Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Eight Reasons for Buffer Inventory

Why have any Work-In-Process Inventory? Why have any intermediate subcomponents in your system?

  1. It is a shock absorber for uncertainty.
  2. It shows you where flow ends…thus you must do pull.
  3. It shows you where you sense variability in your process.
  4. It insulates you from vendors who don’t deliver on time.
  5. It provides a tool for managing your entire process by observing buffer quanitities.
  6. It gives you a quantitative way to see changes in customer demand.
  7. It forces you to “declare” your process steps to others, making the process more transparent and visible.
  8. It allows you to measure your progress to the degree you can decrease buffer inventory sizes as a proportion of your total inventory.

WIP, in itself is not a waste. Too much of it is a waste. And paying attention to it is central.

Keep learning.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Just what DO you do, while in Gemba?

The more I learn about Standard Work, the more I learn what I don’t know. Like peeling an onion, just to see another layer underneath, so working through Standard Work is an unending process for me.

Today’s observation. I’ve written quite a bit about "going to gemba", physically getting to the place where work is done to see for myself what is happening. And I’m now implementing my own standard work for the trip to gemba.

In each of several work areas, I have particular concerns. For me, as a leader and manager, I have to take specific actions to communicate to others my concerns. My objective, after all, is to engage others in addressing these concerns; I can’t operate under the illusion I will fix all problems. So, standard work for me is a) to go to the work place and b) take specific actions to reinforce action on the key concerns.

For example, in one work area, we have had issues scheduling daily work assignments. We now have a simple white board at the place of the morning start-up meeting. Yet, to make this more standard, I go to the board once each week and write encouraging comments on the board. In so doing, I want to communicate I see what is happening and encourage it to improve. I currently have four such activities to do weekly. I chart my done/not done on each. It is very humbling and alarming and encouraging...all at the same time.

At a deeper level (look out, onion), it is very arrogant of me to expect our team to do Standard Work if I am unwilling or unable to do Standard Work myself.

I have a long way to go. At least I know the road I am on.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hoshin Kanri--a Surprise

Last week, I made a presentation to our local Lean network on Hoshin Kanri, the Lean system of strategic planning (you can look at the presentation here; I’ve also listed as a download on the sidebar). The group was attentive and gave good feedback.

But some of the feedback surprised me.

In our group are folks with a lot of Lean experience. They’ve been exposed to some of the best teachers in the field. Yet, these folks said they have been unfamiliar with Hoshin Kanri or unsure how to apply it. My attempts to make it a bit understandable seemed to help; which surprised me, since I’m a novice at the topic myself.

Which shows me one point; never assume you can’t make a contribution. In the effort to eliminate waste, to make organizations work well to deliver value quickly, we can never know everything. And each one can add to the understanding.

For me, when I try to teach something, I learn it better. I think most are the same way. Encourage those around you to teach; try to teach something yourself. Soon.