Lean Six Sigma

Can You Spend 50% of Your Time Thinking about a Problem? 0

I asked Mike Osterling, “Does it really happening where people are spending 50 percent of their time on defining a problem?”  Mike has worked full time for over 15 years applying the Lean concepts in manufacturing and office environments. He can be found at Osterling Consulting.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Lean and A3 Thinking

An excerpt from the podcast:

Mike Osterling:  I think people in organizations need to be convinced that it’s a good investment of time. Let me tell you a recent experience. We weren’t formally using the A3 form, but we were walking through these guys, these groups through A3 thinking. There was a team that we were taking through a development program was looking…They had a project that they voted to be on, this project team, and they opted in on it. The project team was looking at what this company called Asset Recovery.

So, when an employee leaves the organization, the problem that was perceived upfront was that they weren’t always getting laptops back or employee ID badges or cell phones or pagers or whatever these different assets might be. One of the senior managers was saying we need to improve that process, we’re losing stuff. As part of the program we were taking them through this thinking process of, let’s define the problem first.

When the team went in and started talking to the different parties engaged in mapping the process and collecting data, a very interesting thing that happened was everybody who was engaged in the process, and all of the data that was out there showed that they were at a 99 percent or better rate of asset recovery. It was a very, very rare occurrence when something wasn’t recovered, and the exposure was not significant from an information or nondisclosure…proprietary information, disclosure loss or something like that. And the dollar loss was very insignificant.

Historically?in fact, where this team was going initially, they were going to come up with a completely new process. After they did the current process math, they were ready to come up with a new process definition and have different checkpoints and things like that. Once they started getting the data and really talking to the people, they found out that there’s no problem! This was a really, really good experience, because before we would not have challenged anybody on what the problem was and they would have gone right to the solution.

So as part of the project report out 15 weeks after we started or 13 weeks after we started, these guys said, well, we learned a really good thing. There is no problem. On one level, it seems like it was a waste of time. But, these guys said the value of going out there and talking to the people that do the job and walking the process numerous times, numerous times, this isn’t go to Gemba and walk it once, this is go to Gemba and walk it 15 or 20 times, really understand what’s going on-was invaluable.

They said, “Whenever we’re going after a problem again, we’ve got to talk to the people. We’ve got to walk the process numerous times.” So those guys get it. They get that problem definition, root cause analysis, and measure the current state. They get that.

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Middle Managers: A Key in Any Transformation 0

Paul Yandell is President of  Value Stream Focus and has successful and varied manufacturing and operations experience in companies ranging from startups to multinationals. He led a Lean Transformation driven by middle management and I ask him the following question:

Related Podcast and Transcription: Speak to Middle Managers

Joe:  I think that’s what’s so important because I  always hear this top-down driven type culture and these mandates that we’re going to be a Lean company and it’s got to be the vision from leadership and it’s got to be this saying we’re going to become Lean and everything and I flat out don’t think that works. In certain circumstances, it might work, but…

Paul:  Of course, it does work but let’s agree that the middle management makes it work. So if the top management says, “This is how we’re going,” and he’s able to get the alignment within his company top to bottom. Then he’s got it. The real problem is alignment. If you say, you’re going to change, but you don’t change your structure…I mean, Lean is all about turning the triangle upside down. If you look at a triangle, a normal triangle with the apex at the top, this is in a people-centered organization, the classic organization where the boss tells everybody else what to do. If you are continuously, that’s how all your information flows, then what happens is it’s hard to drive change through that organization. You’re going to tell people what to do, but they may or may not buy into it. They’re kind of waiting for you to go away or for the wind to change.

Now, if you can through continuous improvement, through Lean techniques, if you can switch that, flop that triangle around so the apex is at the bottom, now what happens…you have a flat part of the triangle at the top, if you will. Now you have a situation where the supervisor in saying, “OK, I need you to make green ones, 200 of them, and then I need you to make a bunch of red ones, 200 of them.” Instead, now the conversation is, the supervisor is at the bottom of the triangle, and the center of the work is now the operator. Now the conversation is, “OK, operator, how can I help you do your work better? How can I help you improve your operations? How can I help you do a better job?”

Suddenly, the conversation has changed, and it will never go back because the operator goes, “Oh, well you know, my back hurts every day. If you could raise this desk another two inches, this table, or if you could improve my chair, they’d give me a back to my chair, I’d be a lot better.”

Now the operator makes 15 percent more work and then their back doesn’t hurt and now, all their friends, they want you to pay attention to them too. Because, “You helped Mary, why don’t you come over and look at me? I need a better light over here. And you think I could get a new knife? This one has a bad blade, and it takes me forever to cut this item.”

You’d find out all this stuff that you never knew. If you just walk through the area and look at it, everyone looks busy, everyone looks like they know what they’re doing, and no one tells you what they need, because no one ever listened before, why should they listen now? You don’t want to be a complainer. That’s middle management right there.

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Looking at Throughput thru Capacity Mapping 0

When you think of mapping in Lean, your first thoughts are steered towards the tool of Value Stream Mapping. When I picked up the book, Strategic Lean Mapping, I had similar thoughts, another book on Value Stream Mapping.  As I thumbed through the pages I found a very different approach. One that included Big Picture Map, Process Mapping, Capacity Mapping, Value-Stream Mapping, and closing with how to use this information for better problem solving and decision making.  I found Steven Borris use of mapping quite different. However, the tools within the maps were quite common for a Lean Practitioner.   Lean Strategic Mapping

Steve has worked with SMAS, a Scottish government agency tasked with improving the efficiencies of companies. He is a manufacturing advisor and continuous improvement expert and does this at Productivity Jigsaw. This is an excerpt from our podcast next week.

Joe Dager: We look at the individual processes and then I think you jumped into a Capacity Map which I really haven’t heard of before I read your book.

Steven Borris: Now the capacity map is my own. I was doing some work in a recycling plant, I had a colleague with me, we had a team of people that we were trying to train and what we did was we finally got the guys to do the process and there were 10 steps in the process. We put the process up on the wall, and we couldn’t see anything wrong with it. It was really weird. We knew the system wasn’t working efficiently, but we had no idea why. And basically what was happening was trucks were coming in with the materials. I can’t tell you what material is it, in case you can work out what the company was, but the materials were coming in and they were being loaded into a kind of pit and then the pit would take them to a conveyor belt and into a baler and they were only getting maybe eight bales, sometimes instead of maybe 30 that they could make.

When I was looking at this, they had four different ways that the materials came in and when I was staring at the wall map, I saw something and this is really stupid it may sound but I used to do electronics when I was younger, I used to work as an engineer and I saw what we call an operational amplifier circuit and I actually saw it in my mind. I know perhaps, I used to call them 741’s because you feed a signal like from an amplifier, and you get an output; it’s that simple. It’s just a single chip amplifier. But basically what that does is there’s a maximum gain you can get out of it and that maximum gain would be the maximum throughput of the baler. Then I working out what was causing the inputs to disappear and suddenly I saw a capacity problem. Basically, what was happening was if you got in an 18-wheeler truck, you could get the machine running non-stop and get 20 to 30 bales an hour. But then suddenly these little white Ford transits would come in from a local shop or something and they would start to unload their stuff and you can only do four vans in an hour, so suddenly you were down to maybe six or eight bales an hour and everything would just halt.

Suddenly the capacity became an issue, and that’s when I started to look at this idea of the capacity map. It’s also like to the theory of constraints. Once I had a map, I started to use it for other companies. Basically there was a company that made doors and when we laid out the entire process, exactly just using the process map, it suddenly dawned to me that what I could do is I could look at every machine, find out what it should be able to make and what they were making. If you take the ratio of what they do make to what they should make, that should get the OEE of the machine, so that was the capacity. You could literally look at the flow of the product going through it and see when it was easy to feed out when there was going to be a bottleneck. That will tell you from the beginning you need two machines instead of one in parallel. It just worked beautifully and all I had to do was when I had the process map steps laid out with the yellow post-its, I just had to write what they were doing and what they should be doing in another post-it and stack it above. It was that simple, and suddenly the whole horizon opened up. We were able to make some huge gains in productivity and it was probably as easy as the original goal when Eliyahu Goldratt wrote it and basically it was probably analogous to the scout troop walking through the line and getting the slowest guy to walk first. It’s that kind of simple if you just look at it.

From that map, I also did a bar chart and again it’s so easy because it’s just a histogram and the smaller the height of the bar chart…Imagine like limbo dancers, the harder it is to get the stuff through it. So if you’ve got a big bar chart leading into your little one, you can’t get the machine to cope with it so you got to start controlling the flow so that you’re making sure that you’re not overlooking the bottlenecks. So that was one, as I said that I just made up by myself.

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Lean in Food Processing 0

Jerry Rosenthal started on his process improvement journey where he entered the world of medical device and worked with such companies like Cardinal Health. Jerry RosenthalJerry’s expertise is primarily in regulated environments such as food, beverage and pharmaceutical production and packaging. Jerry has been successful at taking principles and tools from manufacturing and applying them to a commercial business practice, and he does that at Lean Six Sigma Expert.

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Gettng your Workforce Engaged in Problem Solving 0

In one of my most popular podcasts (Related Podcast and Transcription: A3 Problem Solving) of all time, Tracey Richardson talked about Problem Solving and A3s. However, I have always thought like most things, it is not about the tools and methods, it is about the people.

An excerpt from the podcast:  

Joe Dager:  How do you really get a work force engaged in problem-solving? I think about going out there to the line, do they really want to be engaged in it, or do they just want to go in there, get done with their job and go home?

Tracey Richardson:  Well, I think there’s a combination of both, and I think a lot of it is leadership setting the example. If leadership doesn’t come down on the floor, and they stay in their office, so to speak, and there’s no interaction or engagement and those questions aren’t being asked on a daily basis, then, sure, I think you’re going to have more of a lackadaisical work force that does just want to do their eight-ten hours and go home. I think it starts with leadership setting the expectation very high that we do have standards. When we are below standards, “What’s the expectation of me, at that point?” The leaders have to ask the right questions. It’s also good if you visualize your problems in the workplace.

For me, in my experience at Toyota, we had the visual board. Some folks call them the scoreboards. We were always able to see where we are, in regards to the company standard: the expectation of where we should be. When we weren’t, we had things like, quality circles that allowed our member engagement at the floor level, to be able to get involved and make change.

That’s a way to engage the workforce: suggestion system. We do have kaizen events, or what we call, “Jishuken,” which is a problem-solving event. I think, it’s up to leadership to really set the example, and set those expectations high for that work force to have, when the manager comes down and they’re doing their ‘go?and?see’ on that daily basis, and sometimes hourly basis, in some ways, that the expectation is there to always, “Where am I, in regard to the standard?”

Ask those questions, because, as a leader in the organization, I was always asking questions of my team leaders and team members, “What’s happening, what’s going on, what should be? Is there any variation today?” It’s developing that problem awareness. If you have that engagement, and that buy?in and that conversation, then those folks are going to have a tendency to be more engage in problem-solving. That empowerment can make a difference.

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Dan Jones on The Future of Lean 0

I ask Dan Jones,  “What is the future of Lean?” as part of the podcast/transcription: Dan Jones on Lean.  Dan is a management thought leader and advisor on applying lean, process thinking to every type of business across the world. He is the founding Chairman of the Lean Enterprise Academy www.leanuk.org in the UK, dedicated to pushing forward the frontiers of lean thinking and helping others with its implementation.


Dan Jones:  A lot of people want to pull Lean in the operational excellence box. And so OK, there’s a bunch of tools for operations folks, and I don’t have to worry about them. If I’m a senior manager, or if I’m in sales or if I’m somewhere else, I don’t have to really worry about them. Well, I think that’s not the true value of Lean at all. The future of Lean is about building a different way, building a management system to support the value creation process. We’ve done a lot of work thinking about what a Lean management system looks like in many different sectors. It is actually a different way of managing collaborative work, both within companies and between companies to create value for customers.

On the one hand, it’s about management. On the other hand, it’s also about rethinking and redesigning new ways of creating value that are now possible given technology, etc. On the other hand, envisioning the design of completely new processes and new business models that will in many cases replace the old ones.

What we’re doing is we’re at the moment still living in the legacy of the assets of mass production, the massive great hub airports, the huge massive central warehouses, the big superstores, the big district general hospitals and so on and so forth, the big postal sorting offices, the big back office headquarters or transaction processing facilities of the banks.

These are all legacies of mass production based upon routine operations and scale. What we’re doing now is designing a completely different business models that are not as asset intensive that are probably more technology intensive or IT intensive and I think open up a completely new ways.

We’re still living with those assets and until they’re depreciated or written off the new models struggle to survive. But I think it is happening. I just think in healthcare we are seeing the beginning of the end of the big district general hospital. I think in retailing we’re seeing the end of the big, big superstores as a way forward. Even Wal-Mart, along with Tesco and many others are now focusing on neighborhood stores, and they’re integrating those with home shopping.

Business models changes, I think, ultimately will come from our understanding or process view of the work, or how we organize the work to solve customers’ problems.

So I think those are two directions. I think the third direction is actually a learning dimension, which is that I think that we’re realizing that the quality movement, and certainly integrate into the Lean movement, taught us not only about the statistical analysis of variance but he taught us also about the value of PDCA ?? plan, do, check, act or some scientific method in solving problems, the closed loop of problem solving method.

I think there are people already beginning to start teaching that in schools, even in primary schools. I think teaching people a different way of thinking about how to solve problems is actually probably going to be one of the major lasting legacies of Lean.


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Significant Improvements Without Standard Work? 0

I was intrigued by Mark Hamel, author of  Kaizen Event Fieldbook: Foundation, Framework, and Standard Work for Effective Events that so much of his book is spent on Standard Work. Below is how he answered that question.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Lean Business System


Mark Hamel:  I think back to when I started learning from a Lean Sensei and that was 1994, ’95. I just remember sitting at his elbow, following him everywhere, listening to everything he said, and jotting stuff down. I had a ton of notes. And I thought, “I’ve been through a few Kaizen events now, I think I know how to do this.” Right, that was really off. Then I go in the next Kaizen event with my Sensei and I’m like, “Oh, I thought that step two was this.” I found pretty quickly that it’s a lot deeper than that. There’s definitely underlying principles that you always need to maintain and sustain. There is standard work, but at the same time, it’s kind of a loose type fit, although there are some things that you definitely can’t mess up on.

So, for example, definitely your Kaizen events need to be pulled, right? You can’t just be pushing them on folks. The old tool?driven Kaizen, they have to matter and they should be tied. Like I said before, diametric analysis or A?tree or process improvement plans, or whatever, there needs to be a context there.

You need to pre-plan, easy for me to say, properly. So we talked about team selection and we talked about scope and targets and so on and so forth. We talk about logistics, communication, which people end up messing up time and time again. Just think in terms of, “Hey, the more effective people are the more intense, the more frequent, and the more personal the communication needs to be.”

One of the major things I talk about in the book from a lean leaders perspective, they should be doing the change management thing. There are some great models out there like Kotter’s model of change management that we seem to just kind of forget. Maybe because it’s so simple, we just kind of blow it off, I don’t know.

But now we get into the actual Kaizen event and we’re talking about things like kick?off meetings. We’re talking about a healthy alignment team leader meetings, plus delta analyses. Very quick things each morning to really find out what’s working well for the team and what could be improved relative to work strategy and communication and things like that.

And then there’s a kind of storyline that’s inherent in the Kaizen event itself that follows that kind of plan, do, check, act. And if we process and if we get off of it, we’re really at risk of cause jumping, of implementing unnecessary stuff. It would definitely be in the category of waste or muda. So we’re training people how to think from a plan, do, check, act perspective as well as introducing them to standardize, do, check, act.

We expect to make significant improvements at a Kaizen Event, but we’re also trying to engage and develop the workforce at the same time.

For us to kind of bastardize the process by not following standard work that we should be following in a Kaizen event, we’re teaching them incorrectly. We’re teaching them bad habits. When we try to get to that daily Kaizen type of phase in our organization, it’s going to be really hard.

There are things that we need to follow. And there are certain tools for direct observation. There’s not observation forms really, spaghetti charts, the application of effect diagrams and histograms and things like that. We’re not super prescriptive: “Here’s a checklist you’re going to do A, B, C, D, E. You’re going to do these forms for this one and this in every Kaizen event.” They’re different. Sometimes you’re going to do process mapping to get an understanding of the current reality, so on and so forth.

I really wanted people to understand what that standard work is and what it means. It also gets into things like work strategy. This book is largely written for those people in the Kaizen Promotion Office. Those people who help facilitate this process, as well as Lean leaders; they need to understand how important this is to moving up that curve from a tool driven to a system driven to a principle-driven Kaizen culture.

Lastly, is the follow?ups piece. We have to have rigor on that and if we get sloppy, we end up wasting our time, unfortunately.


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