Lean and Continuous Improvement

Continuous Improvement Is Not About The Tools, It’s A Mindset!

There are plenty of tools out there to help us with continuous improvement projects or for problem solving, but it’s not about the tools!  It’s about the mindset.  The mindset to simplify, make things better, reduce errors or defects, and reduce waste.

IMG_20190407_0959273It’s that time of year, at least where I live, that we anticipate warmer weather soon.  We hope!  That means the sap will start running for the annual maple syrup season.  A friend, that owns a farming business, asked me to help him tap some trees and hook up the sap lines in preparation for the sap to start running.  Sure beats the old days when I helped empty the buckets!  Man that was hard work!

Snyder Heritage Farms has various products, one of which is maple syrup.  Although not considered a large farm, they tap 2,500 trees with 3,800 taps pulling approximately 250,000 litres of sap through 24,000 feet of small lines. The small lines converge with 10,000 feet of larger main lines leading to the evaporator which boils the sap down to produce about 5,500 litres of pure Canadian maple syrup in an average season.

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Even though I had helped in previous years, I was given a brief training course by the owner, Kevin Snyder, on the standard work to install the taps and connect the sap lines.  Kevin gave me some key quality points to ensure the hole was drilled properly, the tap installed correctly, and the line secured tightly.   What impressed me most though was his continuous improvement mindset.  He had determined the most efficient paths to walk through the bush to minimize walking, placement of the tractor in proximity to where we would need to reload with taps while minimizing the walking distance to/from the tractor to do so.  He established working zones for each helper to maximize coverage while eliminating any duplication or cross over.  He had nail pouches to hold the taps, harnesses for the drills so they were easy to carry and to set aside when not drilling, while eliminating the risk of setting them down in the snow and then leaving them behind.  All these things make sense, but what struck me most was his mindset.  He was very focused on making the process as efficient as he could to both reduce the burden on the tappers and make them more efficient, while also improving the process to reduce defective tap holes, taps, and hose line connections that could impact vacuum pressure and reduce sap yield.  At one point I complimented him on all the improvements he had made and for his mindset.  Kevin’s response as he trekked off into the snow covered bush to put in more taps was,

“When you’re the little guy, you have to be efficient!

It is true smaller companies need to be efficient, but so do larger companies!  Unfortunately, sometimes larger companies lose focus and forget the importance of the team’s mindset by hammering out new tools while insisting the team find a “problem” to apply them.  Tools are important, but it’s the black-claw-hammer-on-brown-wooden-plank-209235mindset that is most important because mindset is what creates the drive for continuous improvement.  After all, not everything needs a tool to improve.  Sometimes, just pure observation, common sense, and know how is all that is needed.  Mindset coupled with tools can be powerful, but when you have a bunch of tools without mindset, everything looks like a nail waiting to be hammered!

Maple Weekend – 4th & 5th April 2020

IMG_20190407_1037409If you are near the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Snyder Heritage Farms hosts “Maple Weekend” on 4th & 5th April from 10:00am – 4:00pm where you can bring your family out to their farm for an instructional tour of the sugar shack and how maple syrup is made, take a tractor ride to visit the maple bush, and enjoy freshly made pancakes and sausages.  It’s a fun couple of hours for the family on a nice spring day, and of course, there’s lots of fresh maple syrup!

Snyder Heritage FarmIMG_20190407_1006115

1213 Maple Bend Rd.
Bloomingdale, Ontario

 

 

 

Contact me:

For additional information on High Performance Leaders Inc., click here.  Or follow on LinkedIn or on Twitter at @hp_leaders.

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com

Visual Controls

A Benchmarking Gemba To Demystify Visual Control Boards

Visual control boards may not look overly complex, but establishing an effective board and establishing a robust review cadence can be more challenging than initially anticipated.  The benefits, however, can be phenomenal!  We learned first hand what some of these benefits are during a recent visual control benchmarking gemba.

On 12 and 13 February, High Performance Leaders Inc. (HPL) facilitated a visual control board workshop for the Technology Team lead by Travis Vokey, VP and Head of Technology at Dream Unlimited.  The first day was a workshop focused on the key attributes of visual control boards, and a working session to begin defining the team’s value proposition and key performance metrics.  On the second day, there was a benchmarking gemba to Crystal Fountains, Baylis Medical, and Bell Mobility to see and learn first hand from their experiences and existing visual control boards.

Our focus during the benchmarking gemba was to see non-manufacturing areas.  Since there can be a stigma that visual control boards are only for manufacturing, we wanted IMG_20200213_1232410to see how different businesses, industries, and non-manufacturing teams set-up their boards and use them.  We saw boards used by Sales & Marketing, Product Design, Process Engineering, Equipment Engineering, Project Management, and yes one from Manufacturing.  We reviewed boards at the tier 1, 2, 3, and 4 levels, with tier 1 being at the working staff level and level 4 the organizational level.  Each host company had a representative appropriate for each level of board explain how their boards work and how they are used.

Dream---Control-board-BMThe Dream team was able to participate in a regular daily huddle in action while at Crystal Fountains.  It was fantastic to see and hear the enthusiasm and see the high level of engagement from each of the host company staff members.  They were all believers in visual boards.  However, that was not always the case.  When we asked an engineering team who was the biggest skeptic when they first introduced the boards, an engineer stepped forward and boldly said “Oh, that would have been me!”  He went on to explain that he first thought it would just be more work and a waste of time.  However, now he admits, the board and the daily huddle has improved communication and work distribution.  He’s now a believer!

IMG_20200213_1236595It was motivational to listen to each of the host company staff members talk about what they like about the boards and how they have made their jobs easier, improved team work, and driven solid improvements.  Here’s some of benefits and results they shared with the Dream team:

The boards and huddle have improved our cross-functional communications

We have much better visibility to unplanned work

Saves so much time and there’s less stress

Made us care about each others work, and we want to help each other

I know what’s going on now

It’s not about not being successful (when a target is missed), but rather what do you need to be successful

People feel empowered to get things done

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When properly established, visual control boards add value to both the teams and the leaders.  Laura Conquergood, VP of Operations at Baylis Medical said, “when I want an update on a project, we just go to the board.  We don’t schedule a meeting.”  Jongmu Lee, Director Creative Operations at Crystal Fountains said, “whether I’m in the building or not, I know the team is coming together and discussing important topics.”  Many of the team members and leaders at all 3 host companies similarly stated, that communications had improved and wasteful meetings had been dramatically reduced.

At Bell Mobility, the Regional Operations team is involved in over 2,000 projects across the country.  Approximately 8 years ago they started tracking key aspects of their projects using typical white board style visual control boards.  Then about 3 years ago they implemented digital boards (D-boards) to track and coordinate these massive projects between all stakeholders across the company.

According to Nitin Gautam, Network Access Manager and Robert Dillenbeck, Senior Manager, Territory Operations at Bell Mobility, the D-boards provided certain advantages over the traditional visual control boards including:

  • Reduced cycle times to update the boards and get information
  • Staff working remotely can keep informed through the D-boards and have better engagement and participation in meetings
  • Quicker access to graphs and all data
  • Easier to roll up information and data from tier 1 to tier 4 levels
  • Executives can retrieve updates and information without requiring meetings to obtain project status

In my opinion, D-boards should be implemented with extreme caution.  As discussed in a previous article Should Smart Screens Replace Pen & Paper on the Shop Floor?, D-boards can be problematic with potentially lowering visibility if they are not frequently and routinely interacted with becoming nothing more than a information board that over time can become virtually invisible.  The most concerning problem though, is that changes to what is tracked and displayed can be slow and costly to revise and continuously improve.  So, if D-boards are going to be implemented, be sure to anticipate these problems had have a solid plan to address and overcome them.  No doubt they can be powerful and do offer some great benefits, but do watch out for the pitfalls.

The Dream team learned a lot and received some good advice from the 3 host companies.  A few of the key points they were advised on included:

  • Just start, don’t wait for perfection
  • Encourage rapid cycles of improvement to the boards as you go
  • Make the boards easy to change quickly and easily
  • Use habit changing challenges to motivate and create new disciplines around the board cadence and routines
  • The staff or team members own the tier 1 boards meaning they update them and report out on status, not the managers

IMG_20200213_1612559The two day workshop concluded with a Dream debrief where each of the Dream leaders identified the biggest thing that they had learned, and each making a commitment as to what they were going to do when they returned to their office.  With the mystery of visual control boards revealed, they are excited to embark on this exciting journey.

Contact me:

For additional information on High Performance Leaders Inc., click here.  Or follow on LinkedIn.

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com

 

Lean and Continuous Improvement, Visual Controls

Do Your Operational Abnormalities Go Undetected Too Long? Maybe It’s Your Escalation Process?

If you are finding that your operational abnormalities go undetected too long, perhaps you need to take a deeper look at your escalation process.  If you haven’t reviewed your escalation process, tested knowledge and understanding of it, or don’t have them at all, perhaps this is a good starting point.

Clear and specific escalation criteria is a key element of an effective abnormality management system.  Abnormality management and escalation criteria is NOT a manufacturing thing only!  Abnormalities can and do occur in any operation.  What’s important is what we do when they occur.

There are 3 main elements of a abnormality management system which are discussed below.  In this post, we’ll focus more on the escalation element.

1.)  Defined standards in place that specify what is normal and what is abnormal.

Examples:

a)  Maximum number of work in process (WIP) units is 20.

b)  Maximum customer wait time is 15 minutes.

c)  When not in use, equipment XYZ is stored at location ABC-01.

d)  The line is to operate at greater than 90% operational availability (OA).

2.)  Visual controls that quickly and efficiently identify an abnormal condition or situation.

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Examples:

a)  20 squares taped on the floor, each depicting where 1 unit of WIP can be placed. 15 squares taped in blue tape, and the last 5 in yellow.

b)  If customer wait time is electronic, change the font colour and/or size of the customer’s name, or flash the name on the computer screen if the customer is not assisted within 15 minutes.  If a manual system is in place, mark with a pen the time after which 15 minutes will have passed.  Once the 15 minutes has elapsed highlight the time to differentiate from other customer orders.

c)  Tape the floor in which equipment XYZ will fit.  Post a picture at ABC-01 and add text indicating this is the home position of equipment XYZ.  Or, draw a shadow outline of equipment XYZ which will quickly indicate if it is there or not.  An equipment sign-out sheet is posted at the location indicating who signed out the equipment last.

d)  Install a coloured light and/or audible sound connected to the line controls that indicates when the line is down or not operating.  Have a downtime counter on the line indicating the cumulative downtime within the shift.  Alternatively, have a manual tracking system that is updated by a designated person that displays the cumulative downtime within the shift.

3.)  Escalation processes are documented standards and instructions that define what action is required to be taken by whom, at what point, and how they are to escalate the issue.  The more descriptive the escalation process is, the better.

Examples:

a)  When there are 15 units in WIP (all 15 blue taped locations) immediately call the team leader by activating their andon and advise them of the situation.  The team leader will assess the situation and make a determination as the appropriate response (i.e./ add or remove resources, resolve productivity issue, etc).  When there are 20 units in WIP (all 15 blue and 5 yellow tape locations) immediately call the team leader and advise them of the situation.  The team leader is to shutdown the line and assign team members alternative work.  The team leader is to phone the manager within 10 minutes of the line down.

b)  When a customer has been waiting 15 minutes, prioritize their order by following up and confirming their order and assessing when it will be completed.  Advise the customer of delay and expected resolution.  When two or more customers have been waiting more than 15 minutes, notify the supervisor immediately.  The supervisor is to assign additional resources to assist with the customer orders.   If any one customer has been waiting more than 25 minutes, the supervisor is to be immediately notified.  The supervisor will resolve the issue with the customer’s order and make a determination (based on customer service policy) as to a discount to be offered to the customer.

c)  If the equipment is found in an abnormal location and not in use, it is to be returned to the designated location immediately and the supervisor advised.  The supervisor is to check the sign-out sheet and follow-up with the person responsible for not returning the equipment.

d)  If the line is down more than 10 consecutive minutes, the team leader is to phone the maintenance manager to advise them of the situation.  If the line is down more than 30 consecutive minutes, the maintenance manager is to phone the Production Director and advise them of the situation.  The Production Director will assess the situation and determine what course of action for the employees i.e./ send for early break/lunch, send home, etc.  When downtime exceeds 30 consecutive minutes and/or OA is less than 85% in a shift, the maintenance manager will complete a root cause analysis and provide a report to the Production Director the findings and actions within 24 hours.

Once you have these 3 elements in place, you need to periodically audit and confirm each of them.  This means auditing that the standards are documented and all who use them are knowledgeable of the standards, know where to find them, and are following them.  Confirm that the standards are documented, are in good condition, and revise them if anything has changed, or needs to change.  Confirm the visual controls are in place, in good condition, being used and followed.  If not, determine why not and correct.  Also confirm that the escalation process is in place, being utilized, and is effective.  Confirm for each of the elements that new hires are trained on them, and know what they are responsible for.

Your abnormality management system will only be as strong as your weakest of the 3 elements; Standards, Visual Controls, and Escalation.  Audit them today!

 

Related Posts:

Who the heck needs standards?

4 Necessities for Smooth Flow

Stop repeating bad history…

3 Critical Necessities For World Class 5S

Is Your Management System Limiting Your Success? 6 Steps To Start Improving Today!

 

Contact me:

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com

Lean and Continuous Improvement

Non-Manufacturing Example of High Performance Culture & Continuous Improvement!

Unfortunately, many people still think that continuous improvement, high performance cultures, and/or people-centric concepts are for manufacturing.  Those that do, are definitely missing out!

Point and case:  Scott Smith and I recently had the opportunity to visit and participate in a gemba (go & see) with Karla and Michelle from the Paris Dental Centre.  This is not your run of the mill dental office, and they certainly demonstrate that these concepts go well beyond the typical manufacturing environment!

Our gemba started at the main entrance at the front reception desk where the receptionists quickly greeted us with a smile and asked how they could help.  What was different than what I’m used to in a professional office was that their duties had been stream lined with the customer in mind.  How?  There were no phones!  They managed the direct face-to-face contact and relationship with their customers, rather than answering a continuously ringing phone line of incoming calls.  They focused on their customer, value streamed the roles/responsibilities, and created smooth flow.

As our gemba took us throughout the facility, it was obvious that 5S (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain) principles were also in place as this rather large and very busy dental centre was orderly, and had effective visual controls throughout the facility.  Each of the main departments had visual team boards where the teams would conduct daily stand-ups to review their performance results, discuss ideas for improvement, and communicate important messages.  Even the dentists had their own board where they met daily to review performance and drive improvement in their work.  Standardized work was being implemented in the various roles throughout the office as well.

Now, are there opportunities to do more or to improve further, gain more engagement?  Of course!  We all have those opportunities!  What we have to remember is that continuous improvement, high performance or a people-centric organization is never ending.  Why?  Things are always changing!  Everyone on this journey hits the wall at some point and feels they are not progressing.  What’s important to reflect on is where you’ve come from, keep doing what’s working, tweak what’s not, and then keep plugging away at the next steps towards where you want to be.

Great job Paris Dental Centre, keep up the good work!

Cover picture:  From Paris Dental Centre – Michelle Vaandering, Karla Stonham, Heidi Burton Paris Dental Centre;   from HPS – Scott Smith

Similar topics: 

Gemba by any other name is… go & see! Gemba is NOT just for manufacturing processes!

For additional information on High Performance Leaders Inc., click here.  Or follow us on LinkedIn.

Contact me:

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com

 

5S, Lean and Continuous Improvement, Uncategorized

3 Critical Necessities For World Class 5S

Do you struggle maintaining good 5S conditions?  Ever wonder how some companies are able to sustain world class 5S?  It comes down to whether you have a complete 5S system or not.  Typically, one or all three of these key components are missing, broken, or are not consistent enough to sustain good 5S conditions.

Most people think of 5S as “Everything has a place, and everything in it’s place”.  Some think 5S is just about keeping things clean and tidy.  Sure, it’s both of these, but more importantly it’s about having a complete system of being able to quickly and easily identify abnormalities and either take action, or ensure action is taken to correct the situation.  When you have more than one person within the same space, things are going to get out of place.  Stuff happens in any working environment.  A robust 5S system will quickly highlight these deficiencies and allow appropriate actions to be taken to address the root cause.

When 5S is a struggle to maintain, typically one or all three of these components of a robust 5S system are either missing, broken, or at the very least lack the consistency necessary to sustain.

1.  Standards – to define normal vs abnormal conditions

Home position tape or markings are pretty common in any environment that has a 5S program.  However, the standards must go well beyond just identifying the home positions of equipment, tools, etc.  The standards that lead to world class 5S include minimum and maximum levels, how long things should be located in certain designated locations, FIFO/LIFO controls, ability to quickly identify normal vs abnormal conditions, identification of known abnormalities, documented operating procedures, maintenance routines, safety requirements.  Standards should be practical, easy to maintain, and be visual and documented.  Reliance on ‘institutional knowledge’ is a very good indicator that your standards need attention.

2.  Escalation Process – what to do when there is an abnormality

Really escalation process is an extension of standards, but we’ve shown it as a stand alone component due to its importance and that it is very commonly overlooked.  World class 5S systems have very well defined escalation processes for what to do when there is an abnormality.  Abnormalities are going to occur.  Of course through continuous improvement these abnormalities should be tackled and improved, but in any on-going and growing environment, if you are going to continue to exist, things are going to change.  With change, comes some level of abnormality.  You need to plan for the abnormalities by having clear standards as to what to do when faced with one.  These processes may include installing signage that identifies the abnormality is known, who is taking action, when it will be resolved.  They may include notifying a specific person or high level leader of the situation.  It some cases, the process may call for the operation to stop until the abnormality is resolved.

3.  Visual Controls – make abnormalities stand out and be seen

Everyone is dependent on our computer systems these days out of necessity.  I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t use them, but what I am suggesting is that there is still a need for good visual controls that highlight and make what is in the computer systems visible to employees and leaders.  The problem with most computer systems is that they only highlight problems if you look in the system.  Also, for those who may not have access to the system, they don’t see the concerns or may not fully understand the magnitude of the situation or know if it is getting better or worse.  This can drive a disconnect as to priorities, urgency, and actions required.  Use of visual controls are extremely important to maintain world class 5S so that any abnormalities are made very obvious to everyone.

Here’s an example that highlights the need for all 3 of these components.  Within a manufacturing cell, there is a need for a partially complete unit to move to another cell for testing.  Not all units require this interim test though.  The process is that when required the manufacturing cell moves the unit to the test cell for testing or to await testing.  Sometimes, the test cell gets backed up, so the manufacturing cell leaves the untested units within their manufacturing cell to wait for test capacity.  There isn’t space allocated for the storage of these units within the manufacturing cell so the units are placed anywhere they can be placed.  You can see how the 5S in these two areas can quickly become out of control.  Why?

Not withstanding the inherent process flow issues, the 5S problem starts with the lack of standards.  Standards on how the test cell is scheduled, laid out, and configured to manage the expected work load.  Standards around min/max units waiting for test with designated locations and visual controls are missing.  There’s no escalation process for what the manufacturing cell should do when the test cell is full.  Who to contact, where to place the untested units, and nothing stopping the cell from producing units only to sit and wait for test, or for the test cell to increase capacity.  There is a lack of visual controls that clearly indicate there is a problem.  The situation would be visual in the production control system, but on the floor, the condition is not visual.  This could result in the test cell not having full awareness of the backlog, loss of FIFO by scattering the units anywhere would occur, the magnitude of the situation would be diffused by the units being squirreled away throughout the manufacturing and test cells, resulting in a missed opportunity for all involved to understand the magnitude and align on the needed priority to address.

Contact me:

 

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

If you are enjoying my posts and find the information useful, please “Follow” me by entering your email in the follow box on the right-hand menu of my website www.glennsommerville.com