How quickly a year goes by!! Well, I am pleased to report that this week we celebrate our one year anniversary of the blog. We have covered a lot of ground in that year and we’ve picked up follower-ship at an incredible pace (almost 23,000 views and clicks).
As I look back at the very first offering, I wanted to recap the intent and reflect how I’ve met that goal.
The opening statement of blog #1 set the intent:
”I’m excited to kick off the first in a series of Lean Visual blogs with the hope that they will stimulate conversations around common issues facing us all in our daily business situations. The blog environment will foster multiple perspectives on the topic of lean visuals, and move us toward identifying best practices, sharing lessons learned, and shortening the learning curve for both experienced and novice continuous improvement practitioners. In all the jobs and companies that I have had the pleasure of working in, with and for, there is one thing that universally stands out as an issue…sustaining the gains.”
Some facts that help shed light on whether I’ve achieved these goals are indicated by:
- In addition to the growth from CI leaders in North America, we have added a quickly expanding list of followers from Europe, Poland, and China (welcome to all of you!),
- Feedback that we’ve received has been broad in both topics and depth, from basic questions to more complex situations,
- Some of the most popular topics had to do with my templates that drove standard work, audits, checklists and 5S discipline, and
- Most recently, the idea that we can be our own worst enemies with our CI programs.
Two realities come to mind when looking at this list. First, the issues that we face daily on our jobs will often feel like we are the only person in the world with this problem. Not true! It is clear that our daily challenges are faced by others around the globe. The Toyota practice of quickly sharing the new standard and best practice is an example of how to address this universality. The second is that creating and implementing standards, will only sustain if we have the culture, processes and systems, and willingness to require that they sustain. That is the essence of making CI changes permanent, and perhaps the explanation as to why my checklists have been popular.
For those of you that don’t want to wade back into the blog history, here are the two visual checklists: an abbreviated version, and one more detailed. I will return to the idea of our CI barriers next week. Thanks again for a fantastic first year. Until next time “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”
For more in-depth information on lean visuals, check out Brady’s 5S handbook that’s filled with best practices, checklists, tips and examples.
Often I get asked questions about how certain lean tools or approaches apply in different situations. You see, even though the books make the improvement methods seem universal, understanding the thinking behind them is usually important to have effective sustaining over time.
Let’s look at two entirely different manufacturing situations – batch processing or assembly operations, and continuous run (web forming, chemical). Batch processing in the first approach could entail doing a known quantity of parts that must be made.
As you know one of the goals in lean is to get to continuous flow. You might look at improvements in the actual work content or tasks (value added) along with the waste in the process (non-value added).
The lean calculations (TAKT time, cycle times, number of operators) can be done in a straightforward manner. You just need to know how many of the parts to make and how much time you have to make them. From there you get the “beat” or the “pace” of the work activities. You can look at the time it takes to do a single task or a string of them, and you can determine how many people you need.
It gets a little fuzzier when you talk about continuous run processes. These could include making a batch of a chemical product; coating wire with an extruder; making high volume web products like paper towels, roofing shingles, or medical consumables; and food products or pharmaceuticals.
The idea of being able to calculate some of the same lean values gets difficult for some.
For example, what is the TAKT time of 6,000 yds of copper wire that needs to be coated with an extruded polymer coating? You will need to have data like line speeds, yield rates, etc. On the resource end, you begin to evaluate people and their internal and external work – those tasks that can be done while the process is running and those that have to be done in-between setups. When you look at making improvements, you can look at making more “things” in a given period of time (line speeds) or getting change-overs done quicker.
So what does this have to do with barriers? Well, just because a given lean approach works for one type of manufacturing, it doesn’t mean that applying them to another should be done without careful thinking. I was helping a company that makes wires, cables, strands and various other continuous run products. They had to treat the incoming copper wire, feed it directly into the process, coat the wire with a polymer extrusion, identify the wire with an in-line dot matrix printer, and finally spool the material onto cores. Some of the products they made were three miles long!!
Even more difficult was doing the quality checks on such a large amount of contiguous material. Try calculating DPU or PPM. Many of the improvements we identified for them were around equipment and process capability. However, we also made some changes to the way the materials were scheduled and set-up. For those of your who will be attending the Electrical Wire Processing Technology Expo May 8-9 at the Delta Center in Milwaukee, the Brady team will be exhibiting and showing examples of materials and applications to help with some of the solutions I am referencing. (And, tell them the blog sent you and use the code word “PermaSleeve” for a special gift.)
An example is given below. Team members had to re-thread the equipment after every new product or breakage. Making these steps visual improved both the time to complete the task and the first pass yield.
You can see in the first picture, labels were placed near the rollers. In the second example, colors replaced the text. I’ve seen two conventions for colors: blue to imply “water” or under and green to imply “grass” or over. The second was exactly the opposite: blue to imply “sky” or over and green to imply “grass” or under. Either way, the colors gave the team members a quick visual for re-threading.
You can see a barrier to our continuous improvement efforts can be our thinking. Blindly applying a strategy without understanding the thinking behind it can be frustrating and can lead to erroneous results. This can be true especially in the continuous run manufacturing environment. If you have any questions on these ideas, let me know. We are quickly approaching the one year anniversary of this blog! We hope it has been valuable and if you are at the Expo this week, stop by our booth to say hello and share your experiences. Until next time “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”
Interested in understanding the differences and options available in label material? Check out this label material comparison guide for quick reference.
OK, folks. There’s more to the project management responsibilities than meets the eye, especially when it comes to continuous improvement (CI). Based on some recent issues that arose during an event that related to team resources, I thought that I could address some ideas here. Also, it tied nicely into this theme of “our own worse enemies.” Here is the back-story.
Have you ever started doing your scoping, charter and prep work for an event with scrambling to get the right people on the teams?
I know that can be an issue, especially when those resources are expected to keep the equipment running at the same time as participate in the event. When it comes to priorities, any problem that comes up with the equipment will immediately get those people pulled away from your effort. I was recently leading an event where the people resources were not as “dedicated” as I thought.
During the scoping, I used the ARMI template from blog #30 to ensure that I had shared understanding of the roles and responsibilities with management. They agreed that I could have the requested people – the team was comprised of the minimum number of resources that were process experts, quality and safety reps and functional leaders. In a nutshell, the team was “lean.”
The first challenge was that when the event kick-off started, we had some people that weren’t identified in the scoping as our participants. Instead, we had a swap of about 75 percent of the team. This surprise is not what a good project manager likes to see. The new people did not benefit from any of the pre-work calls, nor did they fully understand what was expected of them. The first day went slower than expected due to this delay in learning curve. Then, the unthinkable started happening. Let me guess, you’ve been here before as well? As equipment and maintenance issues came up, the critical people were getting pulled from the team. Wait! What happened to leadership being “on-board” with letting them participate in the event?
You see, it came down to priorities.
The equipment needed to run to generate production to generate revenue. The lean event was not in that value chain.
So what do you do when this happens? I’d like to hear from you on practical ideas we can share here. Since there wasn’t much that I could do during the event, it was imperative that I addressed it with leadership after the report-out. In fact, I took some time during the report-out to tackle the touchy subject of resource commitment. This can be one of our enemies – we have the team “on loan” assuming something more pressing doesn’t arise. Companies with strong CI cultures would not let this happen. Balancing the commitments is both our job as CI leaders, and the leader’s job as resource gatekeepers. I made sure that during the report-out that I highlighted those areas in the original scope that we could not accomplish due to the reduced helped. At that point I discussed the importance to the company, and anything that was still worth doing was placed on the action register. I used the RASIC template from blog #31 to make sure this was concrete.
There are many ways that we stifle our CI efforts, none more damaging then not maintaining our commitments from the beginning of the event all the way to the end. Send me some best practices along this theme that I can share. Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”
Well. I think my last blog hit a bare nerve with many people! Especially the “there is enough blame to go around” theme. The feedback was at many levels, and had pleas along the lines of “see, I knew it wasn’t all my fault” and “can you help my boss understand this?” Remember from that blog, I highlighted your job in managing expectations and that you had to make crystal clear:
- How much of the problem we can we fix
- What are the resources that it will take to get there
- What is the timing of the deliverables
- What are the appropriate measures of success
There are many good ways to track progress in your continuous improvement journey, many of which fall into effective project management techniques. In lean, we focus on standard work, so it is no surprise that managing our leaders’ expectations can be accomplished with – leader standard work. An example of a template that shows leader standard work can be found here It breaks down their responsibilities into daily, weekly and monthly tasks. The first table gives some tasks and completion criteria for a daily rhythm.
The following table shows how those daily activities can be “layered” in to monthly activities. The best standard work has this layered sustaining system.
Finally, you can have monthly activities. These actually could roll-up into some monthly metrics that you need for functional or operational reviews. It might show the effectiveness of the weekly and daily performance. What makes this approach so effective is that every layer in the organization – from team member, team leader, group leader, value stream leader, supervisor, manager, etc. – know what they need to do daily, weekly and monthly. When all those activities work in concert, it’s a beautiful thing.
I am glad that I received the questions that I did and hope this diversion added understanding. Back to the main stream of thought for next week. Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”
Check out more about lean visuals - 50 Must-Have Visuals for Improving Productivity & Safety in Your Lean Facility.
Sometimes the harder we try with continuous improvement (CI), the less we accomplish. This may sound counter-productive, but WE can often be our own worst enemy when it comes to being successful. I don’t place the blame necessarily on just “us,” the practitioner, but on our management as well. You see, with the pressures our businesses face to produce results, the old adage of “working smarter, not harder,” has never been more applicable.
I was asked recently about the hardest problem that I have had to tackle in my career. The answer was easy for me and just thinking about the situation immediately brought back powerful feelings – anxiety, helplessness, frustration, technical challenge, and impossibility – just to name a few.
I was working in an engineering role that was supporting manufacturing. We had a value stream that encompassed more than 25 individual steps, many of which involved mechanical and chemical processes. The problem involved the perfect storm of impossible engineering attributes – the issue can go undetected until high level system testing, that testing had no correlation back to the component level, the issue involved both a chemical process and its mechanical adhesion to the parts, any testing had to be destructive and there was no way to replicate the situation to make samples, experimentation involved at least a four-factor DOE, and worst of all, the problem had to be solved immediately because it was shutting down production.
When you shut down production, you shut down business…
and when you shut down business, you get frequent visits from people that don’t understand the complexity of the situation. They just mandate that you fix it…NOW! Easier said than done, and next to impossible. Thus the story of a CI person.
The same can happen on the commercial end of the business – we are losing sales, so just grow the business back at a rate faster than GDP, at unit percentages larger than anything historical, with greater market share than any competitor, and make sure you improve the margins along the way. Do this by next month so we can feel good about the quarter. Don’t spend too much time on countermeasures (triage), just get something implemented that stems the bleeding and starts the healing. Ever been there before? If you haven’t, just wait – you will. (Check out this white paper on sustaining the gains for ideas on how to keep mapping back to your goal.)
A big part of our job is to manage expectations:
- how much of the problem we can we fix
- what resources it will take to get there
- the timing of the deliverables, and
- appropriate measures of success
This is hard enough when you know where you’re headed….try to do this when you are not sure which way is up. Of course this is a fine balance, take away some resources (time, money or people) and you don’t get the same fixes, deliverables or time to completion. A good way to manage expectations is to complete a project charter BEFORE any action is taken. All the stakeholders should be involved. The time to argue about the scope, timing, resources needed, and success factors (“The Expectations”) is NOW. Let’s look at the components of a project charter that can be used for any CI effort.
I will go in to more detail about each section in the next few blogs. Nothing will be more helpful to your efforts than setting yourself up for success now. Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.” Download the PDF of the CI Assessment so you can use it for your projects.
So, how is your training going? Any new breakthroughs or areas of concern? How have steps 2 and 3 regarding critical points been more (or less) effective for both you and the team members? Remember – training adults is very different from other types of training you’ve experienced in the past. Recall, step 2 requires that you present the operation, illustrating one work element at a time, and stressing the critical points. You reinforce the work elements and critical points through repetition. Step 3 requires that you allow the team members to try out the overall work sequence, teaching back to you the critical points, and giving you the rationale behind the critical points.
A few techniques that are useful for these steps are to pull out the “WH” questions – what, who, how and why. The “what” questions can be the most open and can often help reframe the others, as in:
- What are the reasons = Why are you doing that critical point?
- What approach = How are you maintaining the work elements?
- What time = When are the critical points done?
- What place = Where do we measure the critical points?
- What person = Who should be checking the critical points?
“Why” questions can establish “logic chains” and further enhance the training. Sometimes you need to ensure that the questions are ‘softened’ so they don’t appear to be critical, but rather, probing for understanding. Finally, the “how” questions initiate the search for continuous improvement ideas for both the work elements and critical points, while engaging the team members. Some good questions include:
- “How could we improve sales throughput by removing some steps”
- “How might we satisfy your need for checking the critical point in this step”
- “How did you find the answer to your problem you were having with that element”
- “How do you feel about the sustainability between shifts”
- “How would you attack the problem if you were in charge”
By getting the team members involved early in the process helps with the change management. By getting them engaged to the level that their ideas are incorporated will go a long way for sustaining (this link will take you to a download for a deeper look at sustaining improvements). By getting them to constantly challenge the standard supports the lean philosophy of Yokoten (I’ll cover that in a later blog).
OK, a few questions have come in regarding the various “job documents” that can be included in standard work. “Within the training within industry” (TWI) framework that many companies are re-deploying, there are three main types:
- Job methods – A practical plan to help you produce greater quantities of quality products in less time by making the best use of the people, equipment, and materials now available.
- Job Relations – offers a plan to successfully solve personnel problems in a non-emotional way. The scientific method for people problems!
- Job instruction – The way to get a person to quickly remember how to do a job…correctly, safely, conscientiously. It is an approach to reducing variability through better training.
I will go in to more detail about each type in the future blogs. They each have a very different implementation strategy and desired outcome. Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”
There is an old saying that goes something like, “do as I say, not as I do.” I am not sure where this adage got its start, but I know many parents that use it regularly. How does this relate to my current topic of standard work? Well, on the surface, this seems to be the opposite of what we’re driving for. As kids, we mirror and mock all of the behaviors that we observe. As adults, we learn in different ways, and we can quickly forget what we’re told.
We dramatically improve the likelihood of sustaining a change if we apply all of our senses to the tasks. The more hands-on, the better.
Often we find that the two basic training approaches – telling only or showing only – have limitations. If we just tell people, it is difficult to determine if enough of the subject has been discussed or if what you have said has been properly understood. On the other hand, if we just show people, it is difficult for trainees to grasp the key points of the job and the reasons why they are vital to the operation.
To get started, we need to prepare the team members for the training. This first step includes, putting the team member at ease; finding out what the team member already knows about the process; getting the team member interested in the job; and placing the team member in the correct position – both physically and mentally – to observe and learn.
Let’s jump to step 2 of the downloadable training card – Present the operation.
- We are trying to isolate a given task down to a single element. The definition of work element might vary from assembly operations to continuous flow type situations. In either case, you need to demonstrate the work element and stress the associated critical points. Remember that critical points can have a variety of reasons that they are critical, based on – safety, ergonomics, quality, productivity, or cost. The team member must understand the underlying reasons why they are critical and how they are monitored. This step is iterative and must be replicated multiple times. You must instruct clearly, completely, and patiently and make sure that an appropriate amount of information is being demonstrated. This is a fine balance.
Step 3 of the training card – Try out performance.
- This involves having the team member reflect back what was trained in step 2, and correct any errors. The team member should be able to explain each Work Element as they perform the task and all associated critical points. You should be ensuring that the proper sequence of work is being followed, and evaluating if the task could be handed to another team member to do. If not, you probably don’t have the work elements at their most basic stage. This process is best if done outside of actual production using sample jobs or mock-ups. Alternatively, trade off with a trained operator on different work elements to minimize impact to production.
You will be looking for their ability to safely and efficiently produce parts using the equipment, tooling, or fixtures. You must continue to do this until you know that they know. If the team member hasn’t learned, the teacher hasn’t taught.
Next week I will show how steps 2 and 3 could look using example process steps, and I will give some practical advice the best ways to accomplish steps 4. Plus, I will talk about job methods, job relations and job instructions. Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”
Continuing from last week, I am going to talk briefly about each of the steps on the card download. I had a few questions regarding some basic terminology and concepts, so I will do a quick step back to address these. First it would be beneficial to review what the goals of standard work and training are:
Goals of standard work:
- Enable continuous flow – Getting a product or service from request to delivery with value added continuously and no interruptions along the way.
- Identify, eliminate, and resist incorporating waste – Transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, over-production, over-process, defects.
- Autonomation – More commonly known as “multitasking.” Performing work at the same time a machine is processing a product (as opposed to waiting for the machine to finish).
- Balance the line and work – Evenly distributing work tasks on a process that uses multiple team members.
- Standard work (SW) – The repetitive work that produces the customers desired product or service.
- Work instruction (WI) – The periodic work that is necessary to get to or get back to doing the standard work (i.e., setups and material changes).
Flipchart standard work development
I introduced this flipchart concept in an early blog. It really is a good way to ensure that the team members are getting to provide inputs because the flipchart is set up right in the middle of the work area. This allows the work to be observed and recorded at the same time. Plus, it gives the team members a place to record any changes and ideas for ways to improve the process. Here are the steps again:
- Gain consensus on process to minimize waste
- Determine critical points (safety, ergonomics, quality, rates) to each work element
- Work elements are the “what” of the process
- Simple high level description. to guide the order of steps
- Size elements relative to total number of steps (target 5-20)
- Consider breaking long complex processes into separate documents
- Use simple team-member terminology
- Determine critical points
- Critical points are the “how” of the work elements
- What are minimum requirements or CTQs
- Ensure only the most “critical” are identified, not just ones that need attention
- Maintain to less than five per element
- Determine cell or department layout and the flow of: (1) people, (2) materials, and (3) information
- Discuss any areas for improvement
Standard work training card
The download card from last week had the following steps to create the environment to start the discussion. Remember, you are not trying to create the high-level flow diagrams (“dance charts”) that I show above, but rather the detailed level so that you can identify the variations to the process that are being introduced as a result of the different team members.
Step 1 – Prepare the team member
- Explain the rationale and purpose for the activity
- Ensure they feel comfortable with sharing input, even if it looks to be implicating others
Step 2 – Present the operation
- Tell, show and illustrate one work element at a time
- Do it again stressing critical points
- Do it a third time stating reasons for critical points
Step 3 – Try-out performance
- Have the team member do the job – correct errors
- Have the team member explain each work element as they do the job again
- Have the team member explain each critical point as they do the job again
- Have the team member explain the reasons for critical points as they do the job again
- Make sure team member understands, continue until you know they know
Step 4 – Follow up with the team using the document as a Guide
I will give some practical advice next week on the best ways to accomplish steps 2 and 3. Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”
Lean more about visual workplace and visual communications with Brady’s VW handbook, a free download filled with best practices, examples and ways to get started now.
There has been a common theme running through this blog from the very onset. The theme is that any and every continuous improvement (CI) effort is only as good as the standards you create to reinforce the desired behaviors and your ability to constantly and consistently train to them (training to learn). The series that I just concluded on AM had a prerequisite that you’ll be locking down the improvements with training. Think about the Six Sigma cycle where the last step is “Control”, or the Toyota Method where you standardize and “Yokoten” the best practices. In the PDCA cycle you have “check / adjust” and in 5S you have Step 5 which is “Sustain” (only after you’ve done Step 4 which is “Standardized”).
So if every quality and CI initiative has training, or more appropriately, “learning,” at its core, we should probably get good at this.
I have been getting some questions regarding the best way to do this. While there isn’t one right way – work instructions, standard operating procedures, standard work, training within industry (TWI), controlled documents, one point lessons – there are elements of each that are very powerful. It is important to remember the following when developing your training / learning program:
- As adult learners, we need a different approach than a standard “education” method
- There are differences with “telling” or “showing” how to do something and a person’s ability to remember for the long-term
- How you prepare the learner for the training is very important…there must be a willingness to want to learn from the training
- The effectiveness of the trainer is very important…just because you are the CI leader, you aren’t automatically qualified to be a good trainer
At Brady we have a lot of “work instructions.” Work instructions tell the operator how to do something and typically provide steps to do them. Often lacking from these work instructions are important key elements to achieve the process time standards, quality standards, safety standards, etc. Our normal way to implement these standards is through Kaizen events, but because sometimes we don’t have all the answers at the end of an event, the specific work flow design and documentation delivered to the operator detailing out their work motions, broken into work elements, with times, and key points is left out and up for grabs.
Because this is such an important topic, and because I have been getting some questions regarding how best to do effective training, I will be talking about this for a few weeks. The graphic below is a tool we use for CI leaders and team members and can be download here. Make a copy of this, and I will be going through the various steps in the upcoming blogs. Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”
I was recently watching one of my all-time favorite movies that had this somewhat annoying character that persistently and incessantly demanded things. Her memorable line went something like – “I want, Daddy, and I want it now!” Maybe you know the movie. My point is that we’ve become so trained to want things – information, purchases, food, services, data, etc – in an instant that we’ve lost our ability to be patient. OK…you might be thinking to yourself what soap-box I stepped up onto.
Have you ever looked at some visual information and were confused on what was to be disseminated?
This information could be in the form of labels, signs, or worse yet, standard work. At the time you created it, the visual seemed to make sense, but now you wish you could alter it. Remember, the goal of visual information is less text and more graphics with the minimum amount of mental processing required. Here is an example of what I’m referring to:
This sign seems to be good at conveying the “process” of using the track. I can understand the conversion between laps and distance; which lane is for slower traffic; and what ages are allowed (except I don’t know if ages less than six are prohibited).
From a continuous improvement perspective, it is the bottom portion that is a little tedious. Think of the thinking that is required.
- First, I read the sign.
- Second, I have to pause to determine what today’s date is (I would bet some people would not know this off-hand).
- Third, I have to process whether the date is odd or even.
- Finally, based on that mental processing, I take off in the correct direction.
Of course, I COULD just see which way everyone else is going. Visuals are supposed to quickly and efficiently give information at the point of need. As an aside, every time I see the sign, I question the policy behind it – what is the rationale for this? Is it to wear the track in evenly?
Enter your new buddy. As a lean practitioner, you MUST HAVE the capability to make your own visuals. If you don’t have this capability now, put it in your goals and budget. You see, when you make improvements, you must lock down the changes with standards. As previously discussed, the best standards are visual. So, you need some way to make visuals. Now, I know that you might be thinking this is a shameless plug for our Brady printer solutions. And while I know that Brady printers have set the high standard of what you can do on your own shop floor, I would encourage you to determine what types of visuals you need to make, and shop around.
Your best opportunity to do this is either at a tradeshow, or by having a company or distributor rep come to you to demonstrate. Right now, some of the biggest distributor and industry tradeshows are happening. I mean big! And all the vendors will be attending. Do yourself a favor and look for your new best friend. The people in the booths are drooling to help you get to love your new buddy. I have worked many shows and am surprised by how few people actually come in to push buttons. Just do it! You must arm yourself with the tools of the trade.
Again, compare all the models from all the vendors and bump the capabilities up against your Lean requirements (multicolor vs. mono, output size (2”, 4”, 8”), materials available (vinyl, polyester, magnetic, luminescent, etc), addition of graphics and photos, and finally total cost of ownership (do the long term ROI calculation and don’t forget how a system empowers the operators to become self-sufficient).
Back to my sign above. If after hanging it you determine it needs to be altered, you can quickly make the change onsite. If you need to update some equipment labels for your TPM effort – type, print, hang. If you want to supplement your lockout / tagout program do so with your buddy at your side. It will give you years of lean companionship. I have been asked to broach the subject of operator training. Until next week, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”
Learn more about the BBP 85 Sign and Label printer and how it can help create custom visuals on demand.