Sunday, February 29, 2004

Lean Pizza??

I was dispatched earlier this evening to the local Papa John's pizza outlet to pick up a large sausage and a small mushroom and breadsticks (no Atkins diet going on here, apparently) for the expanding family. I anticipated some delays, as the outlet is on Purdue's campus and since the dorms don't serve meals on Sunday evenings...well, you get the picture.

And was I ever surprised. A busy place, yes. Delays, no. In fact I purposely lingered because I saw some very astute workplace design.

The layout was tight. All the pizza preparation took place in a space about 12' x 20' (or about 3m x 7m). It was cozy. Yet it did not seemed cramped. Stations were right next to one another. The 14 or so college-aged employees did not have to walk to pass the pizza to the next stage.

The layout was "U" shaped just as good work cells should be. At one "open" end of the U was the dough, ready to be kneaded. The other open end of the "U" was the boxed, ready-to-go pizzas, right next to the cash register. The cashier merely listened to my name, turned and handed me the boxes. Down one leg of the "U" was the preparation. The closed end was the pizza oven. The other end of the "U" was the packaging. Clean, crisp. Of interest was that the materials moved in a clock-wise direction, not counter-clockwise as the best Lean operations do.

Visual tools abounded as I looked around the preparation area. From 15' away, I could see the visuals helping the pepperoni layout guy know just how many slices to lay down and where. Right next to the phone was the four-key steps to ask a phone-in orderer. All laminated and at eye level.

Information seemed to flow well, at least in one small example. I handed the cashier a coupon my wife had clipped, which was unfamiliar to the cashier. She knew who to go to, however and asked a seemingly-responsible person how to handle it. It worked...and saved me $7 on the deal.

I would have loved to have observed for a half hour or so and to have made some estimates of throughput and cycle times. But, given the well-known success of Papa Johns, I suspect the figures are favorable. I have know idea if they have a formal method utilizing lean or not. But the sparseness, closeness and U-shaped-ness sure had the fingerprints of good design.

Examples abound. See yours today. I hope this is helpful.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Back Blogging Better Now 

I’ve been pretty sparse in blogging lately.  But for a good reason…my son and daughter-in-law are now parents of twin boys!   Since my son is currently deployed with the US Army in South Korea, Susan moved in with us and so Gretchen and I have been pretty involved in the latter stages of the pregnancy and the boys’ arrival on February 13.  

Yeah, it makes me a grandfather.  Still don’t have my mind fully around that.  But the boys are healthy, as is Susan, David got some special leave and has been here for a couple of weeks and we all have a profound sense of gratitude.   

Not to say that observations about Lean haven’t been coming…I have a full list to write about.  That will be forthcoming, so stay tuned.   

And don’t call me “Grandpa” yet…please.  Just ask me how the twins are doing.

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Monday, February 23, 2004

Toyota post


News on Toyota’s Expertise 

Many thanks to Karen Wilheim of Society of Manufacturing Engineers for passing on to me a link to a special report from Detroit Free Press on automotive manufacturing.  The entire report is here .

Of particular interest to readers of this blog will be the article describing  Toyota's expertise at its Georgetown, KY Camry plant .  It’s a little long but quite detailed.  I hope you find it enjoyable. 


Friday, February 20, 2004

It's the System, Stupid

Just got a link to a terrific summary article on thinking about what a broad Lean Enterprise looks like. Published in Industry Week. Great stuff, I encourage you to read it.

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Monday, February 09, 2004

The Gutter Project--Intro

How do we get a mid-sized effort done in a Lean setting? While much of Lean literature is focused on the basic tools of kanban, flow, 5S, and such, how do busy people in a hectic environment make something new?

My friends Hal Macomber and Frank Patrick write with great experience and breadth on the subject of project management and I have learned much from them. I'm now launching into an experiment in this which I'm going to make fairly public via this blog. I want to see what, if anything, I've learned. Further, I want to learn while I do, rather than learning in a vacuum. I invite your scrutiny as I try to do this in the open. Here's the deal.

The Story of the Project

We are attempting to insource the manufacture of the gutters we use on the eaves of our buildings. We've purchased them from various vendors over the years. But, to get to a more "just in time" delivery, we want to make them ourselves. We've reviewed this with our current vendor and they have concurred. Further, they will supply us with the steel coil we need to make the gutters.

The Participants

At this point, four of my colleagues are with me in the effort. Bryan and his team will do the physical renovation of the area in which we will make the gutters. John has two roles. He'll end up supervising the manufacture when we get going. Secondly, he's a near-genius on machines and all things mechanical. I need him to fabricate all the pieces/parts that will go into this. Ken understands the supply of material and the flow of inventory marvelously. He'll keep us in coil. Dave understands better than any of us the design of our buildings and the process by which we will generate work orders. My job is to run the project, be accountable and document what we are learning.

As we get into the project, others may join us.

Current State of the Project

We have approval from upper management to proceed. We have a reasonable budget to get the job done.

Other than that, there is nothing. The five of us met for the first time Friday. Well, er, uh, not all five. Bryan forgot to write the meeting time down and so I have to bring him up to speed on Monday. First Improvement: Send out meeting reminders.

In our 90 minute initial meeting Friday, we mostly talked about the broad objectives of the fact it was almost all story telling. Why gutters? Why now? Why not with our existing vendor? Where will we build it? How much space to we really need? Who else needs to know about this? No Gantt charts yet. No timetables yet. No major lists of fact, only two specific items so far on the list. My objective was to get these very smart colleagues to grasp what it was, broadly, we want to do. And, then, let them percolate on this in their own worlds.

Project Metrics

At this point, we will use Percent Plan Complete (PPC) to assess our performance. At it's simplest, we'll document the promises individuals make and then assess if they fulfill those promises completely. If so, it is complete. If not, it is not complete. Yes/No assessment. A fundamental of Lean. We will then look each week at our PPC, both for the week and cumulatively. Best practices seem to point to phenomenonal results when PPC exceeds 80%. How will we do??

Next Steps

Only two for next week. Both mine. a) Review the plans with Bryan, who missed the meeting. b) Get a current quote on the gutter machine. So, our PPC next week will be either 0%, 50% or 100%.

Current Learnings

Best stated by Dave, our very perceptive and deep thinker on the team. "How do we squeeze this in with all the other 'key' projects we're each working on?" Yeah. That's it. We'll be watching this.

I hope these postings will be helpful for you. I invite your comments, via the comment section here or via email to me. Thanks for listening. Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

On Being a Lab Rat

We've been interviewing recently for May grads and summer interns at a number of colleges and universities in Indiana. Last night was another such event, an open info meeting on campus.

In the midst of the candidates, well-groomed with resumes in hand, was another visitor. After chatting and discussing some of the usual introductory questions, we wondered a bit just why she showed up...her background didn't seem a fit for what we were offering. Then we discovered her reason for stopping in.

It turned out she was a doctoral student examining how interviewers form impressions about interviewees. Thus, she came to observe my three colleagues and me as we interacted with candidates for jobs.

Yep, we were the lab rats and she was the scientist. Perhaps it was quite fitting that we had a tray of cheese and crackers in the back of the room. I solved the maze of tables and chairs quickly to get my share of the cheddar and Colby. I hope I passed. At least I didn't get an electric shock.

Seriously, our unexpected guest was quite professional. She took many, many notes and was a keen observer. What was she writing down, I wondered. After the event, she offered some useful feedback and thanked us warmly for welcoming her. It still felt a little odd, though.

Which was good. In many efforts in a Lean transformation, we who "have the knowledge" go onto the shop floor and "observe" what is going on. And I'm sure a lot of the fine folks I've worked with have felt like lab rats at the time. Which is not a great feeling.

How to deal with this better? Be more clear, at the first step on the shop floor. Explain to the folks just who I am and why I'm there. When I'm done, share all the notes and observations. Be respectful. Understand it's odd to work when you know someone is observing to see just how it is you are doing what you already know how to do.

And, be grateful for those moments when the shoe is on the other foot. I hope this is helpful.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me