Is your company finding that delivering products or your service is harder than it should be?
Are the level of late deliveries is going up rather than coming down?
Are your delivery lead times excessive compared to your competition?
Are you producing extra stock just to try and get round the losses from poor quality or excess stock sitting on your shelves?
Well now is the time to consider implementing some lean thinking into your company.
In this video John Watt presents the critical elements for your lean journey.
Here are the slides from the webinar.
In this presentation, you're going to get some great advice on getting an understanding of the critical elements in your Lean journey.
We want to talk about some of the things to help you on your Lean journey.
One of the first things that creates some challenges is the Management Team.
One of the biggest changes is that Lean doesn't work with the “command and control” structure.
Lean is almost like democratisation of thinking.
We're interested in pulling the information from the guys on the floor, who are actually doing the work, because the same thinking that got you into your current situation is not going to get you back out. The thinking that got you there has probably come from your management team. We need them to think differently and to start building on that.
That allows them to be a lot more involved, a lot more visible on what we call the Gemba. That is where the work happens, and not driving a set of charts at a desk.
Management teams get really sucked into all these KPIs at their desks.
The best information you're going to get is by going to the floor and talking to the people doing the work.
That's a really different approach, and part of that approach is about them being humbler, and willing to ask questions, and when they answer the questions, to shut up and listen.
Often when people ask a question, what's going through their head is actually the next question they want to ask, or the point they want to make, and that means you're not listening.
We really want them to ask a question, and then listen. Listen with the intent of learning and accepting that people may not have, what they perceive, to be the right answer, but as the management team, your part is to help them along that way.
If you come from the command control environment, it's really hard for the guys reporting up to be ready to open up and give those suggestions, especially after being knocked back time and time again.
It will take a little bit of time and there will be suspicion, and you just have to keep doing it.
I've seen a lot of companies that tried to do Lean and say it didn't work because we ask them questions, and nobody had answers. Well, they're not used to having answers, so give them a chance.
You have to create an environment that supports the right mode of thinking. It's very different approach, and it takes time to change that.
It also requires you to step out of that firefighting mode, not everything needs to be fixed right away. It's a longer-term game.
It's about investing the time to develop the people and the thinking.
Management largely, is focused on: we have to do this now; we have to do it urgently; and we have to change the business overnight.
One of the biggest barriers to any transformation, isn't the guy on the floor, it's the guys in the management side of things.
As I mentioned already, it's also about not taking on short-term thinking.
Businesses are very focused on the end of month, end of quarter, or financial years.
It's very short-term thinking and if we keep thinking like that, we're not going to step back and think on the long term.
Lean transformation is not an overnight thing.
I've had people say, “You've been with us for three weeks, why aren't seeing a difference?”
In reality the consultant has only been there for 3 day or once a week and potentially you should be further on. But more likely, they've spent the past couple weeks trying to figure out what actually goes on and how it works.
If something's going to stick, you have to do it over and over. Sometimes that means that you have to make a decision that's going to make you look at the longer term, and break up that short-term thinking. You have to keep reinforcing, and behaviours don't change overnight. They don't change on one discussion or one example, you have to keep reinforcing it.
Everybody thinks of Lean as a whole bunch of set tools.
It's Five S.
It's Just in Time.
It's this and it's that. But it's not.
Lean in itself is a methodology. It's a set of thinking practices about how you deliver products to the customer, at the highest quality you can, at the lowest cost and in the shortest time.
It originated back in the 50s in Toyota. It was about how we get products to the customer quickly, so that we don't have to keep stock. So if I don't have stock and I can do it quickly, then my costs and my cash flow is better. That was the main goal for Toyota to survive.
We use continuous improvement tools to increase the quality, to reduce the lead times and those then result in reduced cost. If your quality is going up, your rework is coming down, the cost of product goes down.
So Lean is a set of tools and it's really about what do we want and how do we do it.
We can achieve both these things by two pillars.
You can’t get continuous improvement unless you have respect for people.
It's always interesting to talk to people about what do you mean, what’s your impression of respect for people?
It starts off with being nice, but it’s actually not that, so we’ll delve into that as we go.
In terms of Lean management, what does that look like?
Well, it's about giving Management a different focus.
It's not a focus on the number per se, it’s the focus on people.
The main job of a manager should be about growing people to give them the skills, the techniques and the tools to think differently, to do a better job and make it easier to do the job.
If you think about that, you got to take them somewhere. It's about saying, ‘where's the end goal’. You'll sometimes hear people talk about the true north of company, here's the big end vision that we want to get to.
It's about setting people up to win.
You do that by setting tasks, challenges, standards, accountability and frequent feedback.
Feedback is not about sugar-coating it. You cannot say there's good news, and here's the bad news, now, the good news again. People don't hear the bad news in the middle. They only hear the good news on either side, and they walk away thinking that they are doing great. That's pretty disrespectful for the person to think about. If I'm not willing enough to say ‘Look, you didn't do as well as you could done, because we know you can do better. This wasn't great and this wasn't great, how can I help you improve those two things?’
It’s much better than saying well that was great, this maybe not so much, but this was great as well have a nice day. You're left feeling, well was that a pep talk or what did I do? Don't sugar-coat it, just be honest, but be respectful with it.
If you can give them exposure to Lean tools and they get business benefits and performance results and you can be open with them, it will improve things. Because, as a manager, we're looking to empower the shop floor to make the decisions.
When we start talking about the respect for people stuff, we start talking about creating that safe working environment, about how we communicate with them and about being honest. All of those things, come into play from there.
One of the most important things to say is, it's about enabling people.
Just so we're all clear about what enabling is, companies talk about empowering people. It's not about empowering as “empowering” is a bit of an overused buzzword.
I like to talk about enabling them, because the definition of enable is: giving someone the authority and the means to do something, to make it possible.
If I'm going to enable you, then you have the authority to make the decisions that you need to make to enable you to move forward.
It’s really about enabling people to have:
If you want to improve the quality of something, and you're going to change something, you're going to end up with potentially some scrap by just testing out the idea. Accept you're going to have that because the payback is going to be huge in terms of engagement of the person.
You need some other people, and you probably need some problem-solving techniques.
- 5 Whys
- Lean thinking
Those are things that you need to give people and give them the time to learn to effectively get the thinking differently.
Lean is all about the thinking.
If we don't change the thinking, it doesn't matter what else happens, you're doing the same thing.
If you think about the five principles of Lean
- Identify value from the customer point of view.
- Everybody gets focused on the end customer, but you have a multitude of internal customers who all need value and what value is for one person is different from the next person.
- I’ll give you an example. I'm working with a company at the moment, and one of the operators said to the person on their right, who's given them the product for the next stage, ‘if you provided to me in this way, arranged in this way, it would make it easier for me to do my job’. So, value for that person was how the material was presented to them to let them do their job.
- Working back and forth, they figured out exactly how they could present it and they took 12 seconds off the cycle time, which, when the operation was only a minute and a half, is a huge improvement, and all it was down to was a conversation – this is what’s valuable to me, it’s how I get it presented.
- Understanding those little bits of value throughout your whole value stream and for each of your internal customers, can be huge, and part of that is understanding why. It's not just ‘give me this because’ it's ‘this is why it's going to help me’ because it then creates some ownership.
- Mapping the Value Stream
- The Value Stream is really just a collection of operations that are making a product.
- It might be a bunch of machines in a row.
- It might be people processing a claim form
- Creating flow
- Establish Pull
- Seek Perfection
- Perfection is the enemy of good.
- If you keep going on wanting perfection upon perfection, you're never going to get it and it drives people down.
- If you can accept even a little bit better, and a little bit better and a little bit better, suddenly, you get a lot better, it’s that 1%.
- Give me 1%, give me 1% and they all compound and that's what we're interested in and conceding perfection.
The most important thing I want people to remember about Lean is it's about thinking, it's about using people's brains, and their adaptability.
You just look at that in terms of, today we’re doing this and tomorrow we’re doing that, next month, then they might have moved into a whole different position or are making a whole different product.
It's not about tools. A tool doesn't work if you don't have the brain behind it.
It's about practice as well. You have to keep doing it until you get it.
But also, it's hands on, it's not sitting a fashionable theory, and reboot, reboot. You can reboot on Lean, but until you go off and try something, you actually don't really know it and that's one of the most important parts. It's hands on, we harp on about the Gemba a lot i.e. let's go and look, there's a problem. Let's go down there and have a look.
Another short-term approach, is to teach the next lesson but you haven't learned the first one.
If we keep going and keep giving you the next bit of our training and the next bit of training, you actually don't get a chance to embed the first part.
Until you learn that first part, the next part is probably not going to make much sense to you.
We’re choosing to be a little bit Zen with it. “We could teach that, but you're not ready for that yet, because you haven't learned this lesson. I can't teach it the next lesson until you learn that.”
We find that works really well, especially with the guys on the floor, they're really receptive and it just reinforces that it's about your brain.
One of the first things we need to start thinking about in Lean, is what the differences are.
The first thing we're interested in, what is the real problem that you're trying to solve?
That's the first question that you should ask when you go somewhere, that's question one, what's the problem?
It may take you a couple of attempts to find out what the real problem is, it may be
- ‘I'm producing rubbish.’ = Well, that's great but define rubbish?
- ‘It's putting a hole here, but it should go over here.’ = Why is it putting a hole there? What creates the hole?
Eventually, you get down to what the real problem is, “why the code in the machine is wrong?”, and we can figure out how to fix that.
Again, the short term thinking that we have to fix it really quickly, tends to stop at that very first question. It’s where the 5 Why approach comes in, we want to keep going until we go, right that's what we think the real problem is here, now we can do something about it.
The next question, when I think about that process improvement side of things is how we improve the work that we're doing? There's no point doing bad work and keep doing bad work. One that's disrespectful. If our quality at the line is at 80% or 70% and we're happy, we just keep doing that, think about what that does for the person sitting there, it's really not the most rewarding thing.
What did you do today? Well, we produced 30% bad stuff, but the rest of it was okay. Compared to, we did, 80% that was really good, and then we figured out another thing that was wrong, which was really cool, and now we’re up again. It's a different way of thinking, a different way to work.
It's also about not doing needless work as well, there’s a lot of needless work that goes on. Where it doesn't actually add value to the customer. You're just polishing something or you're doing something or, you’ve got a tolerance that’s too tight, and the customer doesn't really need it, they'll never see it, it's pointless work.
If you think about doing pointless work, and I've been there myself. When I had a proper job at a corporate company, I had to deliver a report every single month, and it took a bit to put this report together, and one month, I didn't send it, and nobody said anything. The next month, I didn't send it either and this went on for six months, until somebody phoned up and said ‘I didn’t get your report last week, it’s really important!’ It clearly wasn’t because I hadn’t sent it six months. That was completely pointless work, it wasn't used for anything.
In our capability development how are we going to develop people who are going to actually do the work, at all levels. It's not just about developing people, for the work we do today, you obviously need to do that, and some of that is developing them both in terms of skill to do that work, the physical work or mental work that they're doing, but also the tools to do the problem-solving things. But you also want to think about what's this person's next job going to be and have that development towards that as well, because you want to keep growing your people too. As your development goes towards understanding the next job they're going to do, 9 times out of 10, that feeds back into the job that they are doing, and helps lift that up as well, it's a really nice additional thing to look at.
Then we are looking at the leadership to say, what kind of leadership behaviours will actually work in this area? And that's, where we come back to the, you can't do command and control in Lean, it doesn't work, and it never will work.
“I don't believe command and control works in any company, whether it's a Lean company or not.”
You have to think about what do we need? It's always about how to make it as least impactful in terms of getting in the way as possible. How do we get out of the way and let people do a proper job, and give them the support that you want to give them?
The last part is, what mindset are you trying to do?
If you go and interact with somebody who's trying to solve a problem, if you did nothing else, but work through those five questions in your heads, you're going to have a far more successful interaction with the person. It's going to be structured, and it's going to be consistent and it’s going to drive the right methodology, but it does fundamental challenge, the mindset, underlying how you work.
It's a big head shift, because it takes time. It's not a two-minute conversation by any stretch of the imagination, you might be there for 20 - 30 minutes. But in that time, you've probably solved the problem and everybody's learned something, and it won't repeat, because part of it is going to be about:
- How do we close this out?
- How can we make sure that it doesn't recur?
- What's the new standards that we're going to set?
We want you to think like a coach when it comes to Lean, and how you best present those questions.
Remembering coaching again, is the short-term thing, and it's also not about being nice.
If you think about some of the very best rugby coaches, soccer coaches and sports coaches; they get respect from the teams, but they are demanding of the teams, and that's okay. It's not about being your great, we love you, sometimes it’s about ‘that's not the standard that we know you can do. We know you can be up here, so what do you need?’ Ask the harder questions. Be a sounding board for them, ‘If you think that's going to work, why do you think it's going to work? Okay, give it a try.’
Sometimes it’s about being a connector, I don't know the answer - which is a great thing to build upon as a leader - I don't know, but I know somebody who does, have you met Becky? She's really good at that sort of things. And connect those people up and let them work on it and build it up from there.
You want to be challenging, you don't want to set targets or expectations that are too easy, the person can meet that and it works great, but you're not stretching that person, you're only grow if your stretched. If you’re continuing on that consistent level, you never get a chance to grow and again, think of it as respect for people; you are disrespecting the person, you are inhibiting their ability to grow.
A great book by Canadian, Michael Bungay Stainer who is a great coach, he won International Coach of the Year, and he wrote a fantastic little book called the Coaching Habit. It goes through seven essential core coaching questions that if you use them in the order that we talk about in the book, you have the coaching structure.
One of his favourite ones he calls the AWE question, it stands for And What Else?
Basically, when you're talking to somebody and they come up with an idea, you say are there any other options or any other things it could be?
“I don’t know, but it could be this. And what else? It could be that. And what else?”
Eventually you get to the point where they go, “I don't know what else!”
Great, now we’ve got all the options on the table, which one do you think is right?
It's a really good way of working things out.
For anybody who's moving into the Lean way of thinking, get your hands on that book and by thinking about how you're going to be a better coach, it’s going to pay huge dividends.
What is flow?
For some people, it’s slightly different in terms of the way of thinking, but it's about how we move through the whole process in a short period of time.
A customer gives us an order, how quickly do we receive that and are we able to deliver that faster?
I haven't met a company yet who have said that being able to deliver faster would not be a strategic advantage.
We were talking before we started, about a company who said our lead time is about six weeks! Surely it can’t take six weeks? Six weeks seems to be the default answer for the lead times.
If you can deliver in three or four weeks, or even a week, I bet you're going to get better orders from people. It doesn't mean you're necessarily going to be more expensive either if you do it right.
We're also looking at how do we free up capacity?
As you improve flow through a company, you automatically up your capacity.
As a kind of visual, this traditional type of assembly line - which works in the same way as an office approach. The traditional assembly is maybe five or six things now, these are times from our actual client of ours, where the first process where the somebody did some work, then he put into the inventory which may have been the space between a couple of desks, and then next one, the next one.
If you take a look back through six days to process something on the line - the lane was like 15 meters long - five and a half days.
When we moved into continuous flow process where I finished my work and I give it to you and you start that work and get as close to one-piece flow. You hear about one-piece flow and that's when - I do one bit of work and give it to you and you work on that right away.
It's important to remember that's not the Nirvana and you have to earn your way there; you can't go there immediately. You WILL break your company, if you try and go there immediately, because to get to continuous flow, there's a lot of things that have to do, and we'll talk about them in a bit.
When we moved and got things set up, we went from a five to six-day cycle to thirty minutes.
And we largely only removed the inventory and the batching, and we fixed some barrier problems as well.
It was really great and it took us probably about a week. The first half of that week was working with the team doing the job, to get them to come up with the ideas about what it could look like and what the barriers were. And then, at each one of those barriers, we got them to knock the barriers down.
Moving to that, is really hard from a thinking point of view because everyone is out of their comfort zone.
We think about things that inhibit flow, because that's really what Lean is about, and everyone has heard about Lean waste.
I like to show you the pipe, and if you think about all the waste, the defects, the transport, the motion, all those things just clogging up the pipe, the flow is automatically going to be slowed down. As we reduce those clogs, and we can clear the pipe, your flow is going to actually increase.
Customers only want things to fall into a bucket at the rate they want it to fall into.
You can imagine if you’ve got a pipe, even if it wasn't blocked up, the same thing happens. If you try and push more stuff into that pipe, there's only so much capacity it's got, eventually, you've pushed so much in, that the stuff in the back of the pile of stuff you’ve pushed in, takes a long time to come out.
As we unclog the pipe, yes, we get a bit more flow through that pipe, but we’re still pushing more in than the pipe can take, so you’ve got a problem and you’re not going to get improvement.
So, part of that is also balancing the flow through
- How do we make the pipe bigger? or
- How do we stop pushing so much in?
One, we never want to push anyway but part of it is to understand, what does the customer actually need?
Not understanding what the customer truly needs, is one of the biggest barriers to flow, because what it results in is that knee jerk, ‘we need some of that, the customer wants that NOW’ but the customer might have ordered a hundred, but this week, they may only need 10 of that hundred, and next week, they only need 10.
If you have the conversation with the customer, and ask what do you actually consume? That's what we can make, and by switching to that, what we call a multi-mode line, where you might be making three or four different products and changing around between, but in smaller batch sizes, you can actually support more customers at the same time, and keep lots of people happy, and reduce your lead time.
There are three keys, in terms of the thinking, to be able to look at these wastes, and there's three different types of waste.
But the first thing you really want to start looking at is variability in your process, in terms of:
- How do the machines perform?
- How your people perform?
- What the demand is?
Anything that is going to create variability, because if something is variable all the time, what's the standard? What's the target you're trying to hit? You don't really know.
We focus a lot on trying to create a standard that is repeatable. We'll have a list of the standard output that we want to get, this is how we're going to get it, these are the instruction sets that we're going to use, we're all going to do the same thing the same way. That also means when you come in to do the job that I’m doing, the standard way, this will train you to do that job quicker.
It takes a little bit of time to put these work standards together, because the benefits of putting the works standards together, is talking to the troops doing the work and saying, draw me what it should be and use pictures as much as possible, get them interacting.
The short-term thinking is, I haven’t got time to do that.
The long-term thinking is, if I do that now, I won't have to keep doing it later on and I'll be more consistent, there’ll be quicker training, more stable process, therefore we should do better.
The other part of reducing that variability is to genuinely root cause things. Ask those 5 Why's and get to the root cause of what it really is, instead of looking at the surface. Be open about the problems, if you try and hide things away, you never surface them and it keeps coming back, it might disappear for a little bit, but they'll pop back up.
Something like poor maintenances is a good one. Because if you do an oil change it can disappear for a while. And then the oil will become gritty again, because the strainer isn't working is the default example of the 5 Whys the variability in the machine comes back. All right, we’ll change the oil again, and it disappears again, but you never really worked out the root cause.
It's the same with quality, if you can improve quality, and understand why you’re getting all those defects, it has an impact on reducing variability, so we want to bring that variability down.
We also want to look at overburden, which is Muri.
That's about not placing machines, like people, under unreasonable stress to meet targets. If you're forced to work at 100% of their physical exertion every single day, they're going to get tired really quickly. It's the same with machines, if you're running a machine at 100% day in day out, that machine is going to fall over fairly quickly, especially if you don't maintain it. You’ve got to allow time out for genuine maintenance, and productive maintenance, preventive stuff that you can start predicting with.
Some that overburden can be a consequence of the variability, because if things are 100% available, suddenly, we've got big order here, and we’ve ran all 500 but we only need 250, then things will fall over.
Finally, we come to the waste or Muda.
The reason that you want to try and start with the variability is, if you’ve got defects that come out, and you try to knock off those defects but you've got a process that is variable, you're trying to shoot a moving target. If we can reduce that variability, we can bring that down.
The more you do these things, the more you're engaging with and upscaling your team, and allowing them time to think about it, not only do you get better process, but you get better ownership from the team on their process, you also end up with a better employee, who's got more skills and more knowledge that they can apply elsewhere in the business, it becomes self-perpetuating.
Craig, Most organisations I've seen, that have done Lean, they start with the waste, very rarely have I seen them actually do the first two. Why? Is the way the consultants done it?
John Simply put, it’s a PR decision. If you take all the waste out that your system things will go better. Absolutely, if you only go in and remove the waste, and focus on that, you will improve, but it won’t be sustainable.
It goes back to that short-term / long-term thinking. It can be really quick to go and remove the waste, because once you're used to seeing it, you can't not see waste, it's everywhere.
I told off my wife for complaining about the queues at supermarket because it's just wasteful, they're not looking at customer demand and all that sort of stuff, you can’t help it.
Seeing variability is harder, because it's longer. It takes a lot, every variable cycle might be a couple minutes or might be a couple of days or maybe a couple of weeks, it's not quick. If I'm stuck in my short-term thinking, I want to attack the waste first and so sometimes you start on the waste to get that easy win and bring people on board and then you may go back to saying ‘now we have to go to variability,’ but you will then cycle back to the wastes.
Craig, so, the order is:
- Variability first then
- Overburden then
because in my old days, back in the 80s and 90s, when I was a quality manager, we constantly looked at variability. It was all about variability and records, and it was in all the processes. Lean came along about 10 years later and we started looking at waste. It’s only now that I've actually clicked that it's all joined together.
John, my preferences is always try and attack variability first.
Lean is the western a version of the Toyota Production System, and so when they kicked off back in the 50s, Toyota had gone bust. Because they built all this product that they couldn't sell, and the bank went “give us the money.” And so when they got themselves back together they said “we are never going to go through that again”.
How do we only make what we need to make? To do that through the factory pretty quick.
How do we get through factory quick?
We can't have any holdups, that's your wastes. How do we how do we tackle them?
We have to be consistent.
How do we be consistent? We have to knock out the variability for a start, let's focus on what things create variability.
We also can’t have machines that break down all the time. Why does the machine break down? We're running the machine night and day and not maintaining it. Well, maybe we should do something about that.
That all ties together.
When you start thinking in that mode, by the time you get to the waste side of things, you’re tackling them as you go. They’re consequences, or, manifestations of what is happening in the variability in the overburden stages most of the time.
A great one, from a waste point of view, that's really easy to see is motion in transport. People are moving around, or lots of stretching or so on, or in transport, its things are moving around - products and waste – that’s overburden. If I’m constantly asking you to get up and move, and I'm giving you work that you don't have to do, that's overburden.
From a thinking point of view, you always want to try and get as stable a process as you can, as quick as you can.
The place that we try and get people to start first is the bottleneck.
I like bottles, because you can explain what the bottleneck is.
Really important thing about bottlenecks, is you can actually only ever have one in your process, which is normal. Some people will start by arguing what they are with the manager. Then they say “no you don't, you might know a lot of critical constraint places. But there's only ever one true bottleneck, and it's the thing that will set the beat rate for the whole assembly.”
It's typically something which is going to be a core resource, it’s going to be high capital or high skill specialists. It’s not easily replicated, or flex up and down, hence, it's going to be the bottleneck, it’s going to be the thing that limits your resource.
If you wanted to think about where you can plan, how much work you can get out, knowing how much you can get out of a bottleneck is probably quite an important thing.
It's also where we can stop and say:
- What can we do to improve the output and improve the quality?
- How do we make it easier to do the operation?
- How can we get right people in the right seats?
Some of that is around the bottleneck and thinking through it.
This is actually where, some thinking from the theory of constraints can come in handy. If you’ve got a bottleneck, and that becomes most important thing, you're going to do better than before. By focusing on making that hum, get it to sing really well, and making it almost impossible to get the bottleneck wrong, you're going to instantly create more capacity.
If I have a line that looks like these eight operations.
It's easy for your typical managers to come along and say “Well, people at the first three operations are just sitting there twiddling their fingers, give them some more work to do.”
But you have a bottleneck in this process, its operation number 4.
And so, my Lean thinking is, if I give those other operations more to do, you're actually creating waste, because they're doing stuff that you can't deliver.
Part of the trick is to look at it differently, look at it at the system. We're interested in what ties into the system, not the individual.
And so instead of looking at four individuals, you have to learn to look at the cell as one big block, and that one big block, goes at the cycle time of what your bottleneck is.
Again, by changing that thinking, and saying, ‘how do I do that?’ It then forces you back into why? You genuinely have to either break apart the bottleneck, or combine some of the other operations and take a person away that I might not need, if I can rearrange some machines or some desk or some work, or redesign the product, maybe I can get a better balance on that line.
If you can’t speed up the bottleneck, then you have to look at all the other operations to say ‘what can I do to reduce the labour?
A part of that is also asking, can my bottleneck actually deliver what my customer needs? That customer might be the next operation or maybe the end customer, and that's where Takt time comes in.
Takt time is a fairly misunderstood thing, I think.
One of the fun things that my daughter thinks about and I talk to her about and she seems to enjoy it, whether she wants to or not. Surprisingly Takt is not a Japanese word, it’s actually a German word meaning a musical meter or rhythm. If you think about the beat on a metronome, for instance, that's Takt.
If the customer wants you to deliver them 10 units a week, the takt time is 10 units a week, every week. Don't make 50 or 100, just make the 10.
We can actually use that to work out everything from
- How much do we need?
- How long it should take?
- How many people do you actually need to do it?
This is where it starts helping you work back. If I’ve got a customer who wants 880 units a month, (we picked that that because it was nice, easy maths) and there’s 20 working days in a month, then 44 units a day, is what we need to produce.
What does that mean?
Well, it means that it’s 10 minutes per unit to produce, that's all it takes.
Now I can design my assembly line based on 10 minutes, and when we take that down, I only need two people for that. Great what do I do with the other people?
An alternative is, I'm actually going to find a way of delivering it using 4 people, and
I can do it in five minutes so I can improve my cycle time, and I'm going to build an extra product at the same time or directly after this. I'm going to turn it into multi-modes assembly line where I'm doing some of one product really quickly. Instead of making 44 units in a day, I make get 44 units in half a day and then use the other half day to do something for somebody else.
Understanding takt time and working that back to really understand what you need, is going to be really beneficial.
That will lead you to look at how you do something before every part and every interval, it's a way of bringing your inventory down and work-in-progress down but it is challenging.
The benefit of doing this in the smaller batch sizes, less variation, faster deliveries to the customers, we all love, but it does mean more changeovers and you have to be good at that. Again, you have to earn your way there by practice, practice, practice.
If you think about what the actual engine of Lean is, it's that Plan, Do, Check, Act.
The spinning wheel, you can never stop the spinning wheel, but it's a wheel that’s going uphill to improve, it can slip back. The reason it slips back is because we don't set a standard.
If you don't have a standard, we can't have any Kaizen, we can't have improvement.
If we don't have a standard, or we've no respect for people in the process, we can't have any Kaizen, we can't have an improvement.
It's about saying what is the transformation we want to do?
- How we standardise that?
- Standardising it means we document it; we write it down.
Like an ISO audit, just because you’ve written it down doesn't mean it's set in concrete, it means you have the best document process you can have at the time with the knowledge you have. Your knowledge will change and evolve, so you check your standards to change and evolve with that your documentation should be updated as you go.
The more you do it, the better you'll get, and the more you train people for it, the better they'll get at it.
In terms of the standard, if you think about your car, there are four tyres on your car. There's a standard pressure that you want to inflate those tyres to get the very best mileage, the best wear out of your tyres. If you over inflate them, you're going to have one set of issues, if you under inflate them you’re have a different set of issues. If you inflate the front two at different pressures, you're going to have some steering issues.
We have standards, and although we have already lived with standards, for some reason, putting them into the business becomes really hard, ‘we don't ever think to write these things down.’ Again, if you write it down, you're going to be consistent.
You're going to remove some of that variability, speed up training time, you're going to learn to move on.
In terms of order of improvement, this is the order that you want to attack it in.
- You want to make it easier.
- You want to make it better in terms of improving quality.
- You want to make it faster.
- It will become cheaper.
It's not about; how do I make it cheaper? It's about how do I make it easier, better, faster? In that order.
I’ve been banging on about the standards of work, but the benefits are huge. It establishes that baseline.
It codifies anything that is known as tribal knowledge; How do we do it?
It's really great as an effective training tool as well.
It ensures that your input produce the same outputs. It also means you know what your inputs are so it means processes supplying that knows what's expected of it so it helps set the standard for them as you go.
Another thing is it provides a really nice safe scapegoat when things go wrong. Because things will go wrong, and when we're looking to problem solve, it's never the person, it's always a process. And for it to be the process, it's written down, and you're able to go back and say it's that but it isn't right in the documentation.
And I've had this discussion many times ‘But we don't have anything written down, so it must be the person”. No, the very fact that you haven’t written anything down is the problem, that's the process that’s broke, which is a bizarre way of looking at things.
From a standard work point of view, we have some type standard work, you might have some:
- Standard assembly instructions,
- Maintenance instructions,
- How to inspect something,
- How to clean something,
and the more visual, bullet point types are the better way to go.
But we'll also have leader Standard Work, which is important.
That is things where the leader of the business should be doing, set things within the day, within a week.
One of them would be a Gemba walk. I have to do that every day or every couple of days. I have to get this report out and we have the standard reporting. We already have the standard work reporting in finance, you know, you have to do a month-end reporting for most companies. So, it exists, you’ve probably not qualified it.
I know when I first started going into the lean of standard work when I was first exposed to it, I thought it was rude. I knew exactly what I had to do.
What I found was, the more I did it, I ended up with a weekly plan and my week got substantially better quickly, because I got into a nice routine, and it actually freed up time in my week rather than cost me time.
I thought, like most people, that I'm going to be really constrained with it but it was the opposite. Because as I walked the floor and talked to the teams, which at the time was only half a dozen folk, what we identified in those walks, were the real problems. As we fixed those real problems together as a team, they didn't reoccur, and we didn't have to keep going back and ‘firefighting’ that, and so on. It's a self-sustaining, virtuous cycle, which is always good.
The term standard work, consists of, three key elements:
- The takt and the rate at which the product or process has to be made, or the event has to be done. So a leader standard of work on the work you're takt time or your Gemba walk might be weekly, or it maybe twice weekly, and your operation making widgets might be one a minute, and it should be documented.
- We should have precise sequence on which to operate the tasks, so it's consistent we do this first, this second and this third.
- And there should be a standard inventory. What are the units in the machine and how do we operate smoothly from there?
In terms of the standard, the other thing we want to focus on, is creating those document standards.
There's always a gap, and in Lean the first gap is always “we don’t actually have a standard”.
Then we may say, ‘here's the real standard, we have to get up to the next line.’
And once your meeting that standard guess what we're going to do, we're going to set a new standard, we want to stretch you because we think you can do better, or we think your process can do better. We don't know how you're going to do it, but instead of 30 widgets an hour, we’d like you to get to 31. We're not saying get to 60, let's get to 31. Then can we get to 32? By creating that new artificial gap, you bring yourself up.
You will hit a point in your process where you can't go anymore, and that's okay. But how far can you go, before you hit that point is generally a hell of a lot further than people think you can go.
I say that a Gemba walk is the secret weapon of any company, especially with the leadership side of things, because you want them on the floor talking to the guys doing what they need to do.
The more of that they do, the better and the more likely they are to find what the visuals are in terms of visual management.
This would be a daily run chart that we're looking for that the troops to do.
I’ll be looking for my supervisors, to look at the daily run charts and say, “well, I can see that ahead we’ll have 100% or 80% and I know why”.
You have that conversation on the Gemba walk, “did you meet the output, and if you didn't, why was that? Or what do you need?”
If we come all the way back to what we talked about right at the start, which is respect the people, what is it?
It's all the things we’ve talked about, all the way through, it's the attitude that every person can and must contribute to improving their own performance, and that of the other people.
It's not just about yourself, it's about being respectful enough to say to the person working next to you ‘you've not given me the best of work here, you can do better, can I help?’
Not passing on that poor quality and not asking for more than you can genuinely get.
Not having all the raw materials for the job before you start so you end up doing half the job.
People get really mad at that, rightly so because it's quite disrespectful, asking somebody to work with a poorly performing machine. How is that motivating when the machine runs like a bag of nails and you know you will get bad quality and there is no respect.
Start thinking about respect, its different things like providing a safe working environment.
When we talk about safe working environment, we're not just talking about physical safety we are also talking about psychological safety.
If it's not a safe environment, how can I highlight to the boss, something that I don't think is right, or I think we should do that, or I think there's another way? You will not get people come through an improvement. And again, Lean is all about harnessing the brainpower of people in business to drive those improvements.
Craig, I really like the respect for people and the continuous improvement in that order, it's a nice summary of what Lean is all about.
I've always jumped to the conclusion that it's just about the eight wastes, and its all just tools, but it's actually a whole lot more thinking around it.
It's always been this command and control thing that I've been used to for years, that management are the only ones that are actually doing the thinking but that's out the door now.