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

4 Phases To Watch For With Continuous Improvement!

Typically when you first start improving a process or conduct a kaizen, there are four improvement cycles or phases that one goes through.  It’s helpful to know what they are so you can quickly address the issues that cause them, or even better, avoid them in the first place!

4 Phases of CI

Phase #1

The first step before any kaizen or continuous improvement (CI) is to ensure that standard work is being followed and that the process is within standards.  Often it is not, so the first thing that needs to be done is to either put them back in place, or if they didn’t exist, create and put them in.  The lack of standard work and standards is generally the cause of the high variation that is experienced in the process.  In this stage, if adherence to standard work has not been a priority, it is common to find that operators over time have created their own standard work with each one maybe doing it slightly or totally differently.  This is what often causes the high variation.  If you do not address this variation before CI, you will likely create higher levels of variation and your process will not provide a predictable result.  It can easily become complicated and frustrating trying to figure out why sometimes you achieve the desired results after the CI, but not always.  Once the standard work and standards are in place, you should see the variation in the results dramatically decrease and the process will become stable.  Even if the process is not delivering to the desired target, it is critical to make the process stable and therefore predictable.  Now you are ready to kaizen or CI the process.

Phase #2

Phase #2 comes after a kaizen when the process is now consistently achieving the desired target.  The process and the results are stable and predictable.  Everything is going well and the team starts to think about what’s next.  This is the happy phase when the team is feeling good about the results and their accomplishments.  Document the changes clearly, revise the standard work, make any new standards permanent (until the next kaizen), and provide the operators and the process time to operate and stabilize.  If you are aware of Phase #3, then phase #2 is a good time to implement mitigation so that you can avoid phase #3!

Phase #3

If you are experienced at CI, phase #3 can be prevented, but far too often there is a phase #3.  Phase #3 is a result of a weak or missing sustainment step or mechanism.  After the CI the operators and the leaders get comfortable.  They either stop or change the frequency of a key success attribute that was put in place during the original CI.  An example is training.  During the CI all the operators were trained on the new standard work and everyone does the process steps in the same order and same way.  However, if the training materials weren’t revised, or the trainers were not informed, the result can be below target conditions with higher rates of variation.  Or perhaps, the leaders didn’t add a key check or confirmation to their standard work and after a period of time missed a check here or there and perhaps eventually even stopped doing it.  Again, this can lead to high variation and below target results.  However, since all the CI changes and actions are fresh, typically you can recover from this situation very quickly and return to target and stability.  Lessons are learned and mechanisms put in place to maintain stable target results.  Until phase #4, that is!

Phase #4

After a period of stability, it is not uncommon for a sudden and unexpected short term unfavourable to target result.  This is the result of an abnormality in the process.  The abnormality may be one of the 4M’s – Man, Machine, Material, Method.  With the focus and controls put in place by this point in the CI, the abnormality is usually quickly identified and corrected almost immediately.  These abnormalities can also point you in the direction of your next kaizen or CI activity.

Cover Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

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

 

 

 

Gemba

The Different Types Of Gemba

Are there different types of Gemba?  Yes!  The fundamental reasons of Gemba remain the same, but there are at least 5 different types of Gembas each serving a different purpose.  Do you know what they are?

A leader needs to stay connected and engaged with what is going on, or not, as the case maybe, in their areas of responsibility.  In a previous post Toyota’s Worst Best Kept Secret & The Top Five Reasons For It, the top 5 reasons for Gemba were discussed, and even though these reasons more or less stay the same there are at least 5 different types of Gembas.   Gemba is NOT just for manufacturing processes!  Gemba is also a very powerful leadership tool regardless of the type of work, industry, or level of leadership you are in.  Office, logistics, laboratory, health care, customer service, construction, etc, gemba works the same and is just as beneficial as in a manufacturing or factory environment.

Gemba or “Go & See”

Personal Gemba –  A personal gemba is where the leader goes to one or more of their areas of responsibility by themselves.  They may go with a specific topic, concern, waste stream, check, audit, confirmation in mind, or just go and see.  Of course they should engage with their team along the way, but the point is these are unplanned and impromptu conversations and engagements with them.  These gembas are a great way for a leader to observe things without preparations by the team and in areas they otherwise may not be taken.  When visiting a building, I typically conduct a personal gemba first thing by walking the parking lots, lunch rooms, rest rooms, and other nooks and crannies before reviewing the main operations as it gives a leader an overview state of the business, how things are being managed, and the culture within the facility.  Another purpose of a personal gemba is to go and see by yourself before setting a new target or challenge to your team.  By observing for yourself, you will be better able to determine where the team needs to focus, what are challenging but achievable targets, observe abnormalities, or periodic work, or to confirm for yourself, without bias, what the current condition really is.

Leadership Gemba – A leadership gemba is when several members of a senior leadership team conduct a go & see together.  This is powerful because they observe together seeing and hearing the same things.  This is an opportunity for senior leaders to engage with operators through to middle management to provide coaching, mentoring, redirection, provide resources and assistance, and to recognize the teams.  A leadership gemba can be a confirmation walk of the actual conditions, observe problematic processes, see the results of a recent kaizen or continuous improvement project, provide recognition, or to engage with the teams on a specific topic.  Leadership gembas are usually scheduled and the general agenda agreed upon by the levels of leadership.

Daily Gemba – A leader’s core responsibility is to remove barriers and help our teams achieve the organizational goals.  The best way to do that is to demonstrate our actions being louder than words and daily gemba is an excellent tool for this purpose.  Daily gemba is done at the same time each day with all department leaders following a predetermined standard path.  The path may very day by day, but the point is to visit the key areas on a regular frequency.  During the gemba, the teams would provide an update on key metrics and performance from the previous day, recent trends, and identify any current challenges, concern, or barriers which is impeding their performance or attainment of a target.  The leaders can then assist with removing these barriers.  Daily gemba also ensures that everyone knows, understands, and is aligned to the top priorities for that day.  Daily gemba should be short and very focused, targeting 30 minutes and no more than 45.  The challenge is usually to avoid problem solving during gemba.  Daily gemba should also be a key part of Leader Standardized Work.

Impromptu Gemba – An impromptu gemba is used when discussing a specific situation or topic in an area physically removed from the point of discussion, and a spontaneous decision is made to go and see at the actual location or process under discussion.  This is done to assist in and align understanding, to problem solve and determine root cause, discuss counter measures, ask questions of the operators or those involved, or discuss next steps.  Often in meetings it takes a great deal of time for everyone to understand an issue and even after explaining, some may not actually get it.  They think they do, but they really don’t.  By going and seeing, problems can more rapidly be understood, necessary resources and actions agreed upon, and the issue resolved.

Scheduled Gemba -Some disagree with this type of gemba, but I do believe it serves a couple of important purposes.  This type of gemba, is simply scheduled in a calendar like any other meeting.  It can be a reoccurring scheduled event, or a one time occurrence on specific topic scheduled gemba.  In some environments or with some leaders, going and seeing seems to becomes the lowest priority and as a result, doesn’t happen.  Unless that is, they schedule it like any other meeting.  This reduces the likelihood that other meetings will be scheduled over top, or getting caught up in other things and not making it out to gemba.  The one time occurrence gemba is used when there is a need to have several leaders attend.  In these situations, it is important that everyone sees and hears the same thing so scheduling the gemba is usually necessary in most environments to ensure attendance.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, Gemba must be priceless!

There are several types or slightly different gembas, beyond the above, but the most essential point is that leaders need to invest quality time at the gemba, or going and seeing.  If a picture is worth a thousands words, Gemba must be priceless, because it allows everyone to see the same thing first hand; the good, the bad, and the ugly!

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