cold.  A small bottle was going to be emptied quicker, meaning you more often had a cold beer.
Designating an area of your shopping trolley (cart) for fruit and veg sounds like a good idea.  In reality whats the likelihood of it working?  Probably very little as there is nothing to stop the area being used for putting your donuts or ice cream in. Next time you are shopping, take a look at your trolley or other peoples.  Trolleys get filled up.  If you are doing a family shopping trip you do not have the luxury of space.
The third example, great first step towards Jidoka.  We have to ask; are the rest of the steps fulfilled? Where are the filters kept, can they be found, do the people know what the red light means, will they react and do they trust the light?  How man people continue to drive their car when a warning light has come on, quickly learning its not critical (at least for a few days, weeks, months)?
The answer we know in Lean is discipline.  We also know that it is the hardest part of implementing lean on the floor.  With 5S it's not nudge it is Standardize and Sustain.  If it was as easy as nudging all we would need to do was make sure that Set was done.  That would be our nudge.  From experience we know that an area will regress and our protection is discipline.
If you want to know more try this article in the Guardian:

Julia Neuberger: 'A nudge in the right direction won't run the big society' - House of Lords inquiry into US 'nudge' theory of human behaviour deals blow to coalition hopes of replacing costly legislation with social encouragement

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Something I learnt today

I find the history of words fascinating.  These things, words that we use daily have to come into existence in some way.  In French they have the Académie Francais, in English there is no equivalent. English words just get created by use.  The term "value chain" is one I use almost daily and here is a little back story:
The term “Value Chain” was coined by Michael Porter in 1985. The value chain is a chain of activities through which product passes. At each activity, value is added. The value adding activities are called “Primary Activities”. Primary activities include – inbound logistics, outbound logistics, production, sales and maintenance. Human resource, administrative activities. R&D, infrastructure management and procurement
are called support activities. Support activities are behind primary activities. Support activities also add value to the organization. Value chain management is the process of managing the sequence of activities and information along the entire product chain. (Robbins, 2007)