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Examples of Lean Visuals to Improve Your Facility

Examples of simple lean visuals to cover an array of lean principles

Tried-and-true lean visuals can help your lean facility increase productivity and improve employee safety in many ways.  Clearly marking instructive information at the point of need provides a quick and easy reference for employees.  I have outlined a few of these examples throughout this post.

Additionally, I have included the Slide Share presentation of our 50 Lean Visuals Pocket Book at the end, so you can actually take a look at some of the visuals I am referring to.  It is also available for download as well if you’re interested, so I will post the link at the end.

Without further ado, here is an outline of some visuals to target which I will go into more detail about:

  • Workplace organization visuals (5S)
  • Production & inventory control visuals
  • Safety & work instruction visuals
  • Equipment care visuals (TPM)
  • Facility and process visuals
  • Kaizen continuous improvement visuals

Workplace Organizational Visuals

Having key information at a point of need that is easy to understand and digest at a glance goes a long way in keeping your team informed and your facility safe.  Ever find a workplace with tools, equipment or materials out of place?  We all know that can lead to waste or worse.  But a simple tape job or a shadowboard can make sure that everyone using the equipment knows where to look for it, and effectively reinforces the behavior to return the equipment where it belongs.

Some key places to implement workplace organizational visuals include:

  • Vehicle traffic lanes and pedestrian walkways
  • Traffic intersections
  • Storage locations
  • Keep clear areas
  • “In use” and “out of use” storage locations
  • High traffic storage areas
  • Stocking fixtures
  • Frequently re-organized storage areas
  • Front and back of flow racks
  • Tool shadows
  • Draws, cabinets and toolboxes (inside and out)
  • Rejected materials for QA

Production and Inventory Control Visuals (material pull or kanban visuals)

There is a fine balancing act that must be done to maintain proper inventory controls.  Using lean visuals are a quick and easy way to identify when material is running low and needs to be reordered before it is out or to make sure you aren’t overstocking on a particular material. Some key places and methods to implement production and inventory control visuals include:

  • Maximum level indicators
  • Minimum level indicators
  • Tri-color material pull indicators (green = healthy; yellow = warning; red = resupply immediately)
  • Batter’s boxes and FIFO lanes
  • Kanban cards
  • Kanban labels on bins
  • Job scheduling boards with calculations

Work Instruction Visuals

Work instruction visuals are extremely effective at reducing waste.  Specifically waste of unnecessary movement and effort.  Simply placing a workflow diagram help employees remember the proper workflow.  Or schedules detailing the who, what and when provide an ideal check sheet to visually show when something has been completed.  Detailed and highly visual procedures are another way to reinforce the correct work instruction. Some key places and methods to implement work instruction visuals include:

  • Dance charts
  • Schedules and check sheets
  • Procedures
  • One point lessons
  • One point labels

Total Productive Maintence (TPM) and Equipment Care Visuals

TPM and equipment care lean visuals are a great point-of-need visual designed to ensure proper maintenance methods and timing.  A simple two-colored label can really highlight when a piece of equipment might be at risk or under performing.  They can also provide critical maintenance instructions such has part number information for reordering, lubrication type and quantity, and timing of the desired maintenance activities. Here are a few examples of TPM and equipment care visuals:

  • Lube points
  • Oil level indicators
  • Drive tension guides
  • Gauge labels
  • Normal and safe state visuals
  • Vibration test point targets
  • Replacement part visuals

Safety Visuals

When thinking beyond 5S and looking at it from a 5S Plus Safety perspective or 6S, having lean visuals specific to safety at the point of need is also important (and in many cases, required by law).  By simply posting hazard information where it can happen in a way that employees can’t miss the information or incorrectly interpret it, you can greatly reduce the risk of injury in the workplace. Here are some safety visual and practices to consider:

  • Proper formatting (to the ANSI Z535 Standard)
  • Point-of-need safe work instructions
  • Safety and fire protection equipment visuals
  • Safety and fire protection equipment floor marking
  • Hazardous areas or equipment identification
  • Electrical equipment identification (per the NFPA70E and National Electric Code)

Brady’s 50 Lean Visuals Pocket Book

There are many other lean visuals that you may find important to your facility.  Examples include facility and process visuals or kaizen continuous improvement visuals.  We have packaged all of these visual examples in this pocket book below:

The Slide Share presentation is a digital copy of Brady’s 50 Lean Visuals Pocket Book.  If you would like your own copy (physical or digital) you can find it for free here:

Brady 50 Lean Visuals Pocket Book

Have your own lean visual ideas or success stories?  Tell us about them in the comments.

The American Evolution of Lean Manufacturing: The Start and Current State

“It’s called “lean” manufacturing, and analysts say it enables managers to reduce redundancy, increase output and save capital that can be used to hire more workers.” This is an excerpt from a 2011 article written by James Rosen of Fox News.  Is this where Lean manufacturing is in 21st century America?

The father of the Toyota Production System

In 1948 Taiichi Ohno laid the ground work for what we have come to know as Lean manufacturing by unveiling his masterpiece of efficiency in the Toyota Production System. Throughout the ensuing decades, titans of the manufacturing industry have refined and expanded upon the groundbreaking concepts introduced by Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda to arrive at what we know today as Lean manufacturing.

My take on the current state of Lean Manufacturing in America

From my experience and research, I have found that Lean manufacturing, as it is practiced and understood within the American marketplace, all too often has been diluted and over-generalized.  More specifically, the fundamental understanding, practice and definition of 5S has suffered a significant divergence from what was originally developed, taught and practiced. 5S is so much more than a ‘clean and sweep’ activity; 5S is a foundational concept which serves as a core building block of the house of Lean.

Over the next couple of blog entries, we will be exploring the breakthroughs, successes, failures and culture specific aspects of the journey Lean manufacturing has taken in the American industrial workplace.  In my next post I will discuss personal experiences and opinions on 5S and its position as a core concept and system of Lean manufacturing.

Until then, stay Lean!

Back to Basics

Can lean be turbulent?

The last time we met we discussed the correlation between servant leadership and core lean principles,  remaining on the path of how lean is intrinsically linked to other positive, value-based philosophies and methodologies, I would like to discuss the relationship between lean and fundamental principles of success, balance and happiness in life.

I know this sounds like a long shot at best, but what I am referring to has really hit close to home lately.  Consider  this, in Cecelia Wandiga’s December 11, 2013 article from www.sustainablebrands.com:  “Rethinking the Obvious: Lean and Sustainability,” she writes, “… to understand why Lean thinking is important I would use ‘streamline’ in noun form:
’1 : the path of a particle in a fluid relative to a solid body past which the fluid is moving in smooth flow without turbulence.” (Source: Merriam-Webster online).’

Finding the turbulence along the path of least resistance

The opposing relationship of lean and turbulence lends itself well to the course and everyday experiences of our lives.  From this I deduce that turbulence is the disruption of positive movement along a pre-determined path of least resistance, this is another way of explaining efficiency and, as we have already established, lean and efficiency are interchangeable.  In a psychological and socioeconomic sense we are the particles, in the Merriam-Webster definition of ‘turbulence’; that is to say, in relation to Cecelia Wandinga’s definition of ‘streamline’ I see lean as a beacon in one’s life journey of seeking, identifying and pursuing an efficiently streamlined path of truth and success.

Lean Servant Leadership

Using servant leadership as a model for lean leadership

By:  Brian Harston

There is a lot of similarity between core lean principles and servant leadership.  Lean servant leaders win because they invest in and serve their teams.  Not the other way around.  Maybe it’s better to say, “Servant leaders wins when their team and stakeholders win.”   They will help their team achieve team goals and support or even defend the team’s interests.

Tim McMahon, from www.aleanjourney.com, sets the stage well.  He said, “Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.”

When we truly place the interest of others and work toward the common good of a company or a team or a group, we find it helps out all parties involved.

Tying servant leadership and lean concepts together

Within the foundational concepts of lean manufacturing it is paramount to recognize and act upon the priorities of the collective above those of the individual; this focuses the resources, efforts and goals of the collective on the “big picture,” whether that be what is best for an organization, division, project, team or those we lead.

There are two main correlations between servant leadership and lean principles.  Below is a correlation between lean examples and examples from Robert K. Greenleaf, the founder of the servant leadership movement.

Robert K. Greenleaf’s core principles of servant leadership:

Greenleaf Principle:  Commitment to the growth of people.  “Servant-leaders believe that people have an intrinsic value beyond their tangible contributions as workers. As such, servant-leaders are deeply committed to a personal, professional, and spiritual growth of each and every individual within the organization.”

Correlation to Lean concepts:  A commitment to the growth of people speaks directly to the foundational concept of continuous  improvement.  Positive change and growth is accomplished through a commitment to continuous improvement of one’s self.

Greenleaf Principle:  Foresight. ”Foresight is a characteristic that enables servant-leaders to understand lessons from the past, the realities of the present, and the likely consequence of a decision in the future. It is deeply rooted in the intuitive mind.”

Correlation to Lean concepts:  Within a ‘lean journey’ foresight is the basis of an improved future state.  Lean focuses on current and future state mapping and goals; these goals are based upon lessons from past experiences which is the core foresight.

Here are some more examples of lean concepts that relate to servant leadership:

  • Drive out waste
  • Eliminating excess expenditure on non-value added processes
  • Continuous improvement

When we focus on devoting ourselves to the greater good of our teams, we inherently embrace these key lean values.  Like servant leadership, successful lean implementation never improves one process, group or area at the expense of others.

About the Author

Finally, I will take a quick moment to introduce myself.  My name is Brian Harston, I am Brady’s new Lean Implementation Leader and I look forward to bringing my experience to this blog.  To give you a quick overview, I have a master’s degree in manufacturing science with a focus on lean implementation and I worked with companies like Harley Davidson and Caterpillar.  I also served in 82nd Airbone Division 5th/73rd Recon.

The previous author, Rick Ruzga, is doing well and is focusing most of his time on his new company: Guided Business Solutions.  He has expressed interest in continuing work with the blog and plans to appear as a guest on future posts.

In respect to the work Rick has done for this blog, I will leave you with this:

“See with open eyes and understand with an open mind.”

How Security Can Fit in a “7S” Lean Program

By Brady Guest Blogger:  Rick Ruzga

7S Lean Program – Security or Spirit?

I am going to wrap-up this blog series with a reflection back to the original question that I was addressing – “what is a 7S lean program?”  Recall from 3 weeks back that I commented that companies added the 7th “S” to the toolbox to represent “security” or “spirit”.  These two elements really have very different intentions.  “Spirit” goes to the heart of a person’s behavior or attitude toward something.  If you have school spirt, you have exuberance for your school.  If you have lean spirit, you have zest for lean.  Security, on the other hand, is a little curious.  If you follow the 5S progression logically, you get to the back half which is:

Standardize – Sustain – Safety – Security

In this context, security can mean a few things.  If you are talking about a healthcare setting, safety and security might place a focus on the patient or creating an environment that makes it safe and secure for a patient to be in.  The other application might be that your facility is now safe and secure.

Security, the PDCA cycle and Positive Observation

Since the 5S cycle is really based off of the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, this would indicate that you get to the security phase and then go back to the “Sort” phase.  You could apply security in the Positive Observation framework in the following situations to reward people:

  • Don’t allow others to follow them in a locked door that requires a badge to enter
  • Highlight the need to ensure that dock doors and loading areas are not areas that people can enter in to the facility
  • Have team members address people that are not allowed to be in their cell areas
  • Make sure that intellectual property and documents that are company property are disposed of in a safe manner (especially important in a 5S Office event)
  • At the end of a shift, team members make their equipment safe to leave unattended

You can see that if you wanted to add security to the 5S tool, there would be some logical tasks that team members could focus on.  A good starting point would be to perform a cross-functional security audit of your facility.  From a lean perspective, I would also put an emphasis on security in the work cells.  You use the standard fishbone categories – Man, Method, Machine, Material, Measurements, and Mother Nature – to make the audit more effective.

I hope this helps answer the original question about 7S.  As with all lean tools, the effectiveness lies in the hands of the practitioner – there is no silver bullet.  Many of the approaches overlap, but the key is that you get leadership support for your effort and team member buy-in.  Without the top and the bottom supporting your activities, you will feel like a solo artist.  Use your change management tools to ensure you have support.  Well, until we meet again, “see with open eyes and understand with an open mind.”

Positive Observation and Lean 5S

Supporting Your 5S Program with Positive Observation

By Brady Guest Blogger:  Rick Ruzga

I had some great questions last week regarding the graphic showing the “countermeasure class” on the production line method sheet.  Recall the “formula” that I described:


Many companies are adopting behavioral based safety programs that proactively reward situations that exhibit positive behaviors.  One such program, Positive Observation, allows any team member from recognizing fellow employees for doing proactive safety measures.  The categories could include those in the following:

Employee Focus

  • Eyes on task
  • Racing through task (improper pace, segregating hazards, etc)
  • Multitasking, peer pressure, overconfidence, mental stress
  • Visual focus or distractions in the immediate area

Human Factor

  • Proper PPE being used correctly
  • Travel path hazards (hoses, cords, slippery or wet floors, piping in path, dismantled equipment)
  • Vehicles and mobile equipment (seat belts, checklists, motion safety)
  • Containers properly labeled


  • Body positions (safe lifting, carrying, bending, pulling, pushing, stretching, twisting, etc.)
  • Work areas (work space clutter, exit routes, electrical panels, corridors clear, no trip hazards)
  • Supervisory role (pre-job briefings, operator preparedness, required docs, work coordination)


  • Waste material disposed of properly
  • Safety barriers/warning signs (used when needed, missing/ignored, repositioned)
  • Cut or puncture hazards (knife left open, cutting disc left out, sharp objects ignored, etc.)
  • Lockout/Tagout procedures being followed or implemented

General Safety

  • Dust maintenance (dust wiped off fire heads, schedule complete)
  • Door closed where necessary
  • Resin delivery no violating storm water requirements
  • Emergency contact info by phone and current
  • Exits clearly identified
  • Equipment and tools in good condition
  • Blades and sharps stored and/or disposed of safely
  • Rack storage / product storage adequate

EHS Equipment

  • Fire equipment in good standing (extinguisher present / properly hung, monthly checklist completed)
  • Emergency kits available
  • Suspended ceilings – sprinkler head escutcheons in place
  • Fire cabinets in good condition and used to store only flammables (no tape, gloves garbage, tools)


  • Electrical equipment managed properly (all disconnects / breakers labeled, electric panels closed)
  • No exposed wiring, frayed/deteriorated cords, splices, or taps
  • No extension cords used in place of permanent wiring
  • Plugs/receptacles in good condition, properly covered, no openings or holes

Production Equipment

  • Required inspection sheets completed (hoist inspection currect, forklift, fire extinguishers)
  • Required placards in visible and available (LOTO, machine guarding)
  • Machine guarding (barrier guards for moving machinery parts pinch point or point of operation)
  • Hand tools in good condition and stored properly
  • PPE available (safety glasses/goggles/face shield, hearing protection, leather/cut resistant gloves)
  • Equipment maintained with required safety zones unobstructed
  • SDS updated and available
  • Grounding straps/cords/clamps in use and in working order
  • Containers in good condition
  • Waste properly segregated

So, how would a positive observation culture support a 5S, 6S, or 7S program?  Additionally, could it supplement at company’s focus on TPM?

Glad that you asked.

Look at the suggested items in the bullets above – almost all items apply directly to your lean program.  For example:

  1. Visual Focus (distractions in the immediate area)
  2. Proper PPE being used correctly – Evidence of wear, proper usage, storage, etc)
  3. Body Positions (safe lifting, carrying, bending, pulling, pushing, stretching, twisting, etc)
  4. Lockout/Tagout procedures being followed / implemented

These can wrapped in to a positive observation initiative that is PART OF your lean focus. 

The first example would fit nicely with your 5S and visual management efforts by acknowledging team members that make visuals a priority in their work cell.  The second example would support your TPM / AM program and you could reward team members when they remember to wear a dust mask when doing a particular task.  The third example could highlight the need for ergo and motion assessments in a work cell that could be led by the team members during a 5S event.  Finally, the last example would support your 6S or TPM effort by following OSHA compliance requirements.

One thing that is a foundation for all of the positive observations suggestions in the table is that the company has a robust system that trains the team members in Abnormal from Normal and has standards.  Without these, any safety program, including positive observations, will not sustain.  Again, the purpose is to be proactive and not reactive, involve all team members, have leadership commitment and incorporate this thinking in to everyone’s daily routines.  Evaluate your company’s current safety system to see if a positive observation approach would be a benefit.  Take a few of the recommendations outlined above and implement a few TODAY.

Until next week, “see with open eyes and understand with an open mind.”


The Design Intent of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

Last week I mentioned the idea of “design intent” when looking at some of our current lean tools.  What I meant by that concept is that over time we lose track of what we originally expected our tool or CI approach to realize in benefits.  Most company’s 5S programs have evolved in to nothing more than housekeeping or cleaning initiatives.  The same can be said about our other lean tools like TPM (Total Productive Maintenance).

The original goals of TPM were to eliminate waste caused by accidents, emergency and unscheduled downtime, defects, and speed loses.  Equipment control is a top priority within the TPM system.  The thought is if you don’t control the equipment it will control you.  When you lose control of your equipment it can take on a life of its own.  TPM is a successful system because it promotes group activities among shop floor team members. The knowledge base received from team members is used to improve equipment reliability and productivity thereby lowering maintenance and operating cost. 

The traditional approach to doing preventive maintenance is clear cut:

  • Operators perform routine inspections and maintenance functions
  • Maintenance teams are responsible for more specialized maintenance and improving the maintainability of equipment
  • Engineers and specialists are responsible for improving the process

The above practice would not be acceptable for achieving the TPM targets, as they lack communication between production teams and maintenance teams.

There are six key steps that we’ve talked about in autonomous maintenance activities. Each of the key activities are equally important. Equipment 5S needs to be done before and after performing any maintenance activities when possible.  When a machine is being PM’d it has now become the maintenance team’s responsibility and is a direct reflection of the work that maintenance team is performing.  When 5S practices are used when doing maintenance work, the work area becomes safer, more organized, and improves the overall quality of work being done.  Learning about your equipment, coordinating activities, standardizing, recordkeeping, and kaizen are all key elements of autonomous maintenance.  The following is found in some of the early Toyota training on the topic:

Motives of TPM

  1. Adoption of life cycle approach for improving the overall performance of production equipment
  2. Improving productivity by highly motivated workers which is achieved by job enlargement
  3. The use of voluntary small group activities for identifying the cause of failure, possible plant and equipment modification

Uniqueness of TPM

The major difference between TPM and other concepts is that the operators are also made to involve in the miantenance process.  The concept of “I (Production operators) Operate, You (Maintenance department fix)” is not followed.

TPM Objectives

  1.  Achieve zero defects, zero breakdowns and zero accidents in all functional areas
  2. Involve people in all levels of the organization
  3. Form different teams to reduce defects and self maintenance

Direct Benefits of TPM

  1. Increase productivity and OPE (Overall Plant Efficiency) by 1.5 or 2 times
  2. Reduce customer complaints
  3. Reduce the manufacturing cost by 30%
  4. Satisfy the customers needs by 100% (Delivering the right quantity at the right time, in the required quality)
  5. Reduce accidents
  6. Follow pollution control measures

Indirect Benefits of TPM

  1. Higher confidence level among the employees
  2. Keep the work place clean, neat and attractive
  3. Favorable change in the attitude of the operators
  4. Achieve goals by working as a team
  5. Horizontal deployment of new concepts in all areas of the organization
  6. Share knowledge and experience
  7. The workers get a feeling of owning the machine

Safety is the result of the 5S principle.

Unsafe behavior at work, home or at play is extremely dangerous and has adverse effects on not only you but everyone working around you. Unsafe conditions are a result for poor 5S practices and may result in hazardous conditions.  If unsafe behavior and unsafe conditions are added together the result most certainly will be an accident.

When we combine the elements of TPM and 5S together when we’re understanding our processes, we create a situation where potential safety and ergonomic issues are identified and dealt with before operators begin the tasks.

The following segment was taken from a process method sheet from a production line:

prodess method sheet example

Notice that not only are the operator actions identified, but each task has an associated and quantifiable “countermeasure class” that provides a limit to allowable motion.  When you get to this level of understanding your processes, you start to realize how deep Toyota took their 5S practices to make them behavioral and a means to drive a safety culture.  This is design intent.

Look at your high risk processes and see where this level of scrutiny would be a benefit.  Until next week, “see with open eyes and understand with an open mind.”

Lean 5S, 6S and now 7S?

How does the lean 7S component, “Spirit”, fit into 5S?

By Brady Guest Blogger:  Rick Ruzga

I was asked recently about what I knew about the 7S lean tool.  Well, if you’ve followed me over the last year and half, you read my interpretation of 5S as both a tool and a culture.  I have talked about 6S and how companies have added “Safety” into the tool as an attempt to focus that as a behavior.  And now, 7S?

I did a little research on which companies were doing these new approaches, and it seems that either “Security” or “Spirit” have been added to the mix.  This is quite confusing to me.  Where do these fit in the overall process?  At the end of “Sustain”, do you now do something about security, safety, or spirit?  If you recall, all of the steps in the 5S process are verbs – sort, set, shine, standardize and sustain.  But, spirit is not a verb.  To me this is more of a foundational, cultural element that the company builds over time, and not a tool to deploy.

Design Intent

My engineering background leads me to think about “design intent”.  If I was looking at a part that had a specific attribute that I wanted to change – a hole, dimension, cut-out, etc – and I didn’t know why it was originally there, making the change might be a big mistake.  Design intent, for example, might tell me that the hole was put there to lighten the piece or make it more machineable.  It might have nothing to do with the customer wanting it.  The same could be applied to the 5S strategy and the original intent that it had for an organization.  Bottom line is that we all do some form of 5S in our daily lives – we might not think of it as a continuing application of the steps, but it is.

Let me give you an example.  If I was doing a construction project and building the item out of wood, I would first sort through all of the wood at the lumber store to pick out the best pieces.  The next step might be to set in order the saw, fixtures, cutting surface and measuring device.  Then, I would ensure the blade was sharp, the table was clean, the wood was de-burred and the tape measure was working.  To standardize, I might make a template piece so that all of the subsequent parts were the same.  Finally, I would sustain the process by making it making sure that I followed the steps over again.

Once the pieces were cut, I would sort through the nails, tools, and lumber to get what I need.  The next step might be to lay out the pieces to my drawing to make sure that I was following fabrication process, and so on.

Including spirit as a new “S” won’t change the process.  It’s foundational and needs to be inherent to the company culture for 5S to succeed.

The original design intent of 5S was to make the process become a cultural or behavioral way to performing our work.  That is where the “Spirit” comes in.  If a company doesn’t have a spirit of continuous improvement, it certainly won’t adopt one because it is the seventh step of some housekeeping tool.  Hence, my skepticism of the new 7S lean tool.  I will continue with some of the other “design intent” tools of lean in future blogs.

Until next week, “see with open eyes and understand with an open mind.”

The Importance of OEE in TPM

As a wrap-up, I wanted to review the importance of deploying a metric such as OEE to understand your current state of equipment performance.  Recall that OEE is a measurement that defines:

  • The percentage time a machine was actually producing quality parts compared to the time it was planned to be producing quality parts
  • The equipment’s actual productivity compared to the ideal productivity, during a specified period of time

The difference between actual performance and ideal performance is identified as waste, which must be eliminated.

One area that gets some discussion is whether planned maintenance time is considered a loss.  Planned downtime to perform preventive maintenance or operator performed maintenance tasks on a process should consider the following:

  • Planned maintenance activities reduce or eliminate unplanned machine failures
  • Planned maintenance time is removed (considered part of the unscheduled time) from the process
  • The amount of planned maintenance time may change on a weekly basis
  • Any fluctuations need to be reflected in the OEE calculation on the same weekly basis

There is not penalty for planned maintenance

By allowing planned maintenance time for the equipment, there is no penalty in the OEE calculation for performing it.  This ensures that maintenance is given appropriate time to finish the needed work on the equipment.  The objectives for deploying an OEE approach to your equipment include:

  • Monitors and improves performance of critical equipment to ensure plant delivery
  • Evaluates losses, identify causes and corrective actions especially on critical machines
  • Guides and monitors TPM implementation as part of a plant strategy
  • Prioritizes focused efforts based on OEE and criticality to plant delivery
  • Compares before and after OEE values to monitor impact of your team’s activities
  • Aides in evaluating capital needs for budgeting
  • Creates accountability for continuous improvement action

The last bullet is the most important as it assigns responsibility for the various big losses to individual owners within a department, all of whom have a direct impact on OEE.  A common misconception is that OEE is owned and managed by the maintenance department.  Through this series it should be obvious that elements of the 6 Big Losses are assignable to various functions.

Each team will need to:

  1. Track trends to monitor impact of corrective actions
  2. Capture operator’s notes for follow-up actions and future reference
  3. Develop routine / preventive maintenance plans
  4. Monitor impact of setup reduction efforts which often take the form of SMED events.

A great way to keep track of not only the people responsible for the 6 Big Losses but the other important elements is to combine the 6M’s tool (Ishikawa or fishbone diagram) with the losses as follows.

You can further highlight the current and future state needs by using this chart:

6 Big Losses combined with 6Ms tool fishbone diagram

Click To Enlarge – 6 Big Losses w/ 6M’s Tool

Including the 6 Big Losses in your pareto

You will need to place the information in a “four block” format that includes weekly and monthly 6 Big Losses paretos, a long term (8 or 10 week rolling) trend chart, and an action item section to attack the deviations from your OEE target.

Reviewing this four block needs to become part of your daily standard work with operators and value stream leaders.

four block pareto

Click to Enlarge – Four Block Pareto

I hope this series has been instructive.  If you looked at the amount of assets that we each have deployed in our operations and calculate not only the initial costs but the ongoing costs as well, you will get an appreciation as to why making this a focus is so important.  Stay tuned for the next exciting topic.  Until then, “see with open eyes and understand with an open mind.”

Implementing a TPM Program

How OEE Measurements Work in Your TPM Program

Now that the three elements of OEE have been briefly investigated, we need to look at how these measurements can become an effective portion of your TPM program.  In past blogs we’ve looked at ways that contamination and lubrication can be your biggest enemies when it comes to machine uptime.

Recall that the main reasons that machines require lubrication are to:

  1. Reduce friction
  2. Reduce wear
  3. Help dampen shock
  4. Cool moving parts
  5. Prevent corrosion
  6. Seal out dirt and contaminants.

With these factors in mind, you need to work through the steps of implementing a TPM focus program:

  • Select the TPM team & Steering Committee
  • Conduct initial inspection and equipment cleaning
  • Photograph the current state conditions
  • Clean the machine & eliminate any inaccessible areas
  • Tag any abnormalities
    • Make easy repairs now
    • Schedule any major repairs
  • Design inspection & cleaning along with lubrication standards to find items that wear or break
  • Train operators on new processes
    • Create visual One Point Lessons
  • Conduct inspections
    • Implement CI process for managing and sustaining change
    • Improve workplace with visual management
  • Review inspections and deploy audit process

A key part of sustaining the improvements will involve training the operators to various levels of skill.  The four important skills that need to be trained and acquired are:

  • The ability to discover abnormalities
  • The ability to correct abnormalities and restore the proper function
  • The ability to set optimal equipment conditions
  • The ability to maintain optimal equipment conditions

Creating a successful OEE initiative will require a simple and operator-supported methodology.  It needs to be simple because collecting data cannot become a major part of the operator’s job, and by doing so, it should be easier to support.  A good starting point would be an OEE worksheet like the one included below.  For each factor you should also include a pareto and countermeasure tracker for basic problem solving.

OEE Effectiveness Worksheet Example

OEE Worksheet – Click to Enlarge

I will conclude next week with some visual examples of a program that has been implemented effectively.  Until next week, “see with open eyes and understand with an open mind.”

Looking for more on TPM? 

Download this FREE TPM E-book:

Preventive Maintenance Made Visual

Motion Sickness

Addressing Wasted Motion

            D          =          Defects

            O          =          Over-production

            W         =          Waiting

            N          =          Not engaging all employees

            T          =          Transportation

            I           =          Inventory

            M         =          Motion

            E          =          Extra-processing

Ever have a job that when you get home exhausted you feel like you’ve walked several miles?  Well, you probably did!  The next waste, Motion, is very insidious and can be responsible for ergonomic as well as physical fatigue.  Yet, we build motion into our daily routines that unless you stop to really investigate how much you are moving, you won’t know the real amount of hidden waste.

Why is Motion Bad?

Couldn’t this be a new company initiative or program to get the people up and around?  Isn’t that a good thing?  Yes and no.  When we are moving about, we are not doing what is optimal, effective or most efficient.  When we have to scavenge around we can cause Waiting for others, changes with Transportation, or Defects in products.  Plus, the probability of having a safety issue increases as our team members move about the facility.

One of the best tools in your lean arsenal to identify and address the waste of Motion is a spaghetti diagram.  The graphic below is a mock version of a work cell (colored equipment), inventory or materials storage area (grey) and a support department (black).  In this situation, we’ve methodologically watched and tracked every step a target person has taken over a period of time.  The motion between machines is not as much of a concern as leaving the work cell and going into the facility.  It is this motion that should be address with reduction ideas.  I did an event once that proved a given team member walked over 4.5 miles in a single shift.  We were surprised, but not nearly as much as the operator was.  Yet, all of those movements had some explanation or rationale to justify why they needed to get about.

Lean Motion Spaghetti Diagram

Lean Motion Spaghetti Diagram

11 ways to best address the waste of motion

  1. Identify the target areas to evaluate – don’t be surprised if your scope changes
  2. Identify the team members that you want to study
  3. Notify the team members of the activity so that they demonstrate the current process and don’t change the routine (this changes the activities which alter the motion)
  4. Remember that you want to understand exactly how a given activity is being done every day.  If the team members must go to a supply room only on Mondays, be sure not to suggest that they go there as part of the normal daily activity
  5. Follow the person around.  Quantify the motion (usually we use the number of steps taken).  This is tedious, but necessary
  6. Create the spaghetti diagram
  7. Talk about the activities in the diagram to understand areas for improvement
  8. NOW, step over to your 5S tool strategy and use Step #2 – “Set in Order”.  Ideas for reducing the motion will probably be best addressed by using that technique (see previous blog).  Create scale drawings (CAD or other) and use scaled cut-outs (paper dolls) to create the future state.  Remember to look at all of the set in order categories (supplies, tools, fixtures, materials, etc)
  9. Get agreement on the future state and make necessary changes
  10. Evaluate the activities with the new layout and quantify the benefit of the changes.  You will probably have a metric like the decrease in the number of steps taken. You can convert this to a distance (feet or miles).  You’ll be amazed at the reduction in distance walked
  11. Repeat the same type of strategy WITHIN the work cell.  This is where you might find subtle ergonomic issues that need to be corrected
Future State Planning - Lean Motion

Future State Planning – Lean Motion

The better we get at viewing motion as a waste, the more engaged our work forces become.  I would like to hear how you use spaghetti diagrams.  Drop me a line and I will share best practices.  Until next week, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

Learn more about the additional visual workplace training Brady can provide.

Extra processing waste: “I will send you that in triplicate”

Extra processing Waste

            D          =          Defects

            O          =          Over-production

            W         =          Waiting

            N          =          Not engaging all employees

            T          =          Transportation

            I           =          Inventory

            M         =          Motion

            E         =          Extra-processing

Many of you probably don’t remember the carbon-paper days for documents.  With all of these electrons flowing around, who needs paper anyway?  It wasn’t that long ago that many important forms came in a stack of bound colored copies that went to various departments.  The scenario could be something like: you sign the top white copy and keep it for yourself; send the pink copy to HR; the yellow copy to purchasing; and the green copy to the admin for filing.  Does this ring true with anyone?  How archaic of us!  Now we just email details to each of those departments.

 Wasted processing is still built in to our procedures

While triplicate, carbon-copy documentation, might sound just this side of the Stone Age, we still have remnants of this approach spread all over our companies.

  • We have work orders in multiple copies for our maintenance team.
  • Our SAP or Oracle output might spit out three copies of an order, when we really don’t even need a hardcopy.
  • Our New Product Development process might have approvers reviewing, commenting and signing the same document many times.
  • Our Change Management process (ECN, ECO, etc.) might make us have multiple spreadsheets, databases, whiteboards, and cover pages that each needs to be managed.

Additionally, we might have production lines where we inspect a component, send it along to the next step, add something and recheck the entire part, send it along, put a label on it and re-inspect the whole part, pass it along, and do a final inspection at packaging.

If we didn’t fundamentally change the component, why all inspection?  I realize that many instances require this, but the last waste, extra (over) processing gets built into our processes and are hard to remove.

Makigami (swim-lane) process map

A great lean tool to identify this waste is the Makigami (swim-lane) process map.  This is nothing new.  It is just a standard process map on steroids because it shows who is doing each step.  An example is below:

Process Map Chart

Even though you can’t read this, you can see that 10 different people or departments are involved in the process.  From this portion of the process, you can determine that the green and blue people are responsible for much of the activity.  There is little interaction with other departments.  Here’s an actual photo:

Process Map Photo

You can find the waste of extra-processing when you see lot’s of hand-offs between lanes, especially if they seem to go back and forth.  We also might find that a person does just a single activity that can be incorporated into someone else’s standard work (like the blue activity in the photo that gates the rest of the process).  This is an extremely powerful tool.  I use this in conjunction with a Value Stream Map (VSM) when you need a level of detail below just “black boxes.”

The cost of documentation management

Remember every piece of paper that we generate needs to be managed.  Several years ago the lean practitioners estimated that we spend $75 dollars managing the life of a piece of documentation.  That is substantially higher in many industries.  In fact it’s probably in the hundreds of dollars.  So this waste impacts our costs in the same way inventory might, it’s just a little harder to see unless you do a Makigami mapping exercise.

If you’d like more information on this technique, please comment or send me a message.  Until next week, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

Here is additional resources that you may be interested in for lean management and communication.

Lean Waste Examples in any Job Function

“Waste Not, Want Not”

Not totally sure what that age-old saying means exactly, but I think it could mean that when things are near “perfect,” you don’t need anything else.  This applies to everything that we do in life, and especially to our jobs and companies.  However, the great lean thinkers have always challenged us to Continuously Improve (Kaizen), as there is always a better way.

Inefficiencies across job function

I had some great comments from the “8 Wastes – DOWNTIME” series regarding how these forms of inefficiencies apply to various functions.  Some comments followed the pattern, “Rick, I see how Inventory applies to our products, but I’m in Customer Service, so that doesn’t apply to me, right?”


When you begin to “see” the wastes in our processes, then you begin to realize all eight wastes apply to every nook and cranny of our business.

Lean Waste Examples Across Job Function

DOWNTIME principles can affect any job function.

Junk attracts more junk

When I teach people about flow, I usually explain the concept using a river as the metaphor.  Where do you find the old tires, empty bottles, drift wood, plastic bags and other junk in a river?  This waste collects in the slower areas (eddies), and once there, tends to “attract” more junk to the area.  The high flow areas sweep the waste downstream.

So, too, does this happen in our processes.  Only the “eddies” are the areas where stuff accumulates like in-boxes, desks, email boxes, the shipping dock, lab testing, NPI gate reviews … you get the picture.

Let’s look at some examples of the wastes that could apply to various functions:

Engineering / R&D – defects in approval processes; over testing products with non-optimal test methodologies (DOE); waiting for marketing to supply the updated customer design requirements; not using the technicians for new ideas; moving samples around with the increasing risk of damaging or altering them; test data that accumulates without getting analyzed in a timely fashion; having to travel to manufacturing sites to collect data.

HR – accumulating resumes looking for the perfect candidate; moving “highly sought after” candidates to on-site interviews or offers, only to find that they really did not understand the role and now are not interested; under-evaluating candidates only to hire someone that isn’t a fit and is let go after a few months; performance management processes that have no feedback or actions given to employees after they spend lots of time filling in their accomplishments to goals and objectives; rolling out HR management systems that don’t connect to other vital business systems.

Operations – lag time between communications to customers; sending drawings to other departments that get lost; waiting for answers to customer questions regarding material usage or fit to specifications; long wait times on phone systems; getting quotes incorrect; and others.

Quality – burdensome quality management systems that no one reviews after the three-ring binder is complete; ineffective root cause analyses; moving product around to hold areas; having to create product notifications; over-testing components; not interacting with lean practitioners when they are making changes to the manufacturing process; too many or not enough audits.

Marketing – creating the greatest product based on incomplete customer VOC that doesn’t sell; generating electronic files that cannot be used later; ineffective interaction in the NPI/NPD process; waiting for test results; attending trade shows with little return on investment.

Sales – requiring quotes for low probability sales; identifying opportunities without qualifying them and creating excess activity in Customer Service; writing monthly sales reports; traveling to under-qualified customer meetings.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the above activities are needed.  My point is to highlight that every function in a company has wasteful processes that accumulate waste over time.  Armed with this fact, we will flow nicely into my topic for next week which is “seeing the process” using mapping techniques.

Thanks for the questions about the “8 Wastes” series.  Stay tuned, this lean tool will apply to every person in every role in every company.

Until next week, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

Process Map: Examples to visualize where work is done

“Go to the Gemba”

This directive is a very fundamental and foundational aspect of Lean.  “Gemba” is a Japanese term that loosely means “where the work is done.”  So telling someone to go to the Gemba is literally encouraging them to get off of their … I mean … out of the conference room and check things out.  This is more practical in some cases than others.

For example, a quality problem that is happening on the floor is best understood by:

  • Looking at the equipment
  • Evaluating the materials
  • Reviewing what the operators are actually doing
  • Checking on the standard work
  • Verifying inspections
  • Watching the overall flow

You can’t do this in a conference room or by looking at presentations.  What do you do when the work takes place in the virtual world?  For example, determining why quotations take so long to get out to a customer.  You might be able to physically sit near the person and observe, but most of the process is happening in computer systems, software and applications.  It is very hard to be in the Gemba in that case.

Visualizing Where Work is Done

What we need is a visual way to view the process, no matter whether we’re on the shop floor, or we are looking at transactional processes.  Shown below are typical approaches that have been used.  The first example is the garden-variety Process Map.  You see major steps and decision points, but what is missing is a time sequence that allows us to understand the logical order of those steps in time and an assignment of who is responsible for a given step or decision.

Process Map Example

Process Map

The next example is a Value Stream Map (VSM) which is typically at a very high level.  You still need to interrogate the process to see both the time sequence and who is responsible for a step.

Value Stream Map - VSM Example

Value Stream Map Example

Enter the Makigami Process Map.  You might know these as Swim-Lane Diagrams.  Here is a concise example.  These can encompass the entire wall of a large conference room.

Makigami Process Map Example

Makigami Process Map Example

A map like this covers all of the strengths of a basic process map, but brings a level of detail and clarity that isn’t represented in a VSM.  Also you can combine these with other tools, like a SIPOC, to give a great level of detail that usually is never visualized.

Check in next week when I will give you the step-by-step details of how to construct one of these.  Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

Makigami Process Mapping

“Maki- what???”

Last week I briefly discussed some of the various mapping techniques that you MUST have in your lean box of tricks.  This week I will start explaining Makigami process mapping.

Basic process mapping only gets you so far, but it’s still better than just guessing how a process works.  The value stream map (VSM) is the main-stay for lean practitioners, however, too many times I find that the finished map just occupies space on a wall. It rarely gets looked at after the newspaper is published at the end of the event.  I want to go in to a different map – the Makigami – which you’ll find is invaluable when you need to map out what’s happening in the Gemba.

Think about the very rudimentary questioning approach you learned early in grade school:  who, what, when, where. It is very useful in describing a situation.  You know, like Colonel Mustard, in the Library, with the candlestick.  We will leave “why” for a later discussion.  I will outline the entire process for doing Makigami process mapping in the next few blogs.

Makigami, literally meaning “a roll of paper” in Japanese, is very powerful for both transactional processes and for finding those nasty details between the boxes on your VSM.  It’s the who, what and when of your process.  A basic process map typically just covers the “what” with the “who” stuck inside the action step box.  Let’s take a closer look at the map that I showed last week:

Makigami Process Map Example

Makigami Process Map Example

The red circle describes “who” is involved in the process.  The blue circle shows “what” tasks are getting accomplished by that person.  The green arrow signifies the logical order, or the “when” that each task takes place.  Something to the left is upstream from a task that is further right.  In the bottom section, you will also keep track of “how long.”  This gives great insight in to process cycle time (PCT), process lead time (PLT), waste between steps / value added time, and overall time required (more on that later).


Step 1.  Makigami Process Mapping

  1. Post the empty Makigami roll on the wall (basic 36” wide paper, or pre-printed)
  2. Identify the departments or functions involved (Shipping, Order Entry, Master Data, Scheduling) and these will become the swim lanes
  3. Identify all the steps performed, actions taken, or tasks done
  4. Do step three by “questioning” or “investigating” the process.  Think as a police investigator interrogating witnesses.  This step is best accomplished by having everyone involved in the process (all shifts, up and down stream people, temporary workers, etc).The more rigorous this step is done, the more accurate your outcome will be.  You really need to put on your best facilitator cap to do this and you’ll get better with practice.  Remember, you’re never asking “why” something is done.  Your job right now is to get EVERYTHING that is done down on paper.You put the tasks into the correct swim lanes.  When a task is identified, write it down, and ask, “and then what happens?”
  5. Identify the output for every step or action as a separate piece of paper.  You can keep track of how long a given step takes (more detail on this later).

It is important to keep track of process boundaries or “book-ends”.  By keeping aware of this, you reduce the likelihood of scope-creep.  To manage the boundaries, ask the following questions:

  • What starts this process?
  • What ends this process?
  • What does this process produce?
  • Who is the customer?
  • Who is the supplier?
  • How is this process measured?

At this point, you are only concerned with understanding all the tasks between your bookends.  For example, the process starts when the Quoting department receives a fax, and ends when the order is sent to Scheduling.  You job is to uncover everything that happens between those two time stamps.

Next week, I’ll give you a practical example of Makigami process mapping that I use in my training.  It simulates what happens in a restaurant.  I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.  So practice saying “Makigami” and get ready for a new best friend.

Until next week, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

Steps for Swimlane Mapping

“Stay in Your Lane”

It is time to dive a little deeper into process mapping.  This week I will talk about some of the steps included for process mapping in swimlanes.  But before we go too much further …

Let’s start with a quick test.  What does Makigami mean?  On a Makigami map, what do you put on the left hand side?  What is each row on the map mean, and what is it called?  Where do you put the tasks?  Why should you use such a map and what are the benefits?  When should you use a Makigami map?  OK.  If you couldn’t answer seven or more, go read last week’s blog.  I’ll wait.

Welcome to this week.  I thought I’d use a situation that most people would understand for our standard.  Who has never been to a restaurant?  If you’ve never been to one, hopefully this scenario is easy to follow.  Otherwise, let’s look at the necessary steps of the mapping process:

Step 1 – Identify the Departments, people, functions (desks) involvedSwimlane Mapping Function and Department


  • You (the Customer)
  • Host / Greeter
  • Server / Waiter
  • Cook / Chef
  • Cashier
  • Bartender

Step 2 – Discover the tasks / activities done (in order of completion or start)

  • Walk in
  • Greet Customer
  • Take Customer to table
  • Give Customer Menus
  • Tell Customer, “Your server will be with you shortly”
  • Greet Customer, “Hi, my name is..”
  • Ask for drink order
  • Review wine list
  • Decide on drinks
  • Confirm drink order


Swimlane map example with tasks

Swimlane map example with tasks.

At this point, our process starts at the point that you walk into the restaurant.  If you wanted to expand the overall process to include the valet parking, you would do so.  It is very important that you understand clearly where the process starts and ends (the bookends).  This will help with ensuring that you have a defined scope.

 “What happens next?”  Good Question!  Make sure you ask it, a lot.  

You continue “interrogating” the process by asking, “what happens next?”  If there is a decision point in the map, make sure that you place the responsibility for the decision in the correct lane.  Keep mapping until you hit the bookend.  If a “new” department, function, or person is uncovered to be part of the process, create a new swimlane for it.  It is very important that you capture exactly what is currently happening in the process, not what we think should happen or guessing at what happens.

Do this with as broad a range of participants as possible – all 3 shifts, new and old employees, the same functions at different sites – and you might need to be sensitive to whether you do individual discussions or a group setting.  Sometimes, people say different things depending on the setting.

When you complete the map, go over the entire process step by step, to ensure that no steps are missing.  If variation is identified, make sure you capture all the different ways people are doing their work.

If you have questions at this point, drop me a line.  I will continue next week with showing how to keep track of “metrics / measurements” to gauge the value added components.  Until next week, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”


Makigami Map Essentials

Fine Tuning your Makigami Map

As you complete the map and do the “process walk,” it will be important to quantify as much of the process as possible.  When you get good at facilitating a team through a Makigami mapping exercise, it’s possible to do this at the same time as the swim lane discussion.

Makigami Map Vocabulary

There are some common terms to ensure that everyone in the team understands what the definitions mean.  These will show up as opportunities for improvement as you look to the future state.  Some things to track are:

  • Process cycle time – this is the time that is required to finish the task in a single box
  • Lead time – the time required for a single item to pass through all the process steps
  • Value added time – a process step that adds value (something the customer “pays” for)
  • Non-value added time – a process step that does not add value
  • Non-value added but necessary time – a process step that must be done but doesn’t add value
  • Handoff – when a process “jumps” lanes with a tangible item like a document or approval
  • Transfer – when the process stays within a given lane with a tangible item
  • Error – when a process step does not happen the first time (First Pass Yield, Right First Time)
  • Value added / Non-value added ratio – the percentage of time that adds value

Key Metrics

Typical metrics that can be used to quantify improvements in the process could include:

  • Cycle time reduction
  • Reduction in handoffs
  • Reduction in overall lead time
  • Reduction in errors
  • Reduction in distance traveled
  • Improvement in value added / non-value added ratio
  • Wait times between steps
  • Reductions in any of the eight wastes
  • Creation of standard work
  • Efficiency improvements by combining steps / functions

Color-coding Step Relationships

Visually you can show the relationship between steps with colored arrows: (1) green for error-free transfer between steps and (2) red for tasks that are subject to errors, are not clear, or have significant variability.  You can use dots on the sheets to indicate whether the step is value added or not: (1) green dot for value added step, (2) red dot for non value added step, and (3) blue dot for non value added, but necessary step.

Best Practices

Some best practices to use during the mapping exercise include:

  • Use “typical” process cycle times when accurate information is not available
  • If the process owners can’t agree a typical time, use min / max or median time
  • During the creation of a Makigami map discussion on how the process actually flows can occur. Check with process owners (“on call”) to get accurate information … Don’t guess and be incorrect as this will transfer to “To Be” state
  • Issues that need improvement, further investigation, or are relevant but outside the “scope” of the current event will surface.  Use a parking list for these items to avoid side discussions
  • All participants should use the 5 Why process to ensure clarity

Next week I will take you from the current state (“As Is”) to the future state (“To Be”).  We will go over how to use the map to visualize the “8 Wastes,” find opportunities for improvement, determine how to prioritize the list of potential improvements using a “4 Block,” and finally visualizing the new way of doing things.  I know, pretty exciting stuff.

Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

The Visual Machine – Safety Visuals & Preventative Maintenance

“Machine Language…Not What You Think”

I know some people that understand how to use machine language – the set of instructions executed directly by a computer’s central processing unit to get the equipment to perform a task.  With this primitive format it is nearly impossible to directly hold a conversation with a piece of hardware without some higher-level language conversion.  Imagine a world if machine language was more along these lines:

  • “Hey Rick, the oil filter is getting blinded off by the particles in the oil and the pressure is rising … “
  • “Hey Rick, if you check my blower you’ll find its getting hotter than usual…not sure why … “
  • “Hey Rick, I probably should tell you that you might lose a finger when you grab that part … “
  • “Hey Rick, a few guys were messing in the transformer without proper arc flash PPE … “
  • “Hey Rick, the drive belt is getting a little too much slack in it and needs to be replaced … “
  • “Hey Rick, you keep looking for the reason I’m producing so much scrap, check the centerline … “

You get the picture.  If machines would converse with us directly, life in the manufacturing world would be so much easier.  Kind of like the ultimate Predictive and Preventative Maintenance program.  But alas, the world isn’t there.  Yet.

The goals for having a factory full of Visual Machines are to: improve safety, increase quality, meet delivery requirement, reduce costs, and ultimately, make money for the company.

The costs are very high when our maintenance strategy is “run to failure” and we wait to fix the equipment after it has gone down.  The money spent on preventative or predictive maintenance might be high initially, but will more than pay for itself in the long run.  Additionally, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars a week collectively on safety related issues like injuries, disability, and workers compensation.  Pick your reason from the list above, any one of them will compel you make your equipment a Visual Machine.

Making a Visual Machine

The steps you need to take towards making Visual Machines are as follows:

  1. Assess the equipment – component level, system level, facility level – for common hazards (use the checklist from last week).
  2. Identify those common hazards that apply to the situation and the points where they exist
  3. Determine the level of risk associated with the hazards (you can use something like a process FMEA [Failure Mode and Effects Analysis] to score each one)
  4. Evaluate the requirements for the visual information – location, size, language, format (materials like sign, label, placard, LED display), regulations that apply – to create the most impactful means to convey
  5. Create visual and get input and / approval from others as needed
  6. Implement

If you did not download the checklist from last week, you can find it here Pick a location in your facility to evaluate.  Run through the six step process above.  Use all your senses to develop a comprehensive list.  Do a reflection on the process to see what you’ve learned.  Get others in your facility, from various functions to participate, especially in the risk evaluation.  Re-assess the area to see if your equipment is talking to you yet.  If not, repeat steps 4 – 6.  Bring in an outsider to see if they can visually “hear” the equipment.

Next week we’ll start looking at best practices and what happens if you choose to ignore your precious assets.  Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

For more on maintenance procedure products checkout BradyID.com.

The Visual Machine [Infographic]

What is a visual machine? It is equipment that speaks directly to the people that use it. It is intuitive and easy-to-understand. It is well maintained and reliable. A visual machine identifies key maintenance and safety instructions at a glance without confusion. Take a look at the infographic below to see what a visual machine can do for you.

The Visual Machine

Click here for more Visual Machine Resources from Brady


The Visual Machine – Equipment Assessment & Lubrication [CHECKLIST]

The Visual Machine Basics – Equipment Lubrication & Assessment

I am excited by the amount of interest I’ve been getting around this topic.  In fact, a few machines sent emails to me to thank me for bringing up this much needed topic.  According to data collected in 2011, there were just under three million on-the-job illnesses and injuries.  That number is probably understated because many situations never make it to the attention of someone in our company that is keeping track.  In many of our workplaces, the type of product we produce and the processes required to do so, inherently have safety risk.  It is our job to reduce that number by having effective risk management programs.

The intent of this Visual Machine series is to highlight the lean practices and visuals that can be implemented on your equipment to improve workplace safety, maintenance and efficiency.  Last week, I introduced the six step process that can move you toward creating Visual Machines.

For the next few blogs, I will cover the first two steps:

  1. Assess the equipment – component level, system level, facility level – for common hazards
  2. Identify those common hazards that apply to the situation and the points where they exist


Visual Machine Steps

Equipment Assessment:  Lubrication

There are several areas for you to assess – lubrication, pneumatics, mechanical systems, electrical systems, mechanical drives, fasteners, tooling and cleaning.  The first area I will focus on is lubrication and you can find a checklist for lubrication here:

Equipment Lubrication Checklist

You should systematically inspect the lubrication elements of the equipment using the checklist provided.  An abnormal condition is defined as any condition within, or around the machine, that affects the appearance and performance of the machine or production cell.

Main Causes of Equipment Failure

Try to determine:

  • Why did the abnormal state happen?
  • What other problems could this have caused?
  • How can this be prevented from happening again?

A normal condition is defined as a condition in which the machine’s appearance and performance is in like new condition and no waste is generated in downtime, resources, or materials (or the Six Big Losses).

Once you’ve used the checklist from this week, start on step #2 and identify hazards that exist with the lubrication system.  Use the checklist from two weeks ago to see which might be applicable.  The reason for this step is to determine not only those risks that are safety related, should they fail for operators; but also the risks that are related to the Six Big Losses should they fail for equipment uptime Next week, I will focus on the drive systems.

Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

Click here to find additional Visual Machine lean resources.


Visual Machine: Lubrication Systems Planning and Mapping

Visual Machine Basics 2 – Lubrication System Planning and Mapping

I thought that I’d add a real example to the point I made last week about deliberate lubrication planning.  You see, since lubrication is such a key part of equipment maintenance, it pays to have a solid plan for how you’ll approach this in your facility.  The checklist from last week provided a comprehensive list of items that are important for lubrication planning.  A pared-down list is worth highlighting if you can only focus on the vital few:

  • Proper functioning of all auto-lube or centralized lubricating systems
  • Proper functioning of all systems manual lubricators (injectors, drip oilers, contact lubricators)
  • Proper lubrication at each required point – type, frequency and amount
  • Leaks or contamination in the lubricating systems
  • Ease of use and observation of all oil level sight gauges
  • Proper lubricant level that is not excessive, lacking or incorrect type

Some equipment comes from the manufacturer with predetermined lubrication and maintenance points.  Look at the example below from a machining center.  There are many instructive elements of this placard.

Lubrication Map

Click to enlarge.


Lubrication planning and frequency

First, the lubrication period is based on an eight hour day.  If you’re not operating on this schedule, you’ll have to adjust the amounts and frequencies (part of your lubrication plan).  Also, this manufacturer gives you a choice of three oils to use in the hydraulic power unit (Esso, Mobil and Shell), as well as three oils to use in the feed screw and slide mechanism.  If you think that you need this flexibility with having three separate oils, you might consider selecting just one.  The reasons are not just cost justified, but it provides a more robust lubrication plan.

If you look at the “Remarks” section, you are to change the oil every six months on the hydraulic pump.  This is a time-based frequency, similar to you changing oil in your car.  You’d be much better off by having a performance based approach like measuring viscosity, contamination levels, thermal properties, or some other predictive factor.  It is hard to know precisely how hard the equipment ran in those six months.  How could we make this lubrication plan more visual?  I like to add color.

Take a look at the same plan with the added color.  I assume that we selected which oil we will use on a regular basis.  Also, I tried to show where the fluids are added.

Color-Coded Lubrication Map

Click to enlarge.

Color-code containers and pair it with your lubrication map.

Your lubrication plan would be complete if you labeled the equipment with the same color scheme at the identified points.  Then, as I’ve previously recommended, your oil containers would have the same color coding all the way back to the 55 gallon drums.  Do you have a lubrication plan like this on your equipment?  Why not?  You can quickly make one by just snapping some pictures of the actual equipment and highlighting your points like those above.  To complete your plan, you would combine all of the equipment into a master plan that tracks the various lubricants around your facility.  For instance, maybe your mills and lathes all use the same lubricant, but other equipment in your facility doesn’t.  You can eliminate chances for error by locating the materials near the equipment.   Take a look at these examples and see how you might use this strategy in your shop.  I can guarantee that you won’t regret the time you took to create these plans.

Visual Machine Preventive Maintenance E-book

Finally,  if you haven’t had a chance to visit www.bradyid.com/visualmachine yet, feel free to take a look.  I am working with the Brady team to develop a resource center for Visual Machine material.  We recently added a Preventive Maintenance E-Book and have a new slide deck and video in the works.  Make sure to check back there for more!

Next week, I will focus on the drive systems.  Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”



Visual Machine: Equipment Failure Causes – Contamination

The Forest and the Trees – Contamination of Components Leading to Equipment Failure

This week I will review one of the leading causes to equipment failure, but first I have a real life example to help the concept hit home.

With the cold settling this winter, I was finally backed in to a corner to address the fact that my truck had no heat.  It stopped working back in April (or so), but when the windows are frozen and the air temperature is below 20°F, my attention quickly turned to working on it.  I needed to take apart most of the HVAC compartment to see which of the four components of the system might be bad.  So, with a quick trip to the parts store and hope that the easiest fix was all that was needed, I replace a motor blower resistor.  Within about 10 seconds, I saw smoke coming from under my hood by the windshield.  I quickly turned off the blower, opened the hood to vent and looked back at the part.  Yep, you guessed it – I smoked the new resistor.  Resigned to the fact that it wasn’t going to be the easy and straightforward project I was hoping for, I went to get a new blower motor.  Add in $100 and some more time.

You might be wondering what the “lean” point is.  My learning was that my blower motor was shot because I wasn’t seeing the trees through the forest.  Any one who has had the privilege of doing this same maintenance knows that the original design of the truck’s interior does not allow you to quickly and efficiently see when troubles arise, and quickly and efficiently return it to standard.  The cabin air filters were extremely blinded off by junk – dirt, helicopter seeds, fuzz, etc.  The air was probably not flowing through effectively for years.  The blower motor’s bearings were shot.  More junk and contamination – all which contributed to the motor failure.  You have the same types of issues happening right now in your facility, on your equipment, just waiting to fail.

Equipment Contamination


Contamination is one of the two leading causes of equipment failure (lubrication being the other).  But so often, we can’t see past the forest to determine which trees (components) are getting bad.  I am including a contamination and general cleaning checklist this week which you can download here:

Contamination and General Cleaning Checklist

Of primary importance is to look for contamination on the following:

  • Examine all drive systems – moving, rotating, sliding, rolling interfaces
  • Check all frames, beds, conveyors, transfer lines, feeders, chutes, rollers, etc
  • Look at all guide surfaces, fixtures, gages, dies, cylinders, tank interiors/exteriors, cables or other devices installed on the equipment
  • Unnecessary objects on body of the machine – spare parts, fixtures, tools, packing materials, chemicals
  • Switches and sensors – limit, micro, proximity and or photoelectric
  • Faceplates and surfaces of instruments, meters, displays, switches, control boxes
  • Covers, windows, view-plates, and other safety shields

All you have to do is spend 30 minutes walking around your plant floor to find good examples.  And don’t think that contamination is only on the machines.  Include in your definition of contamination anything around the facility that introduces clutter – think of contaminating your aisles with pallets, packaging materials, maintenance supplies and tools, etc.  Look to eliminate the sources of contamination – from the process, product, packaging, environment – to try to control the amount and frequency at which junk accumulates.

Next week, I will continue to look at contamination in various other corners of your equipment.  Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

For more on preventive maintenance – download this free e-book!

TPM Improvement Cycle: Inspect to Protect – Visual Machine

Let’s Inspect to Protect

Continuing where I left off last week with contamination, I will talk about the principles around a TPM improvement cycle, inspect to protect.

I was recently in a factory where a mysterious substance settled on top of everything just adjacent to a production cell.  Within the cell area you had welding, grinding, painting and some cleaning operations.  The “stuff” from those four process steps became airborne, and with a poorly functioning ventilation system, settled daily onto nearby product, equipment, conveyors, tooling, fixtures, floors, and probably people.  It wasn’t so bad that you’d drop everything to correct it; however, it was frequent enough that over time it was causing problems.  Since contamination is one of the two big enemies we face, we should not overlook any cause of it no matter how subtle.

Improvement Cycle to Handle Contamination

In the past, I used a phrase, “Clean to Inspect” to give the rationale for embarking on a 5S / TPM program.  The idea is that you don’t know where you have problems with your equipment if the problems are getting masked by the effects of the problem.  For example, a small but constant oil leak can drip down onto equipment, grabbing dust and other contamination with it.  Over time, the equipment just looks dirty, and because of the situation, you don’t bother to clean it because it’s just going to get dirty again.  Having a 5S program that just focuses on cleaning will not be enough to break the cycle of build-up.  But, having a rigorous TPM program that is founded on the following improvement cycle increases your odds of getting on a healthy path.  Let’s look at the graphic and understand what each step requires.

inspect to protect improvement cycle

Clean to Inspect

  • Every part of the equipment must be cleaned back to the original “as new” condition
  • Areas around the equipment must also be addressed

Inspect to Detect

  • Once the equipment is clean, you need to examine, in detail, every component
  • You are looking to detect why the equipment cannot stay in “as new” condition

Detect to Correct

  • When you detect the issues you need to engage your favorite problem solving methodology to list the “trival many” causes to find the “vital few”
  • Correction should be addressed by using a cross-functional team (maintenance, design engineering, quality, safety, process engineering, operators)

Correct to Perfect

  • Don’t let “better” get in the way of “perfect” … make sustainable changes that stick
  • Update any standards – cleaning, PM, operator-focused – that will sustain your condition

Perfect to Protect

  • Once you’ve reach “perfection” – again you probably won’t ever arrive there and be done – you need to implement sustainable means to protect your investment
  • When thinking of protecting the equipment, treat it as though it was personally yours


After each step, you and the team should reflect on what was learned.  In the Lean world this is known as Yokoten and could include:

  • What part of the step was particularly effective
  • What does the team need to do to improve this step for the next time
  • Can the improvements from this step be quickly applied to other areas of the facility and equipment
  • How will you and the team ensure that there will be sustainability
  • Can the sustainable improvements be made visual
  • Other ideas you might have that are “tribal knowledge”

When you think of implementing your changes, a very useful format to communicate the information can be based on functional analysis.  In this method, the equipment and process functions are described by an active verb and noun-object.  Examples include:

  • Transfer fluid
  • Reduce noise
  • Clean belts
  • Remove guards
  • Life cover

Your homework this week is to pick a piece of equipment that you can take through the entire methodology.  You should select a machine that you can demonstrate each step clearly in a training / instructing / model area approach.  If the cross-functional team can address all the steps on a single machine, it will be more likely that they can transfer the knowledge again.  Next week, I will continue along this road.  Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

For more on preventive maintenance – download this free e-book!

Measuring Change Effectiveness

“I Solemnly Swear to…”

Well, here we are – the end of the calendar year.  For some of you this also corresponds to the end of your company’s fiscal year.  It’s a time to reflect on our performance of the past year, make plans on how to do things differently next year, and swear to hold to our plans for success.  Blah. Blah. Blah.  Same stuff, different year.  Why is it that we can be so hopeful for the coming year to be different, when we fundamentally are not changing one thing to enable those changes?

Of course, I don’t know.  It must just be human nature, the cooling of the earth during the winter months, or some other invisible force.  For the Lean practitioners out there, we know that “sustaining” any change must have a purposeful, well designed plan created to implement the new ideas.  The New Year brings us to the most profitable two months for any health club.  Memberships skyrocket at this time of the year.  However, the sad part is that they know it will only take 60 days or so and the clubs will be empty again.  Ever feel that way with your lean initiatives?  You spend all that time creating project charters, Gantt charts, implementation teams, ROI calculations, and training materials, but you know deep in your gut that things will be more difficult than people realize.

Louis L’Amour once profoundly said, the “Only thing that never changes, is that everything changes.”  Simple.  But there is a fundamental law of entropy that says things will tend to disorder if we don’t add some energy to the system.  Your facility will get dirtier, the machines more prone to breakdown, tooling strewn about the place, people not following a set process, etc, all because of ΔS.

Change Management is a science unto itself.  We don’t like to change.  In fact, the term “Change Agent” as applied to Six Sigma and Lean functional roles, doesn’t bring with it the enormity of the task you’ll face.  When I was at GE, we had a change management process called the Change Acceleration Process (CAP) that we taught to all “Change Agents.”  The reason was simple – there is no sense in making improvements, if those improvements are doomed to fail due to a lack of focusing on the people.  GE was able to systematize, commercialize and monetize this approach.  We taught other companies the CAP process.  So, since we are heading into the New Year, filled with excitement and hope and promise, I thought we should look at elements of the CAP process to increase our chances for a successful 2014.

Change Effectiveness Equation

At the core of the CAP process is a very basic “change effectiveness equation”:

E  =  Q  X  A

This unit-less equation essentially states that the Effectiveness (E) of your implementation is directly equal to the Quality (Q) of the idea, strategy, approach, improvement, etc multiplied by the Acceptance (A) of those ideas, strategies, approaches, improvements, etc.  The Acceptance factor has to do with people and their openness to receive the ideas.  So the Effectiveness goes up with higher quality ideas.  Effectiveness will also go up if the acceptance goes up.  The steps involved in CAP are as follows:

  1. Get a passionate leader to own the change and drive it to completion
  2. Create a Shared Need / Burning Platform / Strategic Vision / A3
  3. Shape the vision of #1 so that everyone can get excited about it and involved with it
  4. Mobilize the commitment and resources (top down and bottom up)
  5. Sustain the changes early and often by rewarding “wins”
  6. Monitor the steps 2 – 4 and make changes as required
  7. Make the organizational and structural changes necessary to make permanent the new state

Looking back on my CAP training, I realize that while there was nothing profound here, the principles can be applied to everything we do, especially since people will be involved.  Reflect back on your 2103 Lean programs – 5S, TPM, visual workplace, Strategy Deployment, training, A3 teams, whatever.  Were you as successful as you wanted to be?  Did you reach the heights of improvement that you targeted?  Have you forever changed the company culture the way all the textbooks tell you to do?  Did you save the company the $500K that we “are supposed” to drop to the bottom line?  If yes, congratulations!!  You overcame the inertia that was facing you.  If no, congratulations!!  You have another year to hone your skills.

Apply your 8-Step Problem Solving to those areas where you answered “no”.  What were the root causes for not getting the desired outcomes?  Did any of the root causes have to do with change management?  My guess is that there was indeed a link.

OK, now the important part.  What will you do differently this year?  Don’t be a health club in March – high memberships, but no members in sight.  Reflect now.  Create a new strategy now.  Learn from your efforts and adjust now.  The New Year brings all of us a fresh perspective.  Take advantage of this time of the year – people are naturally open to new things now!  Until next year, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

The Visual Machine: Health of Mechanical Drive Systems

Parts that Drive Our Processes

Welcome to 2014.  My blog from last week about Change Management sure was a hit – at least from the perspective of people wanting additional information on best practices for managing people around CI efforts.  I believe getting the most out of people is a universal challenge no matter what the initiative or level in the organization.  So, with that in mind, I will start the People / Change Management topic in February.  Until then, back to our Visual Machines.

In both process industries and manufacturing environments you will find that material conveying is a key part of moving product around the factory.  We often will couple in-situ inspection or marking automation directly onto these conveyors to collect data in real time or mark product as it is produced.  Since this section of our plant is the last part before product is shipped out the door, we should pay particular attention to ensure that all the equipment works as expected here.

Mechanical Drive Systems

This week I have a Mechanical Drive Systems Checklist that you can download.  When we look at making these systems more visual we will find a mixed bag of challenges – parts of the components are easy to see and inspect while other parts are enclosed and we can’t always view the “health” of the components.  Don’t be misled that these enclosed components aren’t susceptible to contamination.

Areas of the mechanical drives that you should pay attention to are:

  • Belts (V, flat, woven)
  • Gears, speed reducers and brakes
  • Shafts, bearings, keys and couplings
  • Roller chains
  • Conveyors

Mechanical Drive System Examples

Remember that mechanical drives are key to your overall material movement, so don’t overlook the care and feeding of them.  Next week I’ll look at electrical systems, and then present visual countermeasures for many of the issues that have been highlighted.  In this fashion, we’ll be creating the Visual Machine!  Until next week, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

Click here to download the Visual Machine Preventive Maintenance eBook!

Visual Machine: Maintaining Your Facility Electrical System – Checklist

Let’s Make Contact

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that over the last several weeks I have been providing checklists that can help you identify areas to assess your Visual Machines.  I bet that many of you have determined that there is a long way to go before your equipment is visual.  That’s OK because now you have something to shoot for in your improvement efforts.  After this week, I will focus on sustainable visual solutions to many of the areas identified on the checklists.

Finding and diagnosing electrical system problems

Alas, we’ve come to the last checklist and area to assess, and I would argue the most important – the electrical system.  Much in the same way your body only works because small electrical impulses tell your organs what to do, the electrical systems within your facility provide the EMF to move things.  You probably have very few non-electrical machines in your factory.  It is fitting then that the last area we look is for issues that stop those little electrons from flowing around and doing their job.

A challenge with electrical systems is that issues can be very hard to detect in real time.  You might suspect there is a problem and bring a DVM to measure voltages, currents or outputs, but these can be reactive activities.  Ever have an electrical problem in your car?  You know how hard it can be to properly diagnose and fix “floating” electrical issues.  Unlike our mechanical systems that can project the state of their health through sensorial means (sight, sound, smell, touch), the electrical components can be degrading without you discovering a growing failure. The big safety issue with electrical systems has to do again with the fact that many of the dangerous situations are not always evident (arc flash).

I have divided the facility maintenance electrical checklist for this week into “components and control” and “operating panels.”  Between these two, you will be able to find almost all the problems that can arise electrically.

Components include:

  • switches
  • motors
  • heaters

Control and operating panels, along with relay boxes, can have:

  • missing information / data like operating voltages, amps, watts
  • emergency measures like e-stops
  • incomplete or incorrect labeling between panels and equipment
  • accessibility to wiring diagrams and schematics
  • issues with the integrity of boxes and panels.

Finally, the checklist includes wiring issues such:

  • missing information / data like operating voltages, amps, watts
  • emergency measures like e-stops
  • incomplete or incorrect labeling between panels and equipment

Remember that electrical systems are key to making your plant move, so don’t overlook the care and feeding of them, even though they aren’t as obvious.  Next week we will start to investigate visual countermeasures for many of the issues that have been highlighted on the checklist.  If you print all the checklists out and create an audit book, you will be well prepared.  In this fashion, we’ll be creating the Visual Machine!  Until next week, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”


Visual Machine: 5S and TPM Best Practices Images

The Visual Machine Best Practices Image Gallery

I hope that the preceding weeks have been valuable for you in striving for a Visual Machine.  The checklists were meant to help you identify gaps in your various systems and components.  A machine that is working as designed, without any of the Six Big Losses, is a machine that is making you money.  A Visual Machine is one that can sustain without extensive time wasted intervening when necessary.  Remember, our most widely used Lean Tools – 5S and TPM – both require standards in order to sustain.

It is said that, “a picture is worth 1,000 words,” so my intention with the blog this week is to present photos of best practices that I’ve encountered while working across dozens of plants.  Some of these examples have been provided to Brady by various partners that we’ve been fortunate to work with, while others are ones you’d find in Brady plants.  I categorized the photos to align better with the checklists.  Remember, these are a starting point.  You might have better examples.  The point is that we are constantly striving to improve our visuals and make our facilities the best they can be.  Join me next week for a new topic.  Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

The Visual Machine Best Practices

Visual Machine Best Practices

Visual Support Equipment Best Practices

Visual Support Equipment Best Practices

Visual Machine Guarding Best Practices

Visual Machine Guarding Best Practices

Visual Machine Process Best Practices

Visual Machine Process Best Practices

Visual Machine Gauge / Dial Best Practices

Visual Machine Gauge - Dial Best Practices

Visual Machine Maintenance Best Practices

Visual Machine Maintenance Best Practices

Visual Machine Testing Best Practices

Visual Machine Testing Best Practices

Want more on 5S?  Click here to download a 5S handbook.


Lean Implementation and Common Issues

Puzzle Pieces for Implementing Lean

I was having a discussion with some lean practitioners a few weeks ago at a training session.  We were covering the same ground that I think most CI leaders cover – “what is working and why,” “what is not working and why,” and “what are the root causes for the gaps (both positive and negative).”  I was reminded of a slide that I use at most of my lean events and trainings that captures the “issues” that “most” CI practitioners have encountered.  I usually tell them that if they haven’t lived through any of these issues yet, to be prepared, because they likely will.

 Listing out Common Lean Implementation Issues

So what is this “universal list” of issues you might ask?  In my sessions I poll the audience for their biggest CI challenges and proceed to write them on the whiteboard.  It doesn’t take long to get a pretty long list of issues from the group.  I then introduce my slide with my findings and compare results.  Invariably, they overlap almost entirely:

  • Lack of leadership buy-in
  • Lack of team member buy-in
  • Lack of resources (time, $$, people)
  • Changing priorities / goals / focus
  • Lack of alignment across functions
  • Sustaining the gains

When I do Change Management training, there is a model that I feel is particularly useful when it comes to understanding why most CI leaders have lived at least some of the issues on the list.  It is a logical chain for implementing successful change initiatives, and if any of the factors is missing, the entire chain can break.  Here is the model:

chain for implementing successful change initiatives

Vision, Goals, Targets

It all starts with the organization, management, leaders, and team having a big vision for all the work that is done.  Along with this strategic vision, there must be tactical SMART goals and targets to evaluate progress toward that vision.  A powerful tool for aligning these elements is Strategy / Policy Deployment.  When this factor is missing there is a definite and observable “confusion” within the organization, complete with finger pointing, a lack of accountability, and usually “flavors of the day”.

Commitment and Buy-In

Think of this along the entire continuum of people in the company from the top to the bottom.  You can have a vision statement printed on a banner in your lobby, but if everyone snickers when they read it, there is little buy-in.  If your boss says your lean initiative is the most important, but doesn’t mention it in review meetings, there is little commitment.  The lack of these, which we have ALL experienced, leads to unwillingness of people to take risks.

Skills and Experience

Many CI leaders lack confidence if they don’t think they have the skills necessary to push an initiative.  A non-mechanical CI leader pushing a TPM program might feel inadequate.  Conversely, someone with an impeccable background of working for a name-brand lean company or consulting group can lose a team quickly if they cannot connect.  The lack of skills and experience will lead to anxiety for the CI leaders, management and team members.

Means and Resources

Do you have enough people to help you?  Do you have a budget to purchase supplies to support your lean program?  Are you giving the amount of time needed to execute your plans or are you constantly running a time deficit?  When you lack resources you become very frustrated.

Action Plan and Lean Daily Management (LDM)

The last factor is the creation of an Action Plan and a way to manage it (via Lean Daily Management).  The project management creed of “plan the work and then work the plan” is key only if you’ve created a plan.  If you just conduct events that aren’t connected to each other, an overall annual or monthly plan, or to the vision and goals of the company, you are guaranteed to head down a path that might be hard to get back on to.  And once you do, you might find that your people have bailed from the team.

What do you think?  This topic ties into my blog post a few weeks ago about resolutions for the New Year.  Look for you “chinks” in the chain where you could have a link fail.  Remember, your initiative is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.  Until next week, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

Want more on 5S?  Click here to download a 5S handbook.


The Lean Catchball Process and 5 Principles for Aligning Your Business Expectations

Let’s Play Catch

I was surprised by the number of requests that I received for more details on how the linkages work based off of the model I presented last week.  It seems that some people have a good understanding of some of the individual boxes, but they can see that broken links are part of their company’s problems.  This is believable based on what I’ve experienced in the field.  For a quick refresher, see the model here.

A Means to the End

I believe that the right side of the chain is totally impacted by the “goodness” of the process that created the left side.  The better the organization is at creating “good” vision + goals + targets, the more likely that the action plans + LDM will reflect progress toward the former.  I have seen many examples of paper charts on the bulletin boards that have little to nothing to do with where the company wants to be heading.  So why does this happen to us?  We need to focus on the “means to the end.”

means to an end

Remember Apple’s Visionary and How the Means were Properly Aligned?

Think of a “Wall Street darling” company like Apple.  Apple was able to churn out a seemingly endless supply of products and services while the “company visionary” was at the helm.  He ensured that the means were properly aligned to get the results in the end.  When that visionary was no longer in charge, the results didn’t meet expectations.  It is possible that both the expectations and results had shifted over time.  The same thing happens in our manufacturing environments.  When the visionary cannot keep things aligned, it seems that the boat is rudderless, and initiatives become flavors of the day, week, month or year.  The best companies in the world have made this alignment process so important that it has become an essential business process.  There is a reason why innovative companies continue to innovate.  There is a reason that the best “execution” companies continue to execute.  There is a reason that struggling companies continue to struggle.

When the alignment process is done properly, you find:

  • Top management vision can be translated into a set of coherent, consistent, understandable and attainable policies and actions,
  • Which can be applied at all levels of the organization and in all functions,
  • Where they result in the vision becoming reality, with each person knowing their part,
  • Allowing progress to be measured efficiently and effectively using visual controls and visual management

You can boil the alignment process down to five principles:

  • Translate the strategy to operational terms
  • Align the organization to the strategy
  • Make strategy everyone’s job
  • Make strategy a continual process
  • Mobilize change through executive leadership

The benefits of this goal alignment include:

  • Ensuring that insight and vision are not forgotten or ignored when the planning activities are over
  • Guarantying that planning documents, once finalized, are kept alive and acted on daily
  • Preventing daily fire-fights, unplanned ‘strategic’ meetings and financial pressures from refocusing
  • Managing and determining short-term activities by the plans themselves
  • Ensuring that what is done each day reflects the targets, intentions, and the agree-to vision of the company

So how does this tie-in to the lean Catchball process?

In the Toyota world of lean there is a concept called “Catchball.”  The metaphor that is created is that the top management throws the ball (strategy) to the next level down.  They, in turn, decompose the ball (strategy) in to terms that are applicable to that level, and the process continues down to the lowest levels in the organization.  Agreements are made as a result of the catchball process, so that a lower level is not “saddled” with a target that they did not agree to.  The beauty of such a method is that even stretch goals are fully understood and “owned”.  If a goal is too aggressive, it is modified during the catch ball process.  Here is a quick overview of the catch ball method:

  1. The decomposition is done through a process of “catchball,” where the upper level is handed down to a lower level unit, the lower level unit evaluates which piece of the mission applies to the unit and derives its own.
    Down Arrow
  2. This process is iterative until the upper and lower level units agree in the decomposition of the mission.
    Down Arrow
  3. Next, what was the lower level unit now becomes the upper level unit and the process begins with the next lower level unit.
    Down Arrow
  4. This process continues until the entire organization has decomposed the top level mission statement.

What do you think?  I will spend a little extra time on this alignment process, since it is so important to our jobs and companies.  Until next week, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

Four Key Elements in Your Company’s Systems Thinking Pyramid and How They Should Work Together

What’s at the Top of Your Pyramid?

A significant part of my job when I’m making product or service recommendations to customers includes effective listening.  Rather, I should say, deliberate or intentional listening.  In fact, this is one of your key leadership skills, not just for lean, but for everything we do in our companies.  Intentional listening requires asking questions that are unbiased and hearing the answers without pre-conceived filters.  So what am I listening for?

See if this scenario is familiar:

Me:       OK, team.  We are going to do a Current State map to understand what is working and not working in our process.

Jim:      I can tell you what is not working without you needing to map out anything – we have people around here that can’t follow a process if they were tethered to it.

Me:       Do they know what the standard processes are?

Sue:     Some do, but even though they aren’t following them, nothing happens because the supervisors don’t seem to care.

Me:       Do the team members all report to the same supervisor?

Jim:      Some do, but others no longer are in the same group since we re-structured the teams.

Sue:     And the guys that came from the Texas plant do things differently, even on the same machines.

Me:       So what has allowed you to make schedule every week?

Jill:       A lot of us having to cover for the slackers.  We’re getting tired of it!

Me:       Thanks for your input, this gets me excited because this mapping process will highlight the exact problems that you’re talking about.

Tying Systems Thinking into 5S Implementation

I often speak with companies that are looking to implement at 5S program.  A few things that I listen for include what has already been done, what has worked in the past, what is the system or foundation for sustaining, what is the ‘burning platform’ for everyone to jump on the program, what has changed so that success should be easier now, what standard work has been implemented, who “owns” the initiative at highest management level, etc. 

I learned from my Systems Thinking training to listen for issues around:

  • People
  • Process
  • Structure
  • Organization

Here is a picture for the way that many see these four factors in their company:

Systems Thinking Pyramid - Organization on Top

Building your pyramid so all four elements work together.

Some thoughts on this picture and how it ties back to my mock discussion above – having all four elements work together is key for systems approach.

  • Good people will find a way to get their work done, often by creating informal processes in absence of formal structures or organizations and in light of broken processes (manually done…very taxing on the people).  The workers feel like that are “carrying” the company.  Ineffective people will blame everything else.
  • Good processes will enable people to complete work, but risk creating silos of information without a structure that seamlessly integrates them together.  Good processes can be scaled-up and transferred.
  • Creating structure will make broken processes more obvious, but this doesn’t fix them, nor does it take away the need for people to be “heroes”.  This makes it easier for finger-pointing; however, it can also make for better accountability.
  • Creating an organization in the absence of good processes, clear structure and good people won’t ensure success (you’re just shuffling the chairs).  Regularly shuffling the deck doesn’t create more, or better, cards to play with.

What would happen in our companies if the pyramid looked more like this?

Systems Thinking Pyramid - People on Top

For starters, you could swap people in and out via cross-training and the company wouldn’t miss a beat.  This is because the organization supports the structure which supports the processes which support the people.  This approach is also more transferable when you want to share the best practice across multiple organizations, company sites, or business units.

Think back to the discussion the last two weeks about the Means and the End.  Why aren’t your LDM results meeting company expectations?  Is the problem with people, processes, structure, or your organization?  If you wanted to become more innovative and release new products into the marketplace faster, would you add “brighter” people, fix the NPI / NPD processes, or fix the reporting structure?  Did your recent annual re-organization achieve the improvements that were sought?  If you lost a few good people (heroes) that keep the place running, would it come to a screeching halt?  Or would the processes be so robust that you could quickly bring in a new person?

I like to listen with intentionality to where the problems lie – people, processes, structure, and / or organization.  Usually it’s a mix of all four.  Most of the time, our solutions or fixes to problems are targeted at the wrong one of the four.  Why didn’t that 5S program work last time – wrong people, no process to sustain, incorrect structure for ownership, or is it an organizational issue (culture)?  Learn to listen using the power of the pyramid.  Until next week, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

5 Principles of Lean Relationship Building

Lean Initiatives Work by Building Relationships  Between People

My blog last week struck a chord with many people either because they had experienced something very similar with the pyramids, or because they had never considered the inter-dependencies between our People, Processes, Structures and Organizations.  It’s usually the latter response that yields great opportunities for continuous improvement.

You see, we all have gaps in our daily work that come from issues between people.  Your lean initiative is working because you have an acute focus on people, their needs and your relationship with them.  Your lean initiative can also be failing because you have an acute gap in your focus on people, their needs and your relationship with them.  We are organizations filled with people.

Five Principles to Help Improve Lean Success

While these five principles are universal, they can apply to any situation where people are involved, their application to our lean efforts is much more pronounced. This is because they lead to success or failure more directly.  Most CI Leaders are individual contributors that must elicit the support from people that don’t report to them.  The better you are at “Winning Friends and Influencing People,” the more likely you’ll be succeeding at your lean journey.  This is true from senior management to the shop floor.  So, here are five lean relationship building principles to focus on:

1.  Maintain open, honest and straightforward communication

Meaning and intent are conveyed by more than just words alone.  Think of your tone of voice, expression, listening ability and apparent receptiveness to issues when looking at your success and failure rate.  If things aren’t working, talk about it.  If you need more leadership support, tell them.  If the team members need to own more of the improvement, be clear on your expectations.

 2.  Have mutual respect

Give respect, get respect.  The team members are not “beneath” you, just as the same way as your bosses shouldn’t feel “above” your efforts and needs.  Don’t allow your behavior to give people the cause to question your motives as being anything more than fair and objective.  If there isn’t a feeling of trust, there won’t be an environment of respect.

3.  Be issues-oriented and do not personalize

We must stay focused on the issues being discussed and not let our personalities get in the way of doing our jobs.  If others personalize a situation, do not get dragged in to the fray.  You must be diligent to work on the discipline to not let personal problems and preferences influence your work behavior and actions.

4.  Maintain a work environment that is absent of fear and intimidation

We must have an environment that permits the decisions of team members, management, CI leaders, and other experts to be questioned without the fear of retaliation or intimidation.  It will happen that during your journey people will question if you’re on the correct path, with the right people, and heading the “winning” direction.  Don’t pull the big hat out that you’re in charge!  You are responsible for collectively pulling the resources together to move the group toward the goal.  There is no ego in team.

5.  Understand each others roles and responsibilities

Thinking back to earlier blogs about RASIC or ARMI models, each person must know their part and how they’re contributing to the winning solution.  If anyone questions their role, quickly and clearly let them know your perspective.  If there is a disagreement, repeat steps 1 – 4 above.

Look back at your pyramid – people, processes, structure, and organization – and see how you are effectively using the five principles.   Next week, I will look at conflict in our pyramids.  Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

10 Steps to Managing Conflict in a Lean Workplace

Lean Conflict Management in the Pyramid

Where do conflicts arise from?  Is it just between people?  Can conflict arise between people and processes?  Have you ever seen conflicting processes?  How about a process that conflicts with the structure of your company?  How about new structures, processes or people that conflict with your organization’s culture?  I believe we get conflicts within, and between all levels of our pyramids.

Conflict in a Systems Thinking Pyramid

A Few Ways Conflict Is Created or Lasts in the Workplace

There are many practical ways to deal with conflict.  Many people will take a quick and easy approach which doesn’t always yield a sustainable resolution.  Often the problem is that the conflict has existed for a long time and a quick fix just isn’t going to cut it.  Sometimes we like to hang-on to a conflict because it gives us power or authority over an issue.  I’ve seen instances where conflict was purposely designed into existence.

Some examples include:

  • Adding a personality to a team that isn’t going to fit just to get some edge happening
  • Putting a new process into a structure that isn’t capable to support it
  • Creating a new structure that isn’t consistent with the organization’s culture or won’t fit easily into the processes that are established.

At the time I didn’t see the point, but in retrospect, when it was carefully managed, some of the “created conflict” actually improved the situation.

So here is my take on managing conflict.  I also put the “steps” in relative order of how I have seen effective conflict management handled.

1.  Take responsibility for dealing with the conflict
You are the best person to get this done.  If not you, who?  Do you trust anyone else?

2.  Recognize that there are 2 sides to every story or conflict
Actually, I like to think there are 3 – your version, my version, and the truth

3.  Listen
Just like in grade school – put on your good listening ears

4.  State the problem
Remember this is your first phase of problem solving

5.  Focus on job-related actions or elements of the conflict
Pulling out the ‘ole RASIC model – are you the R, A, S, I or C?  Is the other person the R or A?

6.  Ask questions
This will give more context and put the “meat on the bones” of the issue

7.  Separate the person from the behavior
You won’t get very far if your approach is to attack the person

8.  Get agreement on the conflict or problem
Yeah, right.  He said, she said.  BUT, if you don’t do this, you might as well stop now

9.  Tell your “side” of the story.  Let them tell their “side”
Evaluate where the problem lies -> closer to you or them?  Think of cause and effect

10.  Ask for commitment to resolve the conflict, no matter what
Resolving conflict won’t be for the faint of heart.  Are you in this for the long-haul?

Now What?

Once you’ve made it through step 10, your now getting to the crux of the conflict.  If you’re following an 8-Step Problem Solving approach (like I’ve discussed in the past), you’re at about Step 5 – Identifying Countermeasures.  This assumes that you’ve done an adequate job of Breaking Down the Problem (Step 2) and Identifying Potential Causes (Step 4).

So how does this help with our pyramid?

I’ll let you pull an actual conflict that you are currently having and give it a go through the 10 steps.  Remember – practice makes better, not perfect, because we don’t let perfect get in the way of better.

I’ve got something really cool brewing with respect to Total Productive Maintenance and visuals.  This will be a longer blog series with some great downloads.  Can’t say too much about it yet, but keep coming here and viola, there will be this series soon.  Until next week, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

Audit Process for Analyzing Standardization of Work in Lean Manufacturing

Getting Ready to Switch Gears

As I look to begin a new series on visual management as it relates to Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) programs and systems, I want to bridge some concepts from the recent past with what will be needed as the new series unfolds.  Specifically we need to look at standardization across the people, processes, structure and organization – our four levels of the pyramid.

Most companies speak loosely when it comes to standard work (SW), work instructions (WI), standard operating procedures (SOP), operator method sheets (OMS), training within industry (TWI), and other programs named with acronyms.  There are usually two parts of the equation that generate issues with standardization of work in lean manufacturing:

  1. The knowledge of the person creating the standard
    • Experience in the given situation
    • Training or expertise in target area or topic
    • Ability to clarify and crystallize that information into a format that adult learners learn
    • Ability to implement or deploy those standards
    • Ability to manage the standards when in use, including change management, audits, and enforcement
  2. The adoption rate of the operators to use the standard
    • Their understanding of the “why” of the document
    • Their understanding of the “how” of the document
    • Their willingness to follow the document
    • Their input on the continuous improvement of the document
    • Their responsibility and role in change management

Where can these issues come up?

I recently experienced firsthand the part one issues regarding standards in three separate instances.  There was the 10 year employee that was moved from Customer Service and HR into an EHS leader role at a plant; there was the 20+ employee who was a great operator with deep experience in the company that was “given” the Continuous Improvement leader role and the mantle to implement a 5S program; and there was the person had had very little credibility in the organization tasked with rolling out a lean program for the company that required skills to sell it up and down the company leadership ranks.  In each case the standards were either non-existent or non-effective.  So why do companies make these decisions?

Here is a checklist or audit process for analyzing the current state of standards:

  • Is the Standard Work documentation readily available within the work area?
  • Is all required safety equipment referenced on the Standard Work document being used?
  • Are all identified safety key point(s) in the Standard Work document being followed?
  • Are all identified quality key point(s) in the Standard Work document being followed?
  • Are all identified productivity key point(s) in the Standard Work document being followed?
  • Are all the referenced documents and systems up to date?

Bullets 2 – 4 are “Stop and Fix” findings because these could lead to very detrimental issues later.  When standards are not followed, you can have errors occurring that are safety, quality, productivity or delivery related.  When you dig deeper into the errors, you will typically find the root to be the fact that a standard does not exist, that an existing standard is not being followed, or that the standard exists and it is being followed but it needs to be revised.

Errors exist primarily for three reasons:

  1. A standard process does not exist
    • Note:  Process variation is increased when operators perform tasks differently and inconsistently.  Reducing process variation is a foundation of continuous improvement.
  2. A standard exists, but it was not followed
    • Note:  Don’t confuse a “standard expectation” with “standard work”
  3. The Standard Work exists, it was followed … but the process or tools are flawed, insufficient, outdated, unstable or incapable
    • Note:  The process or tools need to be enhanced or changed to meet the target

What is the value of these foundational elements for the standardization of work in lean manufacturing?

It will be very difficult to sustain certain elements of the visual management in a TPM program if these foundational elements are not in place.   In fac,t change management and standards are two key Core Competencies that a company can have.  Those that are good or great at it will typically out run the rest of the pack, leaving competitors saddled with safety, quality, productivity and delivery issues.  Take a moment to use the provided checklist to see what gaps you might have.  The finding from this reflection will be very important as we move into the next series. Until then, “see with open eyes, and understand with an open mind.”

Click below for a handy TPM related e-book from Brady!

Brady’s Preventive Maintenance Made Visual E-Book

TPM Framework Pillar Management

How do you manage your TPM framework?

Hey everyone.  We are about to embark on an eight week series which looks at how to keep our equipment running.  Based on the interest of the series called The Visual Machine, I plan to focus on one of the most important elements to sustain your initiative – standards.  For those that have followed this blog for some time know that I strongly believe visuals are the best way to sustain any initiative.  For keeping our equipment running, this might be your best tool.

Pillars of TPM frameworks.

There is a lot of information on the topic of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) as it relates to equipment uptime.  Most successful companies approach TPM on an enterprise or system level, rather than on a discrete machine level.  Having a corporate focus ensures that the proper resources get allotted to the design, implementation and sustainability of the program.  Many TPM frameworks consist of “pillars” that need to be carefully managed:

  • Autonomous maintenance
  • Quality maintenance
  • Planned maintenance
  • Individual improvement
  • Education and training
  • Safety, health and environment
  • Office or administrative TPM
  • Development management
  • Early equipment management

At the foundation for the pillars is some sort of 5S program, continuous improvement approach, team work or focus on waste.  What is interesting is that people throw in many other operational types of programs into the TPM stew.  I believe the basic idea is to get us from breakdown maintenance to preventative maintenance to predictive maintenance.  In other words, move from fixing equipment only when it breaks down (when it is most expensive and most damaging to our operation) to a condition where we are constantly monitoring the “health” of our machines using predictive techniques like in-situ measurements.

Which pillar is most common in different TPM frameworks?

Of all the different frameworks that you can find, almost all will include Autonomous Maintenance.  What does this mean?  At a high level, you would concentrate on (1) restoration and improvement of basic machine conditions, (2) prevention of deterioration back to unwanted condition, and (3) optimization of your program.  These elements consist of:

  • Initial cleaning and inspection (also called “clean to inspect”)
  • Problem solving on why the equipment is getting dirty
  • Creation of standards
  • General inspection
  • Autonomous inspection (operator led)
  • Continuous improvement of standards
  • Implementation of ownership by operators

The key to creating a sustainable program is implementing visual standards.

As with all visuals, the easier to understand, the better.  The best visuals are placed at the point of need, and enable you to quickly and efficiently tell normal from abnormal.  When an abnormal condition exists, you should be able to return the situation quickly back to the standard.  TPM relies on the operators to do this instead of a traditional maintenance staff.  This is not to say that such a staff is not needed, but rather those tasks that can be done by an operator should be.  In this series we will discover some best practices for deploying standards that will sustain your pillars.  Stay tuned.  Until next week, “see with open eyes and understand with an open mind.”

An Example of True Equipment Uptime Through OEE Metrics

Measuring Equipment Uptime:  An OEE Breakdown

This week we are going to look at ways of knowing whether your equipment is running in the most cost effective way.  As with any initiative, you want to find a way to measure progress so you can determine your improvement.  Since this series is focused on standards, your plant or organization should select a uniform way to compare.

Symptoms of being reactive rather than proactive with equipment maintenance.

I’ve worked with companies that are squarely stuck in the breakdown maintenance mode.

Symptoms include:

  • Reacting to machines after they’ve already stopped working
  • Operators who have no involvement in keeping the machine running
  • Loss of production and scheduling nightmares due to this unplanned stoppage.

These companies will often measure things like how long it takes for the maintenance person to repair the machine.  Their continuous improvement effort usually attempts to decrease this time.  But, isn’t that the value added component?  Doesn’t lean teach us to focus on the non-value added component to eliminate waste?

Let’s face it – even if you do everything to maintain your car to keep it running, there will come a time when an unplanned event happens.  Same is the case with our production equipment.  In a previous blog, I touched on the concept of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).  This can be a standard metric that you incorporate at every level in our organization for comparing the current and future states of your machine uptime.  While OEE is fairly simple to understand, implementing the program can take a lot of effort, but it is worth it.

Three Factors of OEE Metrics

Availability Rate

The OEE metric is comprised of three factors – an Availability Rate (AR), an Efficiency Rate (ER), and a Quality Rate (QR).  The AR factor is the one that evaluates how much unplanned downtime you experience.  When you look at factory capacity, you need to remove from the time allotted, any planned maintenance activities that are part of your Preventative Maintenance (PM) program.  For example, if you have a line that runs 60 hours, and it takes 3 hours to do the weekly PMs, then the equipment is available for 57 hours.  When you schedule the weekly production, you need to use the 57 hours of availability instead of the 60 hours that the operators work.   The PM activities remove 5% of equipment time from the operator.  As a plant manager, you can see why it might be tempting to “put-off” the PMs and just run the equipment to failure.


Calendar Time and Available Time Example

Now let’s assume that the line has older equipment and that something breaks down every shift or so.  Collectively, you lose 8 hours due to unplanned downtime during the week, and your net operating time is 49 hours.  Your plant manager would be very interested in understanding why you have so much unplanned downtime (8 hours) as it kills off another 14% of output.  In this category, you’d be looking for adjustments, set-ups, and equipment failure.  Our trained lean eyes should recognize that we have some tools to address these (like SMED).


Available Time and Operating Rate Example

Efficiency Rate – Performance

Continuing our example, let’s suppose that the line is running at full speed at 400 ft/sec, or 80 cases/min, or some other “speed” factor.  But, we rarely run at this level because we have jams, misfeeds, blockages, and starved machines (upstream isn’t keeping up).  Over the course of a week, these total up to 8 hours of loss, giving 41 hours to make parts.  We’ve lost another 16% and a sum of 32% (41/60 hours) from the plant.  The plant manager is getting pretty hot at the situation and you determine that your lean toolbox has some approaches to help out.


Operating Time and Efficiency Rate Example

Quality Rate

Finally, let’s say you have a pretty good first pass yield at 93%.  You can rework some of the product, but most gets scrapped.  You team up with your six sigma guru to attack process variation, but in the current state you lose another 4% which is about 2 hours.  You are down to 39 hours for the line.  Your plant manager is thinking he is getting 60 hours of work a week, when in fact he is getting 39 (35% less than scheduled).  Ouch!  Is this situation similar to what you experience?  Do you even know?  Most plants never pull together a metric like OEE, so all of the losses get attributed to different buckets, but the whole plant can “feel” the 35% loss.

Operating Time and Quality Rate Example


Use this OEE metric to develop a clear and cohesive plan of attack.

If you summed up the entire example, this would be how the plant “feels” the OEE metric.  Even though you might have different functional groups responsible for each factor, unless you make a cohesive plan to attack this, you will be hard pressed to make any progress.


Total Valuable Operating Time


Next week we’ll begin looking at how implementing standard for each of the losses can help significantly when it comes to learning and understanding how to improve our processes.  Until then, “see with open eyes and understand with an open mind.”

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Unplanned Downtime: Identifying the ‘Root Cause’

Evaluating Unplanned Downtime Causes with Availability Rate

I will continue this week looking at just one of the components of the OEE calculation to show how we want to drive problem solving down to the level that we can apply countermeasures.  In the past, I’ve illustrated how our visuals (controls, management, standards, etc.) are really ways to sustain improvements by implementing them as countermeasures.  A countermeasure is an action that you would take to eliminate a problem from reoccurring.

The first of the OEE factors – Availability Rate (AR) – is the one that evaluates how much unplanned downtime you lose out of your total available time to make product.  Reasons for our unplanned downtime can be categorized into Equipment Failure and Set-ups / Adjustments.  Recall that our example has us losing 8 hours to these categories:

What is a “root cause” exactly?

Structured problem solving would have us investigate all of the potential causes for the equipment failures.  When we look for these causes, we need to shift through the “trivial many” to find the “vital few” causes.  Typically we flag these as “root causes”.  Most places I’ve been use the term “root cause” very loosely.  A root cause needs to be like a light switch.  When the cause is in place, the effect is seen.  When the cause is “turned off”, the effect stops totally.  Most of our “root causes” are not always 100% effective.  A very good tool to use with your team is the fishbone diagram (also called an Ishikawa or Affinity diagram):




Let’s build one of these for the equipment failure loss.  The “bones” or factors that we want to categorize the causes in to are:

  • Man
  • Machine
  • Method
  • Material
  • Measurement
  • Environment

You’ll often find that a given cause might fit in to more than one “bone”.   This is acceptable because we are trying to discover all the potential causes for equipment failure, so it doesn’t matter where it gets categorized, as long as we’ve identified it.  I’ve changed the format so it is easier to see the potential causes for the equipment failure effect:

It is best to conduct this discussion with as many people as possible from multiple disciplines.  Don’t rely just on the operators.  This list is not comprehensive, but you get the point.  You can determine with further study if any of these are root causes for the equipment failures.  After evaluating, you might find that a cause is still lingering.  Furthermore, you may need to create fishbone diagrams below one of the factors.  For example, poor lubrication could be at the head and you would discover causes for poor lubrication.  You continue until you can turn off the effect when you isolate the root cause.

Next week we’ll take this example further to understand how visuals can now be used as countermeasures to sustain our improvements.  I will also briefly review what makes a good visual.  Until next week, “see with open eyes and understand with an open mind.”

Increasing your line of sight and improving sustainability from the 5 Why’s approach with a fishbone diagram.

The 5 Why’s and the Fishbone Diagram

When we are drilling down for root cause, it is often the case that a factor in a fishbone analysis becomes the head of the next lower diagram.  Make sense?  When I discuss how a team or company does structured problem solving, frequently they offer the “5 Why’s” as their approach.  I don’t want to discourage this method, as it has merit.  However, when we reduce the line of investigation to a series of questions, we can overlook the fix.  Here is what I mean.

The 5 Why’s approach goes like this:

“We have equipment downtime.”

WHY? -> because the operator didn’t do the preventative maintenance required

WHY? -> because the maintenance team didn’t have time to work on them

WHY? -> because they were busy putting in the new XB-15A

WHY? -> because we need that new line to add capacity

WHY? -> because demand has been increasing

OK.  That is a series of five why’s.  Where did that get us?  The root cause for our equipment downtime is that demand has been increasing.  Case closed.  Problem solved.  Do you feel a little cheated on the answer?  What is going to be your next step so the equipment doesn’t go down again – stop taking orders?  How do you implement a sustainable solution?  Here is how we could see it with cascading fishbone diagrams (again, this isn’t in the graphical format):

Preventive Maintenance Cascading Fishbone Diagram

How does fishbone diagram compare to the 5 Why’s method?

Well, you definitely have more potential causes to investigate.  You could cascade these down another level:

Cascading Fishbone Diagrams

Here is an example of a lubrication map.

Let’s talk about countermeasures now.

Remember that the most effective ones will be visual and placed at the point of need.  I highlighted the potential causes in purple that could have very straightforward visual countermeasures to sustain.  If we just focus on the “Method” bone we could do the following:

  • Color code the PM document to the area, equipment, lube type, frequency, etc
  • Color code the lubricants by family, equipment, lube points, criticality, etc
  • Make the FIFO process very visual with expiration or “use by” dates, discrete locations, Kanban levels, reorder points, person responsible,
  • Make the PM document very visual with photos, process steps, clear instructions, etc
  • Create a visual audit process with standard work and verification steps
  • Create a plant, department, cell wide lubrication map showing equipment by criticality, lubrication by location and machine, frequency, responsibility, etc

You can use some creativity when making a visual PM document.  Include the operators’ perspectives to ensure that all activities are captured.  To further improve upon my example, you could include photos of the locations of the equipment for reference.  Remember that the more graphical the document, the better.  Next week we’ll continue to investigate how maintenance tasks can be improved by using visuals.  Until then, “see with open eyes and understand with an open mind.”

Efficiency Rate – Identifying Idling, Stoppage and Reduced Speed Issues

Factoring in Efficiency Rate

The next component of the OEE calculation, which is usually the hardest to identify and correct, is the Efficiency or Productivity Rate.  The reason that these factors are more difficult to attack is because you typically don’t have an all-out blitz to restore the condition back to standard.  When your equipment goes down hard, you have an obvious situation that all the maintenance people attack to get the machine running again.  When you have a quality issue, you typically have all the quality and production people scrambling to correct the situation to being producing good parts.  But, when you are running below “name plate” speed, or you idle the machine, it looks like its only part of the process.

The second of the OEE factors – Efficiency Rate (ER) – is the one that evaluates how much you are idling or stopping the machine, or running it at reduced speeds.

Many will argue the difference between running the machine at an idle, stop, or down.  These three are all components of OEE but really indicate different issues.  Recall from the previous blog how having your equipment down affects the unplanned downtime component.  In this factor, stopping the machine is typically on a much shorter time interval.  Running at slower speeds is usually the condition right before stopping, which is the condition often right before being down.  Recall that our graphic illustrates these two categories as:


When stoppages or reduced speed becomes part of the normal process …

We can once again use structured problem solving to investigate all of the potential causes for the idling / stoppages and reduced speed.  When we look for these causes, we need carefully determine which issues have become part of our daily process.  When we purchased the equipment we probably had some “name plate” capacity or output measurement that we no longer abide by.  For example, if the new machine was able to fun at 400 ft/min or at 1000 parts/hr and now we run it at 150 ft/min for the first 1000 parts and then incrementally creep up the speeds to get it to our run condition, we likely have a reduced speed issue.  If during the run, the material begins to behave differently, and we have to slow down the equipment in order to make good product, we likely have a reduced speed issue.  If we have to constantly idle the equipment or stop it briefly to make a change to the material, make a quick measurement, or clear some contamination, we likely have an idling or stoppage issue.  But, most often when we do a time study or watch machine for improvement reasons, these factors look like part of the normal process.  In fact, they do become part of our normal process!

What may be considered standard, may actually be a hidden issue.

I did a cursory fishbone analysis for both the idling / stoppage and reduced speed factors.  Remember, these are just the starting point, and you’ll likely fill up more of the matrix with your issues.  The challenge is that many of these issues become written into our standards and become hidden.  Not only that, but these are more operator dependent, meaning that different operators will run the machine in ways that introduce varying degrees of problems.  When a machine goes down, it is easy to see.  But when a machine is slowed, it is very temporal and harder to witness.  With careful investigation of the process these losses will be uncovered.

Idling and Stoppage Fishbone

Reduced Speed Fishbone

Just like before, you can drive these factors down to lower levels to get to the root cause.  For example, if we are idling the machine to wait for parts, there is a root cause for that.  In a similar fashion, having to make in-process adjustments to the material while the line is running has contributing factors that need to be corrected.

Next week we’ll take this example further to understand how visuals can now be used as countermeasures to sustain our improvements around these insidious time traps that get built in to our daily production.  Until next week, “see with open eyes and understand with an open mind.”

How Quality Rate (QR) Ties into OEE

Calculating the OEE Factor:  Quality Rate

The last of the OEE factors – Quality Rate (QR) – is the one that evaluates how much scrap and rework you have.  In many situations, we accept scrap as just part of the way the machine works. 

Ideally, we should be measuring first pass yield (FPY) and scrap together to get a complete picture of how our equipment is running. 

I’ve seen production facilities that have so many rework loops (hidden factory) that the most important thing is just to get the product out, without regard to the additional labor required to get that part out.

Net Operating Time and Valuable Operating Time

When we take a closer look at OEE …

We can once again use structured problem solving to investigate all of the potential causes for the scrap and rework.  When we look for these causes, we need carefully determine which issues have become acceptable as part of running the machine.  When we look at rework over the course of a production line or value stream, the amount of good labor thrown at bad parts becomes unthinkable.  When we have high levels of rework, we lose capacity across the equipment for “good first time” parts.  A lean daily management chart that encompasses OEE might look like the following:

Lean Daily Management chart that encompasses OEE

Next week we’ll look at how to deploy the OEE metric and ways to run your production floor using it.  Until next week, “see with open eyes and understand with an open mind.”

Brian Harston

Brian Harston

Lean Leader

Master of Science degree in manufacturing management with an emphasis in lean implementation from Eastern Illinois University. Formerly of Caterpillar Inc., Harley-Davidson and the 82nd Airborne Division 5th/73rd Recon.

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