Saturday, January 17, 2004

On Being Nimble, part 2

I had a number of helpful comments on my posting about the article [link] on SUV safety. This is a topic which tends to evoke strong feelings. Much like saying the words "Bill Clinton" or "George W. Bush" in certain audiences, emotions run strong at their mere mention.

These emotiona can cause one to miss the point. And miss the connection to Lean Systems.

First, the article is a wonderful demonstration of measuring system performance, not single-point performance. The researchers measured injury to both the driver of the vehicle and drivers of other vehicles. Safety for the vehicle at the expense of others is not safety. It is system safety.

What does this mean in a lean system? One simple application is that the performance of any single machine/person/department is not as important as the performance of the entire enterprise. I illustrate.

Some while back, a potential vendor made his pitch to us, summing it with "We're the most efficient in the post-frame industry!" To back this, he had numbers about overhead cost per unit, number of units produced per hour, labor cost per unit and so on. Then I asked him about his on-time shipment figures and his time from order entry to shipment. They were mediocre and slow, respectively. His obsession with machine efficiency caused him to require long lead times to enable big batches to go through the machine together.

He didn't get our business.

The candy maker who makes Valentine chocolates efficiently, only to get them to stores on February 16 will soon be out of business.

We have to define the system correctly, measure it clearly, improve it relentlessly. And the authors of the article illustrate that wonderfully.

I hope this is helpful. Be nimble.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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