Tag Archives: Workplace Organisation

problem_statement

The rush to solution

The first step in any process improvement initiative is to define the problem or business opportunity. This step is often completed far too quickly and in some cases defines a solution without really addressing the real issue.

Paul was a recent case in point. Paul has just commenced a project-based process improvement programme. He works in an assembly area on a mezzanine floor in a manufacturing company.

Products for assembly are brought to Paul and his team by forklift from the ground floor.

Paul’s project was to install a lift in the area as the team were often waiting on the forklift driver. He was quite frustrated that management couldn’t see this and wouldn’t justify the expenditure.

problem_statement

In fact, Paul had presented a solution without actually defining the problem and the impact on the team. We needed to take some steps back and understand what is actually happening.

The team had recently had to wait for an hour on work from the ground floor.

  • How often did this happen?
  • What was the process for ordering material?
  • How was this communicated?
  • How often did work need to be moved?

There was no data on any of these questions and no real process in place for delivering product.

The forklift was also used to receive purchased items, to load deliveries and to manage stock on the ground floor. Any of these activities could delay transfer of work to the mezzanine unless some notice was given or some plan was put in place.

It also became apparent that there was limited product in the process staged for assembly.

There was a need to map the entire process and understand how the work flowed within the business. Mapping forced the team to think about their process and their commitment to their customers. The links between each stage of the process needed to be understood and the team needed to agree ways of working. This is the 2nd stage of process improvement.

The ‘solution’ of installing a lift is now likely to be superseded by a pull system in the short term giving a clear signal to the forklift operator when product needs to move. In the longer term, the team are now considering a cell-based layout on the ground floor.

Like all good Lean systems, there is no mystery, just simple ways to engage the knowledge and experience of the staff already present in every business.

We are very proud of the improvements that all of our participants achieve in 3 months.

You may be interested in applying Lean thinking to your business and putting these ideas into place?

Enterprise Ireland offer support to clients through their Lean Business programmes. Click here for details.

The ManagementWorks project-based Lean Business programme will run in Dublin in December. Click here for details.

 

customer-experience

Who is responsible?

Imagine arriving at these 2 hotels?

How is your initial impression? How would you describe the experience?

 

If it was your business – how would you like it to be represented? Who is responsible for this representation – the individual or the business?

We can continue to assign our problems to individual error or we can delve deeper and explore the systems and processes that we have put into place.

“Management is responsible for 94% of the problems” – W. Edwards Deming – Out of the Crisis

It all starts from day 1.

Does each person hired understand why we are in business and what we are trying to achieve for our customers?

Do we share our processes? – the best ways that we have found so far to deliver our value to the customers.

Do we train our staff so that they fully understand these processes?

Do we support and encourage our staff to propose even better ways that we can improve on these processes?

The result in doing these things may be represented in the hotel on the right. The result in not doing these things could be represented on the left.

Or you may choose to assign responsibility to the individual in the situation.

Help

Lean thinking is concerned with creating the right environment for our business, our employees and our customers.

You may be interested in applying Lean thinking to your business and putting these ideas into place?

ETAC run Lean programmes for businesses and through Enterprise Ireland, IDA and Skillnets.

Programmes will run this Autumn at various locations in Ireland, leading to QQI awards.

Click here for details on the range of programmes available.

 

Does everyone know the score?

Imagine arriving late to a sporting event to see that there is no score on display. Everyone around you is confused as to the actual current score. Or image a sign telling you that the score will be posted as soon as possible after the game finishes.

Would you lose interest in the game? Would the players have the same motivation?

It is often interesting to ask staff in a business how they did the previous week. The answer may be as general as ‘pretty good’ or ‘not a great week’.

Delve a little deeper to ask for some evidence and the answers may be quite vague – ‘well, we had no major issues’ or ‘things were a bit slow’.

How well is performance tracked across your business? Are the relevant things tracked – those most important to the customers of the business or section?

In Sport, performance tracking is essential to driving improvement. Here are some statistics from last season’s English premiership

Score
statistics from www.whoscored.com

English premiership teams playing West Bromwich Albion should know that this team score more goals from set plays than open play. In contrast, one of the top teams, Manchester United, score relatively few goals from set plays. Could this drive significant improvement actions?

Knowing what to measure in each area of every business is essential. It is an opportunity missed if everyone doesn’t know the score. Continuous improvement is supported by facts and good data collection and review.

 

You may be interested in applying Lean thinking to your business and putting these ideas into place?

The ManagementWorks Lean Business programme will run this Autumn at various locations in Ireland.

Click here for details.

 

Lean

Presentations are for managers

There is often a perceived ‘glass ceiling’ by frontline workers. Presentations, meetings and often systems are in the arena of management and many staff are uncomfortable in these areas.

One of our recent programme participants was adamant from the outset that he would not be delivering a presentation in front of ‘strangers’. Furthermore, the concept of running a meeting was alien and presenting work on a ‘computer’ was work normally done by office staff.

Following a lean structure, encouraging all project leaders to clearly identify their issues, engage their team and implement changes based on sound data, the results can be amazing.

3 months later, our participant delivered a 30-slide, 12 minute presentation. He outlined the background to the issues that he wanted to address in his business to a room of ‘strangers’ through simple diagrams and lots of photos. The work and ideas of his team were explained.

The result of the effort was a re-organisation of the workplace, reducing product transportation by over 800 metres per unit and a saving of 3 hours labour time per unit.

The confidence in the presentation delivery gives us huge satisfaction in seeing the personal transformation of an individual now using meetings, data and presentations to drive continuous improvement.

Like all good Lean systems, there is no mystery, just simple ways to engage the knowledge and experience of the staff already present in every business.

We are very proud of the improvements that all of our participants achieve in 3 months.

You may be interested in applying Lean thinking to your business and putting these ideas into place?

The ManagementWorks Lean Business programme will run this Autumn at various locations in Ireland.

Click here for details.

 

Should I begin my lean programme with 5s?

We are asked this type of question by many companies.

The idea of a clean and tidy workplace is very appealing and seems an ideal way to begin the lean programme.

Done poorly, and there is little distinction between the 5s initiative and a good spring clean.

Done well, this can involve many people and make an instant impact.

The essence of 5s is to:

Sort – decide what is required and remove everything else. This can be an enjoyable and empowering experience for the team.

Set in order – ensure that what is required has a designated and suitable storage area. Again, this can give the team a tremendous feeling of taking control of their area.

Shine – regular schedules are defined to clean and maintain all that is required – machinery, tools, work areas & materials. Good schedules assist a TPM (Total Preventative Maintenance) programme and SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die or Quick Changeover).

Standardise – Habits are not formed until a process has been performed many times. Standardising and optimising the new processes takes time. There can be reluctance to move away from old ways which have ‘worked’ for years. Documenting and scheduling the new ways takes time. Setting visual controls takes time and will not be done in one event.

Sustain  – Sustaining 5s in a process requires regular review. How often are schedules checked?. How often are frequencies, limits and quantities re-calculated? How often are visual controls updated?  How often is the system audited and how are results measured and communicated?

Our view is that like any of the lean initiatives, 5s is one of many tools. The lean programme needs to start with clear objectives, a clear definition of value and good understanding of the business processes. In any improvement initiative, we are looking for some measure of success. If 5s clearly impacts our measure of success, then it may be an exercise worth doing early on.

However, if in defining our value stream we realise that our process is unbalanced, carries too much inventory or has poor flow, we may wish to focus on the process first and then apply 5s to the re-designed process.

Some teams decide on 5s as an improvement project. However, the business case and project goals can be very subjective. Ultimately, after the initial enthusiasm, the team can lose motivation as there is no clear measure of where they are going.

What is your experience with 5s? Would you recommend starting a lean programme with 5s? What has and hasn’t worked in your organisation? What are the key challenges and issues?