Monday, August 22, 2011

Who trusts you more Walmart or Safeway

Trust is a big thing in lean manufacturing.  Only companies where trust is allowed to grow and management can be trusted by staff will lean take root. Employees have to trust management.  Trust that they won't use Lean as a quick cost cutting opportunity and slash jobs as soon as productivity rises.  Trust that their input will be valued and implemented.  Trust that Lean is not another flavor of the month.

I've been thinking about trust having read my colleague Robert Lynches article Leadership and the Structure of Trust in the European Business Review.  How much do we trust each other in our lean endeavors and how much are we trusted in life.  This question jumped out at me last night.  I was doing the family shopping at Westbrook Mall.  I parked the car by Safeway and went to grab a shopping cart.  The cart I grabbed was a Walmart one.  It did not have a chain and lock unlike the Safeway carts that you have to deposit a quarter or a loonie in before you could use it.

This surprised me, or more precisely challenged my perceptions.  I thought Walmart would need to secure their carts more than Safeway.  I don't know if this is true but it appears that Walmart trusts its customers just a little more than Safeway.  Or it could be that Walmart customers are more trustworthy than Safeway customers.
Turning the question back to Lean, how much as Lean champions are we trusted?  And what do we do to develop that trust, do we take the locks off or do we keep them in place because that is what we think everyone else does and maybe we are a little scared to trust?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Just because it looks so doesn't mean it is so

Things are not always what they appear at first glance. The best ways to know what we are talking about are to have data, not opinion and to go and take look.

Check it out for yourself. Click print and get the scissors out.
Nothing like going and seeing for yourself.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thank you Henry, Eiji and Taiichi for sharing

We all owe Henry Ford, Eiji Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno a great deal of thanks for sharing their thoughts and ideas with us. Henry Ford was one of the first to truly develop an effective production line. He also wrote about his ideas and was open to others visiting Ford factories. In fact Eiji Toyoda visited Ford's River Rouge Plant at Dearborn, Michigan in the 50s. Toyota have also been open about sharing their knowledge. Firstly training their suppliers but also working with other companies that want to make things better.
My first exposure to Lean came at Bombardier, Derby, England. Toyota had opened their first UK factory nearby and were working with other local companies that wanted to learn about Lean and improving productivity, Bombardier were one of them.

 The reason I'm writing this is a question; how would the world look and work if none of these men had shared? What would manufacturing, service and health care look like if the ideas of 5S, Poke Yoke, Kanban, Takt time, SMED... had all been patented as business processes?  Ideas that could only be used if a significant fee was paid to the patent holder.
Google has just paid $12.5 Billion for ideas. (Globe and Mail)
The Web search giant, which earlier this summer lost a high-stakes battle for Nortel’s 6,000-patent portfolio to rivals Apple, Microsoft and Research In Motion, will purchase handset manufacturer Motorola Mobility for $12.5-billion (U.S.). The acquisition target’s primary asset? An arsenal of 17,000 existing and 7,500 pending patents.
That is a lot of money to pay for ideas. The fact that Toyota and co have all shared their ideas so freely has to be celebrated.  
A second question; if those ideas had been patented how much would they be worth?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Once you start seeing waste you can't stop

Sometime I wish I could turn off and not see the waste around me or the waste I am experiencing.  So often companies set systems up for their convenience and not for ours the customers.  If I sound like I'm on a whinging a lot recently I apologize. 
Direct Energy put a lot of effort into advertising their service offerings.  In every bill they send out a brochure advertising their services and the latest deals they have.  On the back of the brochure is the phone number to ring.  Except that phone number goes straight into the Direct Energy main automated switch board.  So I go from wanting to place an order to having to navigate my way through a menu system.
The only value to me in the call is to say I want to book a service and this is my address which takes maybe a minute.  In truth the majority of the call I spent doing other things and didn't end up placing an order.  I count three different wastes (delay, movement/queuing & lost opportunity) all squeezed into my call.

Service wastes:
·  1. Delay on the part of customers
·  2. Duplication. Having to re-enter data…
·  3. Unnecessary Movement. Queuing several times
·  4. Unclear communication,.
·  5. Incorrect inventory.
·  6. An opportunity lost to retain or win customers, a failure to establish rapport
·  7. Errors in the service transaction,

 If Direct Energy looked at the process from the customer viewpoint I wonder how it would look.  Would there be one lovely phone number that took my straight to right sales/booking person, and what would the call completion rate look like?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Do 5S don't be shameful

I recently bought a new car.  It is 2 years old and still has plenty of the original manufacturer's warranty left and is due a major service. It also unfortunately only came with one key so I need to get another one cut. So I go down to the manufacturer's local service dept to ask about having another key cut and the service done.
Behind the service desk a door opened onto the service bay.  What I could see where 2 work stations.  The far one looked great, a clean tool box with one or two items on the top of it.  The second the exact opposite, the tool box was grubby, the top was littered with tools, parts and packaging, what was what I could not tell.

Not the actual offending tool chest
In my own way I commented to the service desk on the work space.  Her comments were one the service technician had been here for 20 years and two the door should not be open. Neither of those comments are valid.
One, 20 years of working in a mess is not acceptable.  I am paying dealer rates for work not back street garage rates.
Two, a service department should not be something that is hidden away.  I was recently up at County Hills Toyota and was taken through the service department.  It was clean and organized, it worked as a sales tool.  I would be confident taking my car there, the other service shop I would feel like playing roulette on who would do the service work.  Many automotive companies, Toyota, Mini, BMW, Volkswagen, Porsche (and probably others) use their factories and factory tours as selling tools.  If you ever take a trip around Concours Body Shops you would be impressed like I was and know that this was a good place to have your vehicle worked on.
The downside is that I have to make a choice go local and feel I am playing roulette on the quality of work that will be done or 'waste' time and drive across town to somewhere I feel will do a far better job.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Suicide Kaizen

Kaizen is a finite resource.  With everything that has to be done in workplace, HR reviews, planning, ISO/ABSA/FSA audits and others, working with suppliers and customers and the basics of getting production, design and admin done there is only so much time for improvement activities.  And sometimes there may be no time at all.
Where to do kaizen needs to be a strategic decision.  For the effort put in you need to get the largest benefit possible.  At the start of a lean journey 5S and work flow are the obvious areas to put effort in.  Even then for a larger organization a valid question is where to do 5S.  As a company's lean journey progresses the question becomes more critical.  This is where mapping, particularly value stream mapping is so important.
A value stream map shows where in a process a company adds value to a product.  More importantly it shows where a company invests effort and produces no value.  This is where effort needs to be invested to reduce and eliminate waste.
Is the kaizen effort you are putting in getting the best return?

Or are you investing more and more effort for smaller and smaller improvements?
Wasted effort in kaizen activities is know as suicide kaizen.

Someone who redoubles his efforts when he’s forgotten his aim. — Philosopher George Santayana defining a fanatic

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A very average post

I was asked the question a little while ago "what do I do about my employees who are below average?".  My answer was "Nothing! Half of your employees are below average".    When we talk about performance half of anything is going to be above average and the other half below average.  That is how average works.
The conversation we ended up having was twofold.  First how to move the average for the group up and second who were the stragglers.  And then what could be done to help raise their performance.

At the end of the project the average performance was up.  Half of the employees were still below average and the over half above average just like they should be.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Buffer and flow at Caffè Artigiano

Caffè Artigiano not only does the best coffee in Calgary.  It also is a great demonstration of the use of a buffer and drum & rope from theory of constraints.  Below is a picture of the cafe:

And this is what it looks like drawn up:

In normal operations one of the baristas is the bottleneck.  And one the rules of theory of constraints is that the bottleneck has to be protected so that it can run at maximum capacity and therefore the whole system runs at maximum capacity.  The cashier is the other step in this process and does have occasional problems which we call Murphy's law.  Examples are credit cards not working or customers who forget their wallets or don't know what they want.  These would all stop the line if the cashier was at the end of the process, reducing the capacity of line.
The way the bottleneck is protected here is by moving the cashier to the start of the line.  When there is a delay at the cashier the buffer starts to get used up.  However the cashier is normally faster than the baristas and is easily able to catch up.  This means the baristas are never waiting for the cashier and more importantly we as customers are not caught waiting unnecessarily.
How does the drum and rope work is this situation.  The end barista and the cashier are linked both by a physical buffer and an electronic rope.  The physical buffer works like a kanban  in that it only lets a limited number of people into the space.  The buffer also maintains first in first out so the barista does not get overloaded.  The electronic rope is the till system which automatically tells the barista what the next coffee to make is.
So if you are in the mood for great coffee and an example of TOC/Lean in action Caffè Artigiano, 332 6th Avenue S is the place to go.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pure Calgary visual management

Great visual management does the thinking for the user.  Not technically an example of Lean but I really like this from Stampede.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Don't let engineers multitask, they can't and neither can you.

That's right multi tasking is wrong, don't do it.  More importantly don't let your engineers do it.
Why do I stress engineers?  Go over to your nearest engineer.  Interrupt them, I know this is a bad thing and ask them how many projects they are currently working on.  Ask them how many project items they will work on today.  Ask them how often they will swap between those tasks.
Engineers are very simple creatures.  I can say that as I am one, and have the P.Eng. to prove it.  Consider your engineer to be a precision machining center.  You would not interrupt a machining center half way through a step. Except this is what we do with engineers all the time.  Like the machining center, engineers have a set up time. An engineer’s brain may appear to be able to instantaneously swap between tasks, this however is an allusion.  The immediate “information players” that the brain uses in the frontal cortex can be changed quickly.  What takes time to reset is the links to the backup information the brain needs.  The change over appears quick, the ramping back up to speed is what takes time. 
Some very simple tasks can be multitasked, most cannot. If you want to prove this to yourself play the TOC bead game -

So do not get caught up in the trap of getting engineers (and yourself) to multitask.  Multi tasking only slows progress down and actually hinders the on time delivery of work.