Tuesday, September 17, 2002

5,000 Apple Pies – The Proposal

My son’s school has a fund raising event each fall – preparing and selling frozen Dutch Apple Pies. This fall, they want to produce 5,000 pies in two days with volunteer labor. Last year, by all accounts, the process was near chaos. So, my wife and son who worked on the production last fall and experienced the mayhem, encouraged me to be on the committee this year. “You’re the process guru…they need you, Dad!” was the tone of their urgings.

So, we had the first committee meeting two weeks ago. I got the lay of the land; Traditional “batch” processing, lots of good people running around, working hard and getting little done.

Tonight, I propose a radical rework of the flow of the pie production. One, single, U-Shaped cell to assemble and package the pie, one at a time. Then simple container kanban systems to bring the raw materials (crusts, apples, cinnamon/sugar mix, topping) to the cell. Further feeder cells to peel and core the fresh apples we use.

While the process is simple from a lean perspective, my interest is how a change agent works. These pies have been produced this way for many years. It is an all-volunteer process. How does change happen?

I’m going to try to demonstrate the process with a simple Lego exercise to show how we can get rapid clues as to where we need resources if we match the feeder line’s pace to that of production. I’ll post how it goes.

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