Monday, October 31, 2011

An advert for some work I am doing

 My colleague Carla and I will be running the process mapping and change management part of Productivity Alberta and Calgary Construction Association's ICT program.  Looking forward to doing this.  The construction industry is not something I have done a lot of lean or other work in before.  So a chance to learn and share.

Implementing Information & Communications Technologies 
Are you Ready?
  Is your legacy computer system holding your company down? Do you even have a legacy system? Either way, it’s time for an upgrade. The ICT Adoption Program can take you through the process of identifying the needs and the gaps to acquiring and implementing new Information and Communications Technology. Not only that, you’ll be paired with a mentor who can coach you through the process, putting lessons into practice.
  A partnership between the Calgary Construction Association and Productivity Alberta, this series of workshops, online resources and coaching can help your company make significant, measurable productivity gains. Participants take away methods to engage the staff and decrease the barriers to new technology.
When: December 14, 2011 8:00 am – 12:00 pm

Who: The Owner, General Manager or overall key decision maker of your construction company should attend this workshop.  Note that you can register others from your company for specific workshops based on responsibility.  If you want advice, please contact us.

Register: The registration form for the program is attached to this e-mail.

More: To get more information about the program, click here or contact Productivity Alberta at or 780-427-6648.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

The challenge of defining value

I have only recently really begun to appreciate how good Toyota's definition of value is.  The Toyota definition is:
Value is the minimum activity required to change a product towards what the customer is busying.
This is a wonderfully compact and definite definition.  There is nothing loose about it, nothing is defined as in the opinion of the customer or is open to further discussion.  Two things got me thinking about this.  The first was something my father in law said.  He worked as a lecturer at NAIT teaching business studies.  We were talking about our work and he said how difficult it was to get his students to understand the idea of waste.  That comment has stuck with me as I have wondered how effectively I have communicated the definition of value and wastes to the companies and people I have been working with. 
The second thing to get me thinking about the definition of value was this story of a locksmith:

Business was bad, the locksmith confided. When he was starting out, picking locks took him forever, and sometimes he'd have to smash them open, but customers appreciated his efforts and gave generous tips. Now, as a veteran, lock-picking took him mere moments, and his clients, seeing how easy he found it, had stopped tipping. Worse, they even resented paying his fees for what seemed like so little elbow-grease.

The definition of value here is all back to front.  The value the locksmith offers is unlocking the lock.  The work I want him to achieve is to open the door.  How long that takes and how he achieves that should not be my concern.  In fact the quicker he can open the lock the quicker I can get at the contents of the safe or into the comfort of my home.  However from the story the locksmith was not being rewarded by his customers for the value he was offering.  Instead the customers were recognizing the hard work he was doing and rewarding him for him for his hard work and not the value he offered.
The preference to recognize hard work over value is very common and in some organizations institutionalized.  The worker who sweats hard and overcomes problems is often rewarded over the worker whose machine never breaks down and always delivers on time.  Or the office employee who has to stay late to get the monthly figures done is recognized over the one who quietly leaves at 5 every day.
A critical part of the lean journey is changing this mindset.   The companies that embrace lean switch their focus to maximizing the value they deliver and minimizing the hard valueless work they do.  The first step on that journey is to learn to see the difference between value and hard work.

Math and engineering aren't so difficult

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A big cheese says so

Harris Corps CEO Howard Lance said this in his annual report:
Lean manufacturing improvements implemented as part of our facilities consolidation in Rochester, New York are expected to drive productivity improvements for the year in excess of 5%, and production cycle time reductions are expected at 10% to 20% across each of our product lines.
Not too shabby that, productivity up 5% and lead time reductions of 20% for a company that is not new to lean but has been doing it for a while.  
Harris Corp make sophisticated network equipment for civilian and military use 

Harris' CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings CallTranscript

Monday, October 24, 2011

A 4,600 Gallon per Minute Oil Skimmer Just Won the $1.4 Million X Challenge

This is awesome.  I am always amazed by people's inventiveness.  I am also amazed by the ability of companies to stifle their people's creativity.  The X-prize is not just for space rockets.  There is the Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE and this is the winner:

Inspiration for the idea came from a badly thrown bucket.
Donnie said he asked Jeff to throw him a five-gallon plastic bucket to help in the recovery effort but luckily Jeff’s aim was off that day and the wind caught the bucket and blew it into the spill on the water. The wind continued to turn the bucket and Wilson noticed that as the bucket turned, oil stuck to the side of it, leading them to their first invention of oil recovery equipment. So it began.

There are 2 reasons to go green not 10

List of 10 reasons to do x, y or z are a common journalistic trait, one I often think is wasteful.  If there are 8 reasons don't add two more.  The eight are valid or they are not.

Todays has an article "Top 10 reasons businesses get clean".  Most of them are valid and worthy.  The two reasons why I would recommend a business to get clean they don't mention.  Reason one, your customer values it.  Many customers from Walmart to small business value their suppliers doing sustainability/green initiatives.  As Lean practitioners we know don't do anything that your customer does not value, because they don't want to pay for it.  And reason 2 being clean will make you more profit.  Reduced waste, energy and emissions all can save money, the other valid reason.
Why can we keep it simple?
If you have the spare time the article is here
And if you have lots of spare time the full McKinsey article is here (which I'll admit I have not read)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Square holes, whatever will they think of next

A long time ago I remember having a problem with a young trainee engineer who was very proud of his work even though it had a big problem.  The problem was the design had square holes.  This made sense as he wanted to utilize square steel bar that would mate into the square holes.  The problem was not just the stress concentration in the corners but we had no way to make the part.  Using normal machine tools the part was impossible to make, there was no broaching tools available or EDM.

Now that same engineer has a choice.  Dijet Industrial Co Ltd of Japan have worked out how to machine the perfect square.  I'm not sure if this is a serious application or just a company pushing the boundaries of knowledge in wanting to know what it could achieve.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Always learning even when going back(wards)

Sometimes to go forward you need to go backwards.  I was reminded of this this week.
A company I am working with have been working hard to improve a process that essentially involves 2 people doing non value added work.  The immediate aim being to free one of the people so they can help elsewhere in the plant.
After several months of trying to get a new piece of equipment to run as they needed the project leader candidly admitted that things were worse than before.  There had been no reduction in labor needed, in fact there had also been a increase in rejects.  We had introduced more waste into the system.

Why is this worth blogging about; because to admit fault takes bravery and also admitting fault is not something that is traditionally respected in the workplace.  This company is starting to change.  Some of its older more traditional behaviors are being lost as more constructive ones take their place.
Previously the new machine would have been accepted as the way forward, now that is not a realistic option.  So to move forward some steps back are being taken.  The process is being bench marked using the original machine.  Next the new machine will be bench marked and the differences identified.  Then we will go to the gemba, watch the process and think about the options.

The lesson to me here is sometimes it is not best to launch straight into activity as attractive as it may appear but to plan first.  A3 problem solving sheets and methodology are there for a reason, sometimes we need a reminder.