Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Common sense

I had the good fortune to be helping Productivity Alberta with a session they were running on innovation at the Dicky Days Innovation Conference at the Telus Spark.  First thing the Telus spark look awesome and a lot of fun.  The amount of good noise coming from the kids (small and big) touring said only one thing, they were having a lot of fun.  The second thing, I learnt something I had never considered before.  Common sense has its own perspective.  What is common sense now, may not have been common sense before.
The example I was given was that it was common sense a few hundred years ago that the world was flat.  Of course it was you only had to look out at the horizon and you could see it was flat.
This got me thinking how much "common sense" do we hang on to?/it  There is the adage that is slowly being worked away that mass production and scales of economy are cheaper than only making what you need.  How many other ideas of common sense am I carrying around?  The question that follows on is how do you challenge the current common sense; how do you create an environment where the current common sense can be challenged and a new common sense built?
Those are big questions, and ones for me to think some more on.

In reflection


Sunday, September 23, 2012

SMED for home

One of my very first posts was on the simplicity of SMED, this post is another example that SMED should be simple. 
When doing a SMED exercise with clients one are we consistently find takes longer than it should is fiddling with equipment to get the right setting. This example only has 2 settings, the rightway up or upside down and I was getting it wrong as often as I'd get it right.  This little problem was plugging my phone in at night to charge.  I'd grab the cable and try my luck:
Black on black, while maybe looking good did not give me much of a chance to always get it right.
Now with a white do on black I get it right every time.  Chance is out of the game, I don't need to guess.  The second advantage is that I tend to plug the phone in last thing at night and the white does makes the cable easier to see, saving me needing to turn the lights on in the entrance hall.  So the white dot in fact removes two steps from the simple task of plugging in a phone to charge. 
In truth the saving is minimal each night, but added up savings like this are what make Lean and SMED/QCO's work.

The white dot I found made life that little easier so I repeated it.  I can now tell which way is up on all my USB, HDMI and assorted cables.   A critical part of Lean is the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle.  And this is last step is what ACT is about, when you find a solution that works, standardize it.  Ask "how do I make xx part of our standard work and where else can I use xx?".
The white stuff is call sugru and has almost endless uses.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Over production

Beautiful picture from Magnum Photos via Slate.com

YEREVAN, Armenia—Packaging bottles, 1972.
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wild Rose 3

Last 2 pictures from Wild Rose

This is the tool board on a normal day, not pre or post 5S check.  People have set up a system that works for them and because it works they use.  Note the Orange and Yellow tags per yesterdays post.

No arguing where this goes back.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wild Rose 2

As I have said I had the good fortune to work with Wild Rose Brewery.  I had the even greater fortune to meet up with Richard at Wild Rose and see they were continuing their own 3S.  These guys Sort, Set and Shine as they need to.  The culture is such that there is no need to do any Standardize and Sustain.  These steps are built in, in their own special way.  And the truth is that Sort, Set and Shine are the steps that make the difference, most companies need the last 2 S's to keep themselves on track.
Below is an example of good consistent visual management.

Yellow is for BREWING use ONLY
Blue is for FILTRATION use ONLY
Orange is for PACKAGING use ONLY

 Again nothing overdone (over processing), a good simple approach.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Marginal gains

If you are regular reader you will have noticed a number of cycling related posts.  One because I'm a cyclist from the UK and the success of British cyclists excites me.  And two because of the kaizen approach that British cycling takes to winning, this approach is know as "Aggregation of marginal gains".  Sound familiar?

Generally I've been able to read about the tech and training approach of the team.  Today I got a chance to read a little more about the overall approach of the team.
  • “Firstly, you need a team with the skills and motivation to succeed”
  • “Secondly, you need to understand what you want to achieve”
  • “Thirdly, you need to understand where you are now”
  • “Then, you need to put a plan in place to see how you can get from where you are now to what you want to achieve”
  • “Also, it’s important to understand the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’.  Put simply….how small improvements in a number of different aspects of what we do can have a huge impact to the overall performance of the team.”
These 5 points are a great combination of Lean thinking and also many of the lessons from Jim Collins book Good to Great. 
Full article over here  - http://www.tutor2u.net/blog/index.php/business-studies/comments/gold-medals-kaizen-and-the-aggregation-of-marginal-gains

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wild Rose 1 - The point is not to touch

One of the odd things about companies as they start their Lean journey is they think that everything has to be perfect.  It does not need to be perfect, it needs to be better.  One company I worked with that did not fall into that trap is the wonderful Wild Rose Brewery here in Calgary.
Label printers are nice but the message will still be the same.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


“Impossible Is Not a Fact. It’s an Opinion.”

"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing." ~ Muhammad Ali

In Lean we have to do the impossible.  Shortening lead times, increasing productivity and improving quality are the easy parts.  The part that can fill me with trepidation, because I can never know if I can do it is to take the people with me on the journey.   What part of Lean is the 'impossible' part for you?

For an alternative view on impossible:
"The impossible often has a kind of integrity the merely improbable lacks." ~Douglas Adams

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Check list listening

Check lists are an often overlooked tool.  They can be both simple and effective if they are used correctly.  The classic check list we can all think of is one used by an airline pilot to check his/her plane before a flight.  And not many of us would be comfortable being on a flights if we knew the pilot had skipped the pre-flight checklist.
Too often checklists are used solely as a downstream tool to ensure that x is doing their job correctly.  Or they are used by a manger in the hope that if they put one in place then the problem will go away and the manager's job is done.
I was shopping recently and as I exited the changing room I noticed the checklist shown below.  The other white marks are where paint has peeled from the wall.
Oops I thought, couple of things wrong here.  First the checklist is not being used and second even if it is no one is listening.  It is one thing to hold people accountable for their work and give them the tools and responsibility and to their work.  It is another thing to supposedly hold people accountable and not give them the resources to maintain the standards you expect of them.Checklists like most lean tools (I'm trying to think of an exception) have 2 parts to them.  The 'Do' part and the 'Check/Feedback/Communication' part
In this situation it is obvious that the feedback part of the deal is not happening.  And I do mean DEAL.  The implicit DEAL with a check list is - You follow the procedure and sign off that you are doing it and I or the Company will give you the tools and resources to make sure you can do your job and when things are out of specification corrective action will happen. 
As a Lean practitioner I see a lot of generic process waste happening as people go through the motions which must be disheartening.  As the customer I can only say I'd have like to have entered a nicer changing room.  Had I done so I'd have been in a better mood and would have been more likely to have spent longer in the store and spent more.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lean as a sales tool

Lean and 5S are a fantastic sales tool.
Just from looking, you can tell things flow the way they should. Everything from tools to supplies to bay areas are clearly marked. The floor is marked with yellow, red and green tape signifying different stages of repair. There is no mistaking – this is indeed what facilities of the future will look like.

 Could the reviewer be more glowing in their description.  This is an industry writer and they are obviously impressed.
Quick lanes for one hour bumper repair and other assorted sundry do not tie up the main production line. These types of repair have their own lanes. They are, as Ken calls them, "tributaries within a major river, never interrupting the all important and omnipresent flow."
If shorter lead times, lower costs and better quality are not reasons enough to go lean.  Is impressed customers the ultimate reason ?

Rest of the article is here http://collisionrepairmag.com/news/collision-repair/15047-concours-collision--csn-royal-oaks-the-future-of-collision-repair-facilities .  And if you haven't been to a Concours Collision body shop, they are impressive.  If you don't believe what a body shop could (I really mean should) look like take a look at Concours flickr stream http://www.flickr.com/photos/40043123@N05/sets/72157630087557878/with/7169200343/ 

Congratulations Ken on opening the new shop.

Monday, June 4, 2012

If you ever got good

If you ever got good you'd be mediocre. --James Thurber 

It's true and there is only one cure and that is continuous improvement.  Now I am off to do a little continuous improvement on the 5S and 7 wastes training session I am doing this afternoon.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Want to win then your team better do CI

First congratulations to Ryder Hesjedal on an utterly awesome win at the the Giro d'Italia
In cycling the Giro is right up these only just behind the Tour de France in prestige.  To win the Giro is a massive achievement against some of the very best riders in the world.
Picture from Velonews.com

So what on earth has that got to do with continuous improvement.  Ryder's margin of win was 16 seconds.  That is 16 seconds out of 91 hours 39 minutes and 02 seconds.  That comes out at 0.0048% a very small margin.  If you are racing for 3 weeks and winning (brilliantly) by seconds the smallest difference make the difference.  The time gab between winning and not making the podium was 100 secs. 
Garmin-Barracuda has a strong reputation for pushing the limits on technology and innovation.  There are dozens of tiny improvements that our sponsors and sports science director Robby Ketchell have developed that could have made up the 16 seconds that finally delivered the victory.
Personally, I think that a big part of the final 16-second gap can be found somewhere else.  It is in the people.  I strongly believe that good people in the right jobs are what make the difference.  - Garmin-Barracuda sports director Charly Wegelius

Small changes in life and work are often overlooked, they should not be.  Added together as we see they make a wonderful difference.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Example of Process Muda

As a consultant and therefore an outside pair of eyes to the companies I work with process waste can often be one of the more difficult wastes for me to identify.  It can also be the easiest to see in the "why do you do it that way?" scenarios.
This example of Process muda was dumped on me when I decided to update some software on my laptop.   Normal ordering method, went to the suppliers website, selected the software I wanted and completed the purchase screen.  First email promptly delivered to me confirming the order.  Next a second email was delivered to me with the invoice details.  All good to date.  Then I waited.  And I waited some more.  Three weeks later this parcel arrived.

I opened it, curious why the company had sent me such a big box. Was it that they generously wished to send me packaging materials?  If you look closely you will notice the box has been labelled three separate times, was one not enough?
 Now under all this stuff I don't need and now have to take out and dispose of was what I wanted.
Well, not quite, when you open the package what I really wanted was this
Actually what I really wanted was the 25 character code.
A whole lot of unnecessary work went into delivering these 25 characters to me.  The muda included packaging, delivery, handling, me opening and disposing of the packaging which included the cardboard box and the nice plastic software box the key card was in.  And lets not forget the three weeks of waiting I did.
And to top it off, the next day in the mail came a copy of the invoice.

The reason this is all so frustrating is I paid for it.  I didn't get to pay for what I wanted.  I got to pay for a whole lot more, which I didn't want.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Productivity in 11 Words

One thing at a time.
Most important thing first.
Start now.

borrowed from http://www.skelliewag.org/productivity-in-11-words-1040.htm 

also a perfect description for just in time work

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Perceived value of time

Interesting report from TOA technologies claiming that waiting for home services costs the US $37.7 Billion a year.  I'm not going to comment on that, we all know how annoying it is to wait for the cable guy.  I read the report and what got my eye was the way the report valued time.  They asked people to estimate the worth of their time:
Nearly a third (31%)  of respondents who make less than $50K annually estimate their median average cost of waiting for an hour to be $13 (range $11-15); after the average 4.3 hours out of work for one in-home service appointment – it racks up to more than 2 full days lost at work for this hard hit group . Depending on their level of education and the age of the respondent, there is a wide range of opinions on the value of time.
Looking at these figures people do not value their time as they are paid.  Someone on a $100k salary is on approximately a $50/hr rate.  Someone on a $30k salary is on approximately $15/hr.
When we look at the perceived values for 1 hour, the perception is valid up to the $35-50k salary range. The perceived value levels out at about $20/hr before jumping to $26/hr for the high rollers.
What does this mean for us as Lean practitioners, possibly a lot.  For a start we know those below $50k a year understand the labour cost of waiting.  When money is tight we are far more aware of its worth and our own.  For those above $50k/yr there appears to be the start of a disconnect between waiting and its costs.  This is important in Alberta where many skilled workers are to be found in this higher income zone. 
The fact is if you don't know what your time is worth you can't make valid decisions on what the cost of waiting is. The result is that many company are incurring the wrong cost.  Paying out high high dollars to staff to wait to save a few dollars on shipping costs.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What is Lean and Why Do I Care Parts 5, 6 +7

Q5. I thought Lean was about being Lean and mean, one less person?

Some companies have taken this approach, often called “business process re-engineering”, but typically, it doesn’t work out well.  Any productivity gains made disappear quickly as too few people in the company are engaged at a level to see it through to success.  Clever companies use Lean to improve capacity, shorten lead times and improve quality.  These changes are achieved by working collaboratively with staff to map and improve process, or to reorganize a work area to improve work flow.  The best companies revisit previous improvement efforts and look to find opportunities to make further improvements.

Q6. What has Lean got to offer fast growing small and medium companies?

Lots.  Virtually all fast growing Alberta companies share the same operational constraint - finding and keeping competent, qualified people.  To not make the best use of these people, or to have them work inefficiently, makes little sense.  Lean provides the thinking and tools for companies to minimize inefficiencies and enable processes and people to achieve more.  This, in turn, creates a less stressful, more empowered workplace, as well as a more a productive and profitable company.

Q7. If you were to recommend doing one “Lean” activity what would it be?

We would recommend a spaghetti map for a business process or product known to have problems.
A spaghetti map uses a drawing, or layout of the workplace, and would trace, for example, the physical path a purchase order takes through the company, as it travels between departments, from one desk or work station to the next.  A well plotted map will quickly show the amount of back and forth that happens, and where unnecessary steps and delays are visible in the process. One approach is to walk the process backwards, this way it’s possible to capture the actual route not the one that was supposed to happen.

Event to share updated

This is an advert, for a good event. 
Build the Optimal Environment for Business Success
CME is proud to present with Productivity Alberta Don Bell, one of the founders of WestJet to Calgary on June 5th.
Don Bell, one of the founders of WestJet, is widely credited with helping to make the company one of the most successful airlines in North America.
Don strove to create a unique atmosphere for his employees, realising that happy staff members create happy customers. Recently retired, Don encourages business leaders to take their businesses to new heights by aligning the values and interests of their company with those of their employees, along with a little dose of common sense and a large dose of heart.
Come hear Don Bell and how his approach to business applies to your company.

Date:  Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Place: Delta Calgary South
135 Southland Drive SE
Calgary, Alberta

Cost:  $75 plus gst CME Members
$85 plus gst Non-Members

Registration:  11:30 am
Lunch:  12:00 noon
Program 12:00 - 1:30 pm

To register, please Click Here:
Or please contact Linda Withers at (780) 426-6622 or linda.withers@cme-mec.ca

For more information, please Click Here:
Transform your business into a competitive powerhouse, unleashing the full potential of your leadership and the productivity of your staff.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A classic oil and gas story of over production

I was given this extreme example of over production this week by a snior staff member with over 30 years experience in manufacturing and field service.  It went along the lines of:
"When I joined the company 30 years ago one of the first jobs I was give to do was make ten 3" valve plates.  We sold the last one 6 years ago, it was rusted to rot.  Actually I think it took us about 4 years to sell the first one."
Not all examples are as extreme as that.  But the incidental costs here to the company over the 30 years must have added up.  Most companies don't have parts that sit on the shelve for 30 years.  Instead they have 30 parts that sit on a shelf for one year and cost the company even more.
Over production is called the worst of the 7 wastes because it in itself will cause all 6 other wastes.  For many Alberta companies the cause of over production is the unreliability and lack of co-operation within their supply chain. Parts and material are frequently not delivered on time.  From my experience the oil and gas industry has some of the worst supply chain practices I have come across.   So to cover these problems more stock has to be kept in stock.  Which adds to prices and also adds to more batch ordering which itself can contribute further to supply chain issues.
How to escape is another question.  There are two things companies can do.  The first is be open and honest with their customers, at least then their customers can make a good decision.  The second is be reliable themselves.  The more reliable in delivery a company can be then the more confidence the customer can have.  Two small steps that together can make a big difference.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What is Lean and Why Do I Care Parts 3 +4

Q3. How is Lean different from other ways to improve productivity?

Typically when companies look to improve productivity, they look at the big value added things they do, such as machining metal or treating patients.  Then they look to find ways to make these steps more efficient.  While this is a piece of the Lean process called “point improvement”, it won’t meet its full potential in isolation. In contrast, Lean companies look at the “value stream”, which is the whole process a mechanical part or a patient travels through in a plant or medical centre.  By analyzing the value stream, from order taking to delivery, it becomes more apparent where value is created and where waste is diminishing the system.  Understanding the whole process enables companies to identify where efforts will have the greatest impact on reducing waste, and subsequently on increasing productivity.

Q4. Isn’t Lean just a collection of tools such as 5S and Six Sigma?

These tools are a very important part of Lean; they provide the methods through which companies can improve productivity. They are also highly visible and therefore easily recognized.  But Lean is about the bigger picture.  Lean thinking involves taking a holistic view of productivity; it moves away from point improvements and moves toward improving the whole process.  A Lean company is driven by continuous improvement.
 One important Lean tool is the value stream map.  Value stream maps are used to identify the fraction of each step that adds value, the fraction of each step that represents waste, and the targeted ways to improve.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What is Lean and Why Do I Care

I was asked to write an article on Lean for the Petroleum Joint Ventures Association, here is parts 1+2: 

Q1. What is Lean?

Lean is a collection of ideas and tools companies use to improve productivity.  It starts with the simple question “What does our customer value?” If the company can determine what its customers value, and if value is defined as the minimum activity that modifies or changes a product or service to meet customer requirements, the activities of the company can then be identified as either adding value or generating waste.   Waste includes reprocessing, searching for information, double checking, fetching, waiting, and so on.  In fact, very little of what most companies do can be classified as value.
n Lean manufacturing focuses on identifying and enhancing value for the customer.  By identifying value we can then identify and eliminate waste throughout the entire value stream.
This assertion is backed by surveys1 that have found for a typical manufacturing company, only 5-10% of activities add value.  For service companies this number can increase to 30-40%.  Don’t believe it?  Think about having a puncture on your car fixed.  The actual time to fix the puncture takes only a couple minutes, but the whole process of planning and scheduling and traveling, takes much longer. 

Q2. Can Lean be useful for non-manufacturing companies?

Every process has opportunities for improvement. No process is 100% efficient from start to finish. It doesn’t matter if that process is manufacturing a car, preparing a quote for a customer, or drilling an oil well. Lean provides both a framework and the tools for companies to drive out inefficiency. This is why the big hardnosed Oil &Gas companies like Talisman and Shell are executing Lean; they know it‘s going to pay off with higher productivity and increased profits. These companies, in turn, following the examples of Toyota and Honda, are going to look at their partners and suppliers to influence them to implement Lean and drive costs out of the supply chains. This concept is already being embraced in Calgary, Alberta, with both Mount Royal University and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology offering courses in Lean Management.