The Lean Bug!

Whatever you think of when you see the words “Lean Manufacturing” or “Lean Thinking” you cannot get away from the fact it is a set of business principles, which, when applied, deliver exceptional results.

Over my career, I have seen the impact and benefit that Lean Manufacturing brings to any size of business, from an Engineer (in the 90s) working at an Small SME to a Corporate Exec (2009) implementing Lean Strategies.

I personally got the bug for Lean working for a small company called Linread Northbridge (although part of McKechnie Plc). We were making precision fasteners for several sectors but predominately Aerospace. The MD at the time gave me a book to read on “Kaizen” and I was hooked. From then on I have implemented Lean within every business I have worked in to now helping Manufacturing SMEs with short, high impact Interventions to major Lean Programmes and Strategies.

My first Kaizen event in the 90s was facilitating a SMED event on a Header Machine that took a whole shift to change-over from one product to the next, being trained, coached and mentored by a Japanese Sensei. We got the change-over down to 30 minutes. Through using the correct KPIs and driving root cause analysis I’ve increased production output and capacity in manufacturing cells that businesses have said couldn’t be done. I’ve moved 100+ machining centres within 5 days to create flow and as an Exec have put in place Strategies that realised Savings of +£15m within its first year.

Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

I’ve heard the words “it won’t work here” more times than anything and I can tell you it’s Bu&*s*&t. The smallest improvement can have the biggest impact and everyday day is a day to grow and develop your potential. (Marginal Gains – The doctrine of marginal gains is all about small incremental improvements in any process adding up to a significant improvement when they are all added together.)

The skill is adapting, modifying and re-designing those business principles to ensure you get measurable and sustained business performance, after all in its simplest form all you are doing is looking at a time line from ‘Sales & Marketing through to production, production through to Customer Delivery’ and reducing that time line by removing the Non-Value Added wastes within it. Yes there are loads of tools and techniques that go hand in hand with that, but the biggest one is leveraging the knowledge within your people to drive continuous improvement.
Lean Manufacturing is not merely a set of mutually supporting techniques, it’s a change in the organisation’s culture and thought processes. The benefits to any business (regardless of size) are huge, and are only limited (in my opinion) by your Organisation’s Culture and Leadership Behaviour. Companies that fully commit to Lean dramatically outperform their competitors over time.
So get as close as possible to where the work is being done, lead from the ground up to first find what the real problems are and then face and resolve the underlying challenges.

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Improve Productivity

Copy and Deploy the ultimate productivity swipe file to reduce costs and increase efficiency of your processes.

OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) is a “best practices” metric for monitoring and improving your manufacturing processes (i.e. machines, cells, production lines…). OEE is simple, practical and powerful. It takes the most common sources of manufacturing productivity losses and places them into three categories: Availability, Performance and Quality.

This swipe file will help in understanding the data required to monitor your machines and manufacturing processes in shifting towards IR4.0 and taking the next step in fully automating the data collection.

For further reading on OEE “click here

OEE - Improve Manufacturing Productivity

Benefits of OEE

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Get your Changeovers out of the Slow Lane

Benefits of SMED  (Single minute exchange of dies)

  • WIP and lot size reduction.
  • Finished goods inventory reduction.
  • Improved machine/resource utilisation.

Whether you are high volume or low volume business, changeovers is one of those things that can sap the living life out of your manufacturing process.

An unstructured/wasteful approach to changeovers (SMED, set-up, etc) has the uncanny ability to grow arms and legs, and those arms and legs can even grow arms and legs.

I first witnessed a set up reduction back in the early 90’s as a Kaizen Engineer manufacturing Aerospace Fasteners, we were being trained by a Japanese sensei in Lean Manufacturing, running three events on different machines; a centreless grinder; a header machine and thread roller.

Our team had the header machine, we videoed the actual set up so we could observe the waste within the process, much to our surprise there was 8 hours of it????? A WHOLE SHIFT WORTH OF CHANGEOVER for a production run that would probably last no more than 30/60mins depending on batch size, and batch size we were talking thousands. It was running three shifts.

Now bearing in mind, a major customer had flagged this as an high risk to their operation due to capacity and were forcing discussions on us purchasing another machine?????

At the start of the week, we we’re thinking a 50% reduction would be excellent, never in a million years did we think we’d get to sub 30mins, but we did!

Long Changeovers drive so much waste within your business, WIP, Overproduction, delays, waiting, transportation…..so they need to be focussed on.

The main benefits are as shown

Key Principle of SMED

INTERNAL SET UP

Internal set up activities can only be performed when the process is stopped and must be kept to the absolute minimum in number and time taken to complete. Internal set-up activities should be limited to the actual fitting or removing of the Tool or Die or Material ONLY.

EXTERNAL SET UP

External set up activity can be performed with the process running and therefor does not affect the core changeover time.

As many changeover activities as possible should be external, leaving as few as possible as internal activities.

The statement that always sticks in my mind from my early SMED activities is ELIMINATE, COMBINE, SIMPLIFY.

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The Productivity Puzzle and Lean

I’ve never been one to shout about Lean, Six Sigma or Theory of Constraints, to individuals to solve a solution. I personally have though, applied the tools and techniques to resolve a situation or gain an opportunity I have faced. Granted, it’s not just about the application of tools and techniques, it’s equally important to focus on People, Culture and Managing Change within today’s organisations and society. Every single person has touched or been a part of a Lean process, within our everyday life from grocery shopping to our work we will have been in contact with lean in motion.

The interesting thing I have noticed recently are the articles beginning to appear regarding “is Lean at a crossroads?” and “How Lean is perceived today” particularly in the UK (but perhaps globally). An article by Morpheus Group stated “Businesses are taking a much more pragmatic approach, using a blend of tools….with very few businesses labeling their Corporate Programmes as Lean”.

It does seem that Lean and other Japanese terms associated with it are perceived a risk to alienating the workforce. I wonder why? Are we that uncomfortable with something that is not invented by us?? Are we hiding behind the terms as an excuse not to change??? (There is no doubting it is hard to implement and sustain, but that should never be an excuse). When I personally think about these questions it’s never been about the wording (don’t get me wrong I do cringe with some of them) but it’s about the application, execution/implementation that is key and the right behaviours that drive it so that we can benefit from it.

Businesses are placing a lot of importance on Strategic Cost Saving and Quality. This is absolutely fundamental in “Change” for any business. Strategy and Performance Management, Policy Deployment, Hoshin Kanri, whatever you choose to call it, is the back bone of your business, it is how you do business.

I believe Business Improvement is more important today than it ever has been with the globalisation of markets. What is it that gives us the competitive edge? In particular UK Productivity remains below pre-recession levels. I have been in discussion groups where an estimated 40% of productivity is lost through non value added activities, an estimated £3 Billion cost. Something Lean, Six Sigma, TOC can certainly impact.

This debate will carry on and involves so much from skills, impact on society, etc., etc.

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“Performance Rooms” a powerful Visual Management Tool.

Over the last few months I had a number of discussions regarding what I call “Performance Rooms” others call “War Rooms” (never really been keen on that expression but as long as the process is followed what does it matter) or the Japanese term “Obeya Rooms”. I will use Obeya in this article.

These rooms and the disciplined approach to the process behind them helps businesses to reach their strategic/tactical goals and promotes the creation of solutions and actions that can be developed and implemented quickly. The aspect of Managing Performance Improvement for any business undertaking Growth or Lean.

Strategy Room

The following is an overview to understand the theory behind it.

Obeya is based on a simple idea that we dedicate: time, space, the coordination to root cause analysis and problem solving so that organisational barriers are minimised. This ability to maintain a disciplined approach to real-time problem awareness, listening to team members concerns, making discoveries, resolving problems, collaborating and above all developing/mentoring our people is critical to the success of a business.

They promote the coordination and implementation of Strategic and Tactical issues by mobilising and pulling together the intellectual resources of all employees in the service of the firm.

The following are different types of Obeya Rooms (not limited to):

Product Launch; when developing a new product, managers responsible for decision making in design, production engineering, and manufacturing gather in one place to shorten the lead-time through real-time problem resolution.

Business Process Layout: Centralised data collection, prioritising and action planning.

Focused: Project Performance Rooms, SQPDC, A3 Problem Solving, Continuous Improvement rooms.

Observations to consider when looking at Obeya Rooms :

  • Use two colors when tracking status, Red and Green. This avoids ambiguities; the status is ON TARGET or NOT.
  • Define SMART metrics (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely), no more than 3-5 focused metrics as more would be impractical for every day review.
  • Problem, Follow-Up and Countermeasure Boards are mandatory, the team must be prompted to solve issues immediately. The deferment/stalling to solving the problem is not allowed.
  • Meeting Discipline – Punctuality, Question and Challenge with dignity and Respect and the meeting should last no more than 30mins.
  • The flow for review takes the shape of Check, Plan, Do, Check, Act instead of the normal PDCA.

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We’re different it won’t work here

It’s been an interesting month, great meetings, new contacts and one of the most interesting presentations I‘ve given regarding Operational Excellence and Problem Solving.

The presentation was given to the Manufacturing and Construction sectors as part of a Seminar/Workshop.

The comments at the end we’re ones I have heard over and over again, “We’re Different, it won’t work here!

Is “we’re different” an excuse not try to improve?

This got me thinking in one of my reflective moments, what is it that naturally creates this push back? Do we think that Business Excellence, Operational Excellence, Lean or Six Sigma is a technical tool and technique, only applied to manufacturing, high volume processes, etc? Is it we naturally assume that it’s for the automotive industry?

There are a number of answers you can come up with that can be assigned to this emotion and push back.

So we have to ask ourselves

Do business improvement principles (as that is all they are) apply to pretty much every process? Yes, I’d say so. Does that mean its easy to put in place? Absolutely not. But that, along with being different, should be no reason to not try.

Which leads me on from last month’s article REFLECTION! and into OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE TRANSFORMATION

We must first seek to understand what is it we are trying to solve, what problem? This could be as an organisation, function, sub-process.

Then we must ask,

What process improvement needs to be done? What do I need to design, re-design, improve to solve our problem and achieve our objective?

Next,

Do I have the capability in house? Do I have the skillset within my team?

We then come to,

What mindset do I need to have? Growth? (One of learning as we do not have the capability in house), Implementation (I have the capability so execute, or get support if you don’t), Experimental (try and test)

Remembering that Leadership behaviour and Programme Management are the key. The governance process you apply.

Final thought – it’s often said that “Operational Excellence doesn’t succeed or fail… it’s just a set of principles. What succeeds or fails is the organisation or the leaders who try.” Success isn’t guaranteed — it requires hard work and creativity to figure out how will work in your setting, because you are different!

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