Sunday, July 17, 2005

Everyday Lean -- Right-sizing tools

Blade sharpening tools, originally uploaded by joeelylean.

Everyday Lean -- Right-sizing tools

In previous entries on Everyday Lean, I’ve shared examples which, after some thought, seem quite logical and extend from simply “being organized.” Today’s entry however is counter-intuitive. Stay with me here.

The photo above is from my garage. I use these tools to sharpen my lawn mower blade. The socket handle and attached socket fit the nut holding the blade on my mower. The C-clamp is the right size to hold the blade on my bench. The file is the right one to sharpen the blade.

And I only use these tools to sharpen the mower blade. About 3 or 4 times a year, I pull them down and quickly, safely sharpen the blade. And the rest of the year, they sit there on the pegboard.

This is an example of Lean tooling.

When we normally think of sockets and files and C clamps, we think of them in a pile in a tool box, or, better, in the right order and labeled as a set. General purpose tools. Ready for any use. Non specific.

In a Lean setting, though, we want to have ONLY the tools we need. And have them together. Ready for use. Quickly.

My concern for my lawn mower is to make the sharpening process quick. I don’t want to rummage around to find the correct socket or wonder where I put that clamp last time. So, the tools are specialized and serve a single purpose. I want to improve how I do a job that adds value. I am not concerned with total efficiency of my entire tool set.

This has numerous applications in information processing and in material processing. In a Lean operation, we will find many small, inexpensive, highly specialized tools, jigs and fixtures. In Lean information flow, we will find specialized checklists, error checking tools, signs and labels that serve one purpose. They are always inexpensive. They are numerous. And easy to update.

This is not obvious. But it is right thinking. I welcome your comments.

I hope you can find some ways to simplify and specialize some jigs and holders and error proofing tools today. And thanks for listening.

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