Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Management by Sight

Had a call this morning from a friend at one of our fine vendors. After discussing some product improvements, he began to tell me about the latest developments in their implementation of Lean systems in their plant.

Most exciting was the soon-to-be tranformation of a long assembly line into two U-shaped cells. Single-piece flow seemed within grasp, with all raw materials line side and very little WIP. "Joe, it'll be so cool, because we can see the state of our raw materials! It's all so visual!"

Late this afternoon, my colleague Ken walked into my office. He interrupted his comments to me as he suddenly looked out the window in disgust. "There! I saw it with my own eyes! I knew that was happening." He pointed out to me a kanban card fluttering down from a passing fork truck and landing in the slushy snow. Our cards are not supposed to ride around; they are supposed to go to an appointed kanban post right next to the point where the material is used.

Central to any Lean system is Management by Sight. An effective system is very visual. In less than two minutes, any associate must be able to assess if the system is in or out of compliance.

Our vendor will soon have a moment-by-moment view of his raw material stock. A kanban system tells one to take action or not. A unit of material that has no kanban card similarly indicates a non-complience. Both are examples of Management by Sight.

In Ken's disgust and frustration, I pointed out one more wonderful part of a visual system. Since our kanban cards are color coded, we also knew that the offending material was, exactly, one bundle of Southern Yellow Pine, #1 Grade, 2x6, 10' long. Since the card was red, we could easily find it in the snow. From 150' away, we knew what happened. And the solution was obvious. Even when the system gets messed up, visual management works.

Make something visual today. I hope this is helpful.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

No comments: