Sunday, January 11, 2009

Doing Lean: Remember the Basics

I don’t know about you but the past week gave me some mental whiplash. The two weeks over the Christmas and New Year holidays went sleepily here in the US. Work was calm, I took some vacation, things seemed to flow with a happy, easy drift.

Monday, January 5 was a startling wake up. Like a race car coming out of a series of slow, easy turns onto a long straightaway, the sudden acceleration was alarming this week. It’s easy for me to lose my perspective in this sudden change; I suspect I’m not alone.

So, I’m reminding myself to pay attention to Lean basics this week, just to keep myself in the habit.

Make it flow I’m looking for anything that gets in the way of a product moving smoothly from start to finish, with no interruption. Evidence includes piles of stuff, people waiting, people in panic, wanting to “expedite”.

Cut the batch size A seldom-talked-about tool in Lean is to simply cut any batch size in half or thirds. Almost without question, just cut the bath size closer and closer to a single unit. But not just in a production setting. Have a monthly review meeting? Make it bi-monthly or weekly. Have a weekly status update? Do it on Monday and Thursday. It’s amazing to me but almost without exception, cutting the batch size improves customer service and speeds flow. I’ve got some work to do here.

Make the plan; measure the actual Assessing plan to actual shows many forms of waste and is so very, very easy to do. When actual is either better or worse than plan, I need to ask “Why” five times. This drives understanding and is a huge, almost free, source of improvement targets. But it assumes a) I have a plan and b) I can measure it. Both are easy. Both require a habit.

Local Improvements These three should unleash for us (and for you) a steady stream of improvements. Remember, world-class companies have 2 improvements per employee per month. Yes, per month. Find it, write it up, make it stick.

Here’s hoping for a very productive 2009 for all of us.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An excellent reminder for 2009 - my favorite source for new kaizen ideas is what is one waste that EVERYONE in the shop is doing. This month's was delivering parts from one workcenter to the next. We'll see what we can do, but our time spent doing it is equivilant to 2.5% of our whole workforce!

Happy New Year,