Lean Execution

Lean Execution and OEE!

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Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics
Posted in Advanced Lean Manufacturing, APQP, Availability, Capacity, Cost Control, Eliminate Waste, Execution, FREE Downloads, Lean, Lean Metrics, Lean Mindset, OEE: Overall Equipment Efficiency, Performance, Problem Solving, Process Control and OEE, Quality, Quality Factor, Root Cause Analysis, Terminology, Training, Trouble Shooting, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Method Matters and OEE

English: This figure demonstrates the central ...

English: This figure demonstrates the central limit theorem. It illustrates that increasing sample sizes result in sample means which are more closely distributed about the population mean. It also compares the observed distributions with the distributions that would be expected for a normalized Gaussian distribution, and shows the reduced chi-squared values that quantify the goodness of the fit (the fit is good if the reduced chi-squared value is less than or approximately equal to one). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tricks of the Trade 

Work smarter not harder! If we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that sometimes we have a tendency to make things more difficult than they need to be. A statistics guru once asked me why a sample size of five (5) is commonly used when plotting X-Bar / Range charts. I didn’t really know the answer but assumed that there had to be a “statistically” valid reason for it. Do you know why?

Before calculators were common place, sample sizes of five (5) made it easier to calculate the average (X-Bar). Add the numbers together, double it, then move the decimal over one position to the left.  All of this could be done on a simple piece of paper, using some very basic math skills, making it possible for almost anyone to chart efficiently and effectively.

  1. Sample Measurements:
    1. 2.5
    2. 2.7
    3. 3.1
    4. 3.2
    5. 1.8
  2. Add them together:
    • 2.5+2.7+3.1+3.2+1.8 = 13.3
  3. Double the result:
    • 13.3 + 13.3 = 26.6
  4. Move the decimal one position to the left:
    • 2.66

To calculate the range of the sample size, we subtract the smallest value (1.8) from the largest value (3.2). Using the values in our example above, the range is 3.2 – 1.8 = 1.4.

The point of this example is not to teach you how to calculate Average and Range values. Rather, the example demonstrates that a simple method can make a relatively complex task easier to perform.

Speed of Execution

We’ve written extensively on the topic of Lean and Overall Equipment Effectiveness or OEE as means to improve asset utilization. However, the application of Lean thinking and OEE doesn’t have stop at the production floor.  Can the pursuit of excellence and effective asset utilization be applied to the front office too? 

Today’s computers operate at different speeds depending on the manufacturer and installed chip set. Unfortunately, faster computers can make sloppy programming appear less so. In this regard, I’m always more than a little concerned with custom software solutions.

We recently worked on an assignment that required us to create unique combinations of numbers. We used a “mask” that is doubled after each iteration of the loop to determine whether a bit is set. This simple programming loop requiring this is also the kernel or core code of the application.  All computers work with bits and bytes.  One byte of data has 8 bit positions (0-7) and represents numeric values as follows:

  • 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 =   0
  • 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 =   1
  • 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 =   2
  • 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 =   4
  • 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 =   8
  • 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 =  16
  • 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 =  32
  • 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 =  64
  • 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 = 128

To determine whether a single bit is set, our objective is to test it as we generate the numbers 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 and so on – each representing a unique bit position in binary form . Since this setting and testing of bits is part of our core code, we need a method that can double a number very quickly:

  • Multiplication:  Multiply by Two, where x = x * 2
  • Addition:  Add the Number to Itself, where x = x + x

These seem like simple options, however, in computer terms, multiplying is slower than addition, and SHIFTing is faster than addition.  You may notice that every time we double a number, we’re simply shifting our single “1” bit to the left one position.  Most computers have a built in SHL instruction in the native machine code that is designed to do just that.  In this case, the speed of execution of our program will depend the language we choose and how close to the metal it allows us to get.  Not all languages provide for “bit” manipulation.  For this specific application, a compiled native assembly code routine would provide the fastest execution time.  Testing whether a bit is set can also be performed more efficiently using native assembly code.

Method Matters

The above examples demonstrate that different methods can be used to yield the same result.  Clearly, the cycle times will be different for each of the methods that we deploy as well.  This discussion matters from an Overall Equipment Effectiveness, OEE, perspective as well.  Just as companies focus on reducing setup time and eliminating quality problems, many also focus on improving cycle times. 

Where operations are labour intensive, simply adding an extra person or more to the line may improve the cycle time.  Unless we change the cycle time in our process standard, the Performance Factor for OEE may exceed 100%.  If we use the ideal cycle time determined for our revised “method”, it is possible that the Performance Factor remains unchanged.

Last Words

The latter example demonstrates once again why OEE cannot be used in isolation.  Although an improvement to cycle time will create capacity, OEE results based on the new cycle time for a given process may not necessarily change.  Total Equpiment Effectiveness Performance (TEEP) will actually decrease as available capacity increases. 

When we’re looking at OEE data in isolation, we may not necessarily the “improved” performance we were looking for – at least not in the form we expected to see it.  It is just as important to understand the process behind the “data” to engage in a meaningful discussion on OEE.

Your feedback matters

If you have any comments, questions, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to leave your comment in the space below or email us at feedback@leanexecution.ca or feedback@versalytics.com.  We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for visiting. 

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Versalytics Analytics
Posted in Advanced Lean Manufacturing Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

OEE – Its not what you know …

It’s not what you know but what you understand that matters most.  ~ Redge

Discerning  perceived knowledge from real understanding is a challenge for many leaders.  To memorize facts and figures and to correctly answer related questions simply by recalling this same information from memory does not necessarily imply understanding of the material itself just as we cannot infer that someone is a skilled mathematician from their perceived ability to “perform” simple multiplication from recall.

Why this matters

Having knowledge of metrics is not necessarily the same as understanding what the metric is measuring or what it means. Consider that the formula for Overall Equipment Effectiveness, or OEE, is the product of three factors:  Availability, Performance, and Quality. After basic training, anyone can recite the formula and calculate OEE correctly. This basic knowledge does not necessarily equate to any real level of understanding of what is actually being measured.

OEE measures how effectively an asset’s time was used to produce a quality part. Confusion as to what is really being measured typically occurs when the Quality factor is calculated. For a single run, numerous texts teach that we can calculate the quality factor as:

Quality Factor = (Good Parts Produced / Total Parts Produced) x 100.

While the calculation will yield the correct result for a single instance, the formula isn’t quite complete as presented and doesn’t work when attempting to calculate OEE for multiple parts running through the same machine. The Quality formula should actually be stated as:

Quality Factor = (Good Parts Produced x Cycle Time / Total Parts Produced x Cycle Time)

or

Quality Factor = Pure Time to Produce Good Parts / Pure Time to Produce ALL Parts.

When expressed this way, we can state how much time was spent producing good parts, total parts, and defective parts! The time lost to produce defective or scrap parts is given by the formula:

Lost Quality Time = Time to Produce ALL parts – Time to Produce Good Parts.

OEE is not complicated when we understand what it is we’re measuring. By way of example, assume a production shift consists of 435 minutes of scheduled production time where breaks and lunches have already been accounted for. For the sake of simplicity, we will assume the process is running at rate (performance = 100%).  A part having a cycle time of 2 minutes was scheduled to run for the entire shift where 160 good parts from a total of 180 parts were produced.

From this basic data and assuming the process was running at rate – (Performance = 100%) – we can derive the following:

Availability = Up Time / Total Time = ((180 x 2) / 435) x 100 = (360 / 435) x 100 = 82.76%

Performance = 100% (assuming run at rate) = 100%

Quality =Time to Produce Good Parts / Time to Produce ALL Parts

Quality = ((160 x 2) / (180 x 2)) x 100 = (320 / 360) x 100 =  88.89%

OEE = A x P x Q = 82.76% x 100% x 88.89% = 73.56%

Cross Check:  435 x OEE = 435 x 73.56% = 320

Before calculating the percent values for each factor, we can see that time is common to all factors. We can readily determine that we lost 40 minutes due to the production of defective parts (360 -320) and that we also lost 75 minutes due to unplanned downtime events.

To calculate OEE for a given machine, shift, department, or plant we can easily sum the total “time” based values for each factor and calculating the percentages accordingly.  These calculations are clearly conveyed in prior posts and in our free downloads (see our free downloads page or on the widget on the sidebar).

What you know is taught, what you understand is learned. ~ Redge

When we truly understand what is being measured, the data that forms the basis for our calculations becomes more meaningful too. We can even challenge the data before the calculations are made.  The greatest frustration occurs when the results are not what we expected and the reasons are either in the very data that generated them or worse, when someone doesn’t understand the calculation they’re actually performing.

Many years ago I recall reading a sign that stated, “The proof of wisdom is in the results“. While there is truth in this statement, the implication is that we understand the results too!

Your feedback matters

If you have any comments, questions, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to leave your comment in the space below or email us at feedback@leanexecution.ca or feedback@versalytics.com.  We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for visiting.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Vergence Analytics
Posted in Advanced Lean Manufacturing Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Collaboration …

The Collaboration Experiment

The Collaboration Experiment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Great minds don’t necessarily think alike, they think together.

~ Redge

How many times have you heard someone say you should just set aside your differences and move on? I suggest that bringing our differences to the table is an opportunity to create something that is new and better than we ever imagined.

We tend to be quite content when someone shares our vision,thoughts, and ideas. While it’s a great feeling to be “on the same page” as everyone else in the room, it does little to expand our thinking beyond our immediate comfort zone.

Embracing our differences creates the opportunity to step outside the box and to create something that is greater than ourselves. I continue to be amazed by people outside of a given discipline who present ideas that are uninhibited by preconceived notions or specific expertise that would cause them to be suppressed.

Even more intriguing is the synergy that is created when great minds come together and create something that neither could have conceived as individuals. A lean culture is one where creativity is continually stimulated and permitted to flourish, all the while remaining focused on that ever elusive vision.

Often times resistance to change serves to improve and reinforce its necessity.

Your feedback matters

If you have any questions, comments, or topics you would like us to address, please feel free to contact us by using the comment space below or by sending an email to LeanExecution@Gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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Vergence Analytics
Posted in Collaboration, Culture, Leadership, Vision Tagged with: , , , , ,

Learning From Mistakes

Always make new mistakes (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

An event occurred this afternoon that required an immediate resolution. When asked whether we were going to pursue the root cause, I could only respond with this question:

What’s the point of making mistakes if we’re not going to learn from them?

This is likely the shortest post I ever published here, however, I think the simplicity of the message makes the point very clear.

There’s always a better way and more than one solution. Learning from our mistakes creates opportunities to find new and better ways to improve our operations and Overall Equipment Efffectivenesss (OEE).

If you do wish to delve deeper into the topic of mistakes, I encourage you to read some of the related articles featured below.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

Vergence Analytics
Posted in Culture, Leadership, Lean, Problem Solving, Root Cause Analysis Tagged with: , , ,

Goals Without Means Are Meaningless

English: Everything starts from needs or desir...

The new year is upon us and, as is typical for this time of year, resolutions are one of the primary topics of conversation. With just over a week into the new year, it is very likely that the discussions of resolutions and goals have already begun to subside.

Unfortunately, for the many who do make resolutions, very few ever manage to achieve them. The reasons for failure are many but, more often than not, we either set the wrong goals or we fail to identify intermediate performance goals for the range of activities required to reach the final goal.

Where do you stand?

Setting the Right Goals

The diagram suggests that goals are determined by reviewing our needs and desires. However, what we desire most is often what we need least. For business leaders, strategy, goals, and objectives stem from a vision statement that reflects our purpose for being, our WHY. We are, in essence, Driven by Dreams and Powered by Goals.

What do the “right goals” look like? The John Whitmore model offers the following three (3) acronyms to help us discern the value and sustainability of our goals:

  1. SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Phased.
  2. PURE: Positively Stated, Understood, Relevant, and Ethical.
  3. CLEAR: Challenging, Legal, Environmentally Sound, Agreed, and Recorded.

To be successful, resolutions, much like goals and objectives, require more than a simple statement of intent. We need a plan that describes how we’re actually going to achieve them. In other words, we need to define “the means to an end.” As suggested by the Whitmore model, the expression, “Fail to Plan – Plan to Fail”, is only partially true when we consider that our success also requires us to be sufficiently motivated and challenged to embark on, and endure, the journey.

What if …

Clearly, not everything goes as planned. There are risks and obstacles that must be considered and, where possible, addressed as part of the planning process. Contingency plans are as much a part of planning as the “master” plan itself.

While it seems impossible to “expect the unexpected”, black swan events do occur. How we respond to these events is often the “make or break” point of our journey. During this time, our commitment to our goals and perhaps even our vision will be tested. For this reason, our core purpose or “why” must be of sufficient value to sustain our efforts and give cause to overcome the distractions and setbacks that are sure to occur.

The Plan

Goals without dates are merely dreams and, likewise, goals without a means to achieve them are meaningless. Motivate your team by instilling a vested interest through the development of a detailed plan that will be sure to inspire the team to not only follow up but to follow through on their commitments.

The scope and scale of a plan is dependent on the goals we are striving to achieve. We tend to underestimate the resources and effort required to accomplish the tasks at hand. The ability to identify detailed actions or tasks, required resources, responsibilities, and realistic timing will help to create a plan that leads to a successful conclusion, avoiding much of the confusion and frustration that poor planning can bring.

Execution

After all is said and written – it must be done. Execution of the plan – putting words into action – is how our goals become a reality. A variety of tools are at our disposal to manage our activities and progress ranging from simple white boards to professional project management software. However these activities are managed, we must ensure that we don’t get caught up in the management “process” itself and focus on the immediate tasks or actions at hand.

Additional learning occurs with every change or transformation process. As such, I prefer to use an “agile” approach that offers flexibility to change or evolve our “means” or “methods” without compromising the goal we originally set out to achieve.

Practice proves theory every time and the real proof of wisdom is in the results. We wish you all the best of successes to achieve the goals that you may have set for yourself and your team in 2013.

Until Next Time – STAY lean

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Vergence Analytics

Posted in Contingency Planning, Execution, Goals, Leadership, Objectives, Planning, Project Management, Strategy Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Game On – Playing it Safe with Lean

An astronaut in training for an extra-vehicula...

Image via Wikipedia

Communicating a concept or methodology in a manner that doesn’t offend the current status quo is likely the biggest challenge we face as lean practitioners and consultants.  In all too many instances it seems that people are open to change as long as someone else is doing the changing.

To diffuse opposition and resistance to change, it is essential that everyone understands the concern or problem, the solution, inherent expectations, and consequences of remaining the same. Our objective then is to create a safe, non-threatening environment where new ideas and concepts can be explored without undermining the current infrastructure or the people and departments involved.  There are a number of options available to do just that:

  • I personally like to use analogies and stories to convey concepts or ideas that exemplify methods or processes that can be adapted to address a current situation, opportunity, or concern.
    • This is ideal for sharing the company vision, top-level ideas, and philosophies that help to explain the overall strategic direction or mission under discussion or of concern. 
    • Stories and analogies create opportunities to expand our thinking processes  and to look outside the immediate scope of our current business interests and circumstances.
  • I also recommend targeted books and selected reading that allow individuals to learn and understand at their own pace. Classics books include “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox, “Velocity” by Dee Jacob, Suzan Bergland, and Jeff Cox , “Toyota Kata” by Mike Rother, and The High Velocity Edge by Steven Spear.
    • Offering a list of recommended books for individual study is likely the least intrusive, however, participation cannot be assured and does not promote interaction among team members.
    • The reader learns the thinking processes and solutions as developed by the authors. 
  • Formal classroom or in-house training may also be effective, however, it can be costly and is inherently exclusive to the participants.  It is also difficult for non-participants to become as knowledgeable or proficient with the material without attending the course or training for themselves.
    • Outside training is inherently more generic in nature due to the diverse range of companies and individuals that are represented in the class.
    • In-house training can be more effective to address a specific concern, however, it’s true effectiveness is limited to the participants.
    • The concepts and thinking processes are developed and conveyed as prescriptive solutions.
  • Interactive simulations that allow teams to work together to solve problems or participate in non-invasive / non-intrusive tasks.
    • Class sizes remain small, however, the process is repeatable across multiple classes.
    • Concepts can be tested and developed without disrupting the “real world” processes.
    • Simulations are accelerated models representing real-world conditions.
    • Simulations can be conducted internally with limited resources and is easily duplicated.
    • Unlike the other methods above, the “solution” evolves with the team’s experience.
Of the methods presented above, I find that interactive simulations tend to be the most effective.  Lean Simulations, an increasingly popular website, has amassed a wealth of free lean games, videos, and other lean tools that make this a real possibility.
More specific to the purpose of our discussion here is a post titled “Seven Benefits of Teaching Lean with Simulations” that offers shared insights to the benefits of using Simulations to train and teach lean principles to our teams.
Having a method to explore new ideas and develop concepts is only one hurdle that needs to be addressed.  The next task is establishing the need for change itself and instilling the sense of urgency that is required to engage the team and accomplish the necessary improvements.
The Need For Improvement Drives Change

Change is synonymous with improvement and must be embraced by employees at all levels of the organization.  Change and improvements are also required to keep up with competitors and to avoid becoming obsolete.  From another perspective, it is a simple matter of continued sustainability and survival. In this context, we recognize that businesses today are confronted with uncompromising pressures from:

  • Customers expecting high quality products and services at competitive or reduced prices, and
  • Internal and external influences that are driving operating costs ever higher.  Some of these influences include increased taxes, rising utility costs such as electricity and fuel, increased wages and benefits, increased material costs, and volatile exchange rates.

An unfortunate and sad reality is that any realized cost savings or loss reductions are quickly absorbed by these ever-increasing costs of doing business.  As a result, many of the “savings” do not find their way to the bottom line as most of us have been conditioned to expect.  While many companies are quick to post “cost savings”, I am surprised at how few post the “cost increases” that negate or neutralize them.

Some manufacturers, such as automotive suppliers to the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s), are expected to offer reduced prices year over year regardless of the current economic climate.  Unbelievably, “give backs” are expected for the full production life cycle of the vehicle and may even be extended to support service demand as well.  In today’s global economy, parts suppliers to the automotive OEM’s risk losing their business to competitors – especially those in low-cost labour countries – if attempts are made to increase prices.

My experience suggests that the best approach to establish a need for change is to work directly with the leadership and individual teams to understand and document the “current state” without bias or judgement. Our primary interest is to identify and assess “what is” and “what is not” working as supported by observations and objective evidence as gathered by the team.  To be very clear, this is not a desk audit. To understand what is really happening, an assessment can only be effective when it is conducted at the point of execution – the process itself.

We also need to understand the reasons why the current state exists as it does.  Is it the culture, system, processes, resources, resourcefulness,  training, methodologies, team dynamics, or some other internal or external influences? As a lean practitioner, I serve as a catalyst for change – helping leadership, teams, and individuals to see, learn, and appreciate for themselves what it means to be lean regarding culture, thinking, and best practices.

I believe that many lean initiatives fail for the simple reason that people have not been provided with a frame of reference or baseline (other than hearsay) that enables them to internalize what lean really means.

What’s Next?

The last thing we want to do is abandon current practices without having a sense of confidence that what we plan to do “in practice” will actually work. Secondly, we want to ensure that everyone understands the concept without jeopardizing current operations in the process.  As alluded to earlier, lean simulations allow us to do just that.

The main points of the article, “7 Benefits of Teaching Lean With Simulations“, as referenced earlier are summarized as follows:

  1. Simulations demonstrate lean principles in action,
  2. Games involve your audience,
  3. Games are perfect team building activities,
  4. Simulations are small and flexible,
  5. Games are confidence builders,
  6. Test real processes with simulations first,
  7. Give yourself a break.

Another benefit derived from simulations is that results are realized in a very short period of time due to the accelerated nature of the game.  As is often the case, real-time implementations may require days or even weeks before their effects are can be observed and felt within the organization.  Simulations can provide real world experiences without subjecting the company or the team to real world risks or consequences.

Finally, games allow participants to truly become involved in the process and present an opportunity to observe and assess team dynamics and individual strengths and weaknesses. A game is more than just an event. It is a memorable experience that involves all the senses, thinking processes, and emotions that engage the whole person.  To this extent the participants can and will internalize the concepts.  From this perspective, I say Game On …

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics
Twitter: @Versalytics
Posted in Advanced Lean Manufacturing, Lean Mindset, Training Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Lean: Beyond Reach!

Image by Kerry Buckley via Flickr

Almost everything I read or learned suggests that lean was never intended to be complicated. The simplest definition of lean I have read to date follows:

Focus on what matters and eliminate what doesn’t

This is not to suggest that lean is easy. In actual practice I find that some companies have sufficiently compounded the definition of lean to exclude all but a select team of employees.

I contend that lean is an all inclusive initiative based on the simple premise that we can always find a better way.

As suggested by our definition of lean above, the ability to discern what matters from what doesn’t is the most fundamental step to any lean initiative.

As I discussed in “Discover Toyota’s Best Practice“, improvements are seldom the result of a single action or countermeasure. Rather, in the context of lean, innovations are the culmination of numerous improvement initiatives over time.

I become increasingly concerned where a lean culture is compromised by infrastructure, policies, systems, and procedures that inherently frustrate improvement initiatives.

This reflects one of my qualms with six sigma where an implied hierarchy is created by virtue of the “belt” or level that a person has achieved. The approach is intentionally “exclusive” by virtue of education, experience, and / or proven expertise. As such, people are inherently disqualified from the process.

Quite simply, don’t create an environment that alienates your team to the extent that lean is beyond reach by design.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics
Twitter: @Versalytics
Posted in Advanced Lean Manufacturing, Terminology, Training Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Waste: The Devil is in the Details …

A photo of a cup of coffee.

Image via Wikipedia

I planned to publish this yesterday but for some reason I felt compelled to wait. I doubt it was fate, but as you will see, Toyota once again managed to serendipitously substantiate my reason for it.

I was originally  inspired to write this post based on a recent experience I had at a local restaurant.

After I was seated, I ordered a coffee to start things off.  The waitress asked, “Would you like cream or milk with your coffee?”  I said, “Just cream please.”

A few minutes later my coffee arrived … accompanied by two creams and three milks. So I wonder, why even ask the question?  What part of this was routine? Asking the question or grabbing both milk and cream?

Later, when it was time for a refill, the waitress noted the milk containers neatly stacked beside the saucer and said, “Oh,  just cream right?”  They were quickly removed and replaced.

Habitual Waste

How many of us are simply going through the motions – say the right words and do the right things without even thinking?  In some cases, we may even do the wrong things, like a bad habit, without thinking – like the waitress in the restaurant.

I think we need to be very concerned when our words and actions are reduced to “habits” or the equivalent of meaningless rhetorical questions.  We say, “Hi, how are you?” and expect to hear “Fine” or “OK” – whether or not it’s true. Or worse, we don’t even wait for the answer.

When our daily routines become autonomous they essentially become habits – good or bad.  How can you pay attention to the details when they have become engrained into the everyday monotony we call routine?

The devil is in the details …

Of concern here is how much waste our habits generate that we’re not even aware of.  In business, finding the waste is actually easier than it looks.  The cure on the other hand may be a different story.

Layered process audits, and regular visits to the “front line” can be used to identify and highlight concerns but, as with many companies, these process reviews only represent a snapshot in time.  To be effective, they need to be frequent (daily) and thorough.

In manufacturing, process flows, value streams, and standard work are tools we use to define our target operating plan.  However, we know from experience that a gap typically exists between planned and actual performance.

The sequence of events typically occur as planned, however, the method of task execution varies from person to person and shift to shift.  The primary root cause for this variance can be traced to work instructions that do not definitively describe the detailed actions required to successfully complete the task.

Generic work instructions simply do not work. To be effective, our methods must be specific and detail oriented. General instructions leave too much room for error and in turn become a source of variation in our processes. 

Quite often, we develop techniques or “tricks” that make our jobs or tasks easier to perform.  Learning to recognize and share those “nuances” may be the discerning factors to achieve improved performance.

Worth Waiting For …

As I mentioned at the start of this article, Toyota somehow manages to make its way into my articles and this one is no exception.  Earlier this week, I learned that Ray Tanguay, a local Ontario (Canada) resident, is now one of three new senior managing officers for Toyota worldwide.

The Toronto Start published “Farm boy a Toyota go-to guy” in today’s business section that chronicles Ray Tanguay’s rise to power to become the only top non-Japanese executive in the company.

What caught my attention, aside from being born in a local town here in Ontario, was this quote:

“I like to drill down deep because the devil is always in the detailsRay Tanguay, Toyota Senior Managing Officer

The article also describes how Ray Tanguay managed to get the attention of Toyota president Akio Toyoda and the eventual development of a global vision to clearly set out the company’s purpose, long-term direction, and goals for employees.

After summarizing Ray Tanguay’s history, the article concludes …

 “A few years later, his attention to detail on the shop floor helped the company win a second assembly plant in nearby Woodstock and thousands of more jobs for Canada’s manufacturing sector.”

I note with great interest, “… on the shop floor …”  Perhaps, I should have changed the title to “Opportunity:  the Devil is in the details!”  I still think we were close.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics
Twitter:  @Versalytics
Posted in Advanced Lean Manufacturing, Eliminate Waste, Lean Mindset, Problem Solving Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

What did you expect? Benchmarking and Decisions – for better or worse.

Dice for various games, especially for rolepla...

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What did you expect?

Benchmarking & Decisions – for better or worse

I recognize that benchmarking is not a new concept.  In business, we have learned to appreciate the value of benchmarking at the “macro level” through our deliberate attempts to establish a relative measure of performance, improvement, and even for competitor analysis.  Advertisers often use benchmarking as an integral component of their marketing strategy.

The discussion that follows will focus on the significance of benchmarking at the “micro level” – the application of benchmarking in our everyday decision processes.  In this context, “micro benchmarking” is a skill that we all possess and often take for granted – it is second nature to us.  I would even go so far as to suggest that some decisions are autonomous.

With this in mind, I intend to take a slightly different, although general, approach to introduce the concept of “micro benchmarking”.  I also contend that “micro benchmarking” can be used to introduce a new level of accountability to your organization.

Human Resources – The Art of Deception
Interviews and Border Crossing

Micro benchmarking can literally occur “in the moment.”  The interview process is one example where “micro benchmarking” frequently occurs.  I recently read an article titled, “Reading people: Signs border guards look for to spot deception“, and made particular note of the following advice to border crossing agents (emphasis added):

Find out about the person and establish their base-line behavior by asking about their commute in, their travel interests, etc. Note their body language during this stage as it is their norm against which all ensuing body language will be compared.

The interview process, whether for a job or crossing the border, represents one example where major (even life changing) decisions are made on the basis of very limited information.  As suggested in the article, one of the criteria is “relative change in behavior” from the norm established at the first greeting.  Although the person conducting a job interview may have more than just “body language” to work with, one of the objectives of the interview is to discern the truth – facts from fiction.

Obviously, the decision to permit entry into the country, or to hire someone, may have dire consequences, not only for the applicant, but also for you, your company, and even the country.  Our ability to benchmark at the micro level may be one of the more significant discriminating factors whereby our decisions are formulated.

Decisions – For Better or Worse:

Every decision we make in our lives is accompanied by some form of benchmarking.  While this statement may seem to be an over-generalization, let’s consider how decisions are actually made.  It is a common practice to “weigh our options” before making the final decision.  I suggest that every decision we make is rooted against some form of benchmarking exercise.  The decision process itself considers available inputs and potential outcomes (consequences):

  1. Better – Worse
  2. Pro’s – Con’s
  3. Advantages – Disadvantages
  4. Life – Death
  5. Success – Failure
  6. Safe – Risk

Decisions are usually intended to yield the best of all possible outcomes and, as suggested by the very short list above, they are based on “relative advantage” or “consequential” thinking processes.  At the heart of each of these decisions is a base line reference or “benchmark” whereby a good or presumably “correct” decision can be made.

We have been conditioned to believe (religion / teachings) and think (parents / education / social media / music) certain thoughts.  These “belief systems” or perceived “truths” serve as filters, in essence forming the base line or “benchmark” by which our thoughts, and hence our decisions, are processed.  Every word we read or hear is filtered against these “micro level” benchmarks.

I recognize that many other influences and factors exist but, suffice it to say, they are still based on a relative benchmark.  Unpopular decisions are just one example where social influences are heavily considered and weighed.  How many times have we heard, “The best decisions are not always popular ones.”  Politicians are known to make the tough and not so popular decisions early on in their term and rely on a waning public memory as the next election approaches – time heals all wounds but the scars remain.

Decisions – Measuring Outcomes

As alluded to in the last paragraph, our decision process may be biased as we consider the potential “reactions” or responses that may result.  Politics is rife with “poll” data that somehow sway the decisions that are made.  In a similar manner, substantially fewer issues of value are resolved in an election year for fear of a negative voter response.

In essence there are two primary outcomes to every decision, Reactions and Results.  The results of a decision are self-explanatory but may be classified as summarized below.

  1. Reactions – Noise (Social Aspects)
    • supporters
    • detractors
    • resistors
  2. Results – performance, data, facts (Business Aspects)
    • worse than expected (negative)
    • as expected (neutral)
    • better than expected (positive

Accountability

If you are still with me, I suggest that at least two levels of accountability exist:

  1. The process used to arrive at the decision
  2. The results of the decision

In corporations, large and small, executives are often held to account for worse than expected (negative) performance, where results are the primary – and seemingly only – focus of discussion.  I contend that positive results that exceed expectations should be subject to the same, if not higher, level of scrutiny.

Better and worse than expected results are both indicative of a lack of understanding or full comprehension of the process or system and as such present an opportunity for greater learning.  Predicting outcomes or results is a fundamental requirement and best practice where accountability is an inherent characteristic of company culture.

Toyota is notorious for continually deferring to the most basic measurement model:  Planned versus Actual.  Although positive (better than expected) results are more readily accepted than negative (worse than expected) results, both impact the business:

  • Better than expected:
    • Other potential investments may have been deferred based on the planned return on investment.
    • Financial statements are understated and affects other business aspects and transactions.
    • Decision model / process does not fully describe / consider all aspects to formulate planned / predictable results
      • Decision process to yield actual results cannot be duplicated unless lessons learned are pursued, understood, and the model is updated.
  • Worse than expected:
    • Poor / lower than expected return on investment
    • Extended financial obligations
    • Negative impact to cash flow / available cash
    • Lower stakeholder confidence for future investments
    • Decision model / process does not fully describe / consider all aspects to formulate planned / predictable results
      • Decision process will be duplicated unless lessons learned are pursued, understood, and the model is updated.

The second level of accountability and perhaps the most important concerns the process or decision model used to arrive at the decision.  In either case we want to discern between informed decisions, “educated guesses”, “wishful thinking”, or willful neglect.  We can see that individual and system / process level accountabilities exist.

The ultimate objective is to understand “what we were thinking” so we can repeat our successes without repeating our mistakes.  This seems to be a reasonable expectation and is a best practice for learning organizations.

Some companies are very quick to assign “blame” to individuals regardless of the reason for failure.  These situations can become very volatile and once again are best exemplified in the realm of politics.  There tends to be more leniency for individuals where policies or protocol has been followed.  If the system is broken, it is difficult to hold individuals to account.

The Accountability Solution – Show Your Work!

So, who is accountable?  Before you answer that, consider a person who used a decision model and the results were worse than the model predicted.  From a system point of view the person followed standard company protocol.  Now consider a person who did not use the model, knowing it was flawed, and the results were better than expected.  Both “failures” have their root in the same fundamental decision model.

The accountabilities introduced here however are somewhat different. The person following protocol has a traceable failure path.  In the latter case, the person introduced a new “untraceable” method – unless of course the person noted and advised of the flawed model before and not after the fact.

Toyota is one of the few companies I have worked with where documentation and attention to detail are paramount.  As another example, standardized work is not intended to serve as a rigid set of instructions that can never be changed. To the contrary, changes are permissible, however, the current state is the benchmark by which future performance is measured and proven.  The documentation serves as a tangible record to account for any changes made, for better or worse.

Throughout high school and college, we were always encouraged to “show our work”.  Some courses offered partial marks for the method although the final answer may have been wrong.  The opportunities for learning here however are greater than simply determining the student’s comprehension of the subject material.  To the contrary, it also offers an opportunity for the teacher to understand why the student failed to comprehend the subject matter and to determine whether the method used to teach the material could be improved.

Showing the work also demonstrates where the process break down occurred.  A wrong answer could have been due to a complete misunderstanding of the material or the result of a simple mis-entry on a calculator.  Why and how we make our decisions is just as important to understanding our expectations.

In conclusion

While the latter situations may be more typical of a macro level benchmark, I suggest that similar checks and balances occur even at the micro level.  As mentioned in the premise, some decisions may even be autonomous (snap decisions).   Examples of these decisions are public statements that all too often require an apology after the fact.  The sentiments for doing so usually include, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know what I was thinking.”  I am always amazed to learn that we may even fail to keep ourselves informed of what we’re thinking sometimes.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics

Twitter:  @Versalytics
Posted in Advanced Lean Manufacturing, Benchmarking, Execution, Lean, Lean Mindset, Problem Solving Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Integrated Waste: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

shampoo

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Admittedly, it has been a while since I checked a shampoo bottle for directions, however, I do recall a time in my life reading:  Lather, Rinse, Repeat.  Curiously, they don’t say when or how many times the process needs to be repeated.

Perhaps someone can educate me as to why it is necessary to repeat the process at all – other than “daily”.  I also note that this is the only domestic “washing” process that requires repeating the exact same steps.  Hands, bodies, dishes, cars, laundry, floors, and even pets are typically washed only once per occasion.

The intent of this post is not to debate the effectiveness of shampoo or to determine whether this is just a marketing scheme to sell more product.  The point of the example is this:  simply following the process as defined is, in my opinion, inherently wasteful of product, water, and time – literally, money down the drain.

Some shampoo companies may have changed the final step in the process to “repeat as necessary” but that still presents a degree of uncertainty and assures that exceptions to the new standard process of “Lather, Rinse, and Repeat as Necessary” are likely to occur.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, new 2-in-1 and even 3-in-1 products are available on the market today that serve as the complete “shower solution” in one bottle.  As these are also my products of choice, I can advise that these products do not include directions for use.

Scratching the Surface

As lean practitioners, we need to position ourselves to think outside of the box and challenge the status quo.  This includes the manner in which processes and tasks are executed.  In other words, we not only need to assess what is happening, we also need to understand why and how.

One of the reasons I am concerned with process audits is that conformance to the prescribed systems, procedures, or “Standard Work” somehow suggests that operations are efficient and effective.  In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.

To compound matters, in cases where non-conformances are identified, often times the team is too eager to fix (“patch”) the immediate process without considering the implications to the system as a whole.  I present an example of this in the next section.

The only hint of encouragement that satisfactory audits offer is this: “People will perform the tasks as directed by the standard work – whether it is correct or not.”  Of course this assumes that procedures were based on people performing the work as designed or intended as opposed to documenting existing habits and behaviors to assure conformance.

Examining current systems and procedures at the process level only serves to scratch the surface.  First hand process reviews are an absolute necessity to identify opportunities for improvement and must consider the system or process as a whole as you will see in the following example.

Manufacturing – Another Example

On one occasion, I was facilitating a preparatory “process walk” with the management team of a parts manufacturer.  As we visited each step of the process, we observed the team members while they worked and listened intently as they described what they do.

As we were nearing the end of the walk through, I noted that one of the last process steps was “Certification”, where parts are subject to 100% inspection and rework / repair as required.  After being certified, the parts were placed into a container marked “100% Certified” then sent to the warehouse – ready for shipping to the customer.

When I asked about the certification process, I was advised that:  “We’ve always had problems with these parts and, whenever the customer complained, we had to certify them all 100% … ‘technical debate and more process intensive discussions followed here’ … so we moved the inspection into the line to make sure everything was good before it went in the box.”

Sadly, when I asked how long they’ve been running like this, the answer was no different from the ones I’ve heard so many times before:  “Years”.  So, because of past customer problems and the failure to identify true root causes and implement permanent corrective actions to resolve the issues, this manufacturer decided to absorb the “waste” into the “normal” production process and make it an integral part of the “standard operating procedure.”

To be clear, just when you thought I picked any easy one, the real problem is not the certification process.  To the contrary, the real problem is in the “… ‘technical debate and more process intensive discussions followed here’ …” portion of the response.  Simply asking about the certification requirement was scratching the surface.  We need to …

Get Below the Surface

I have always said that the quality of a product is only as good as the process that makes it.  So, as expected, the process is usually where we find the real opportunities to improve.  From the manufacturing example above, we clearly had a bigger problem to contend with than simply “sorting and certifying” parts.  On a broader scale, the problems I personally faced were two-fold:

  1. The actual manufacturing processes with their inherent quality issues and,
  2. The Team’s seemingly firm stance that the processes couldn’t be improved.

After some discussion and more debate, we agreed to develop a process improvement strategy.  Working with the team, we created a detailed process flow and Value Stream Map of the current process.  We then developed a Value Stream Map of the Ideal State process.  Although we did identify other opportunities to improve, it is important to note that the ideal state did not include “certification”.

I worked with the team to facilitate a series of problem solving workshops where we identified and confirmed root causes, conducted experiments, performed statistical analyses, developed / verified solutions, implemented permanent corrective actions, completed detailed process reviews and conducted time studies.  Over the course of 6 months, progressive / incremental process improvements were made and ultimately the “certification” step was eliminated from the process.

We continued to review and improve other aspects of the process, supporting systems, and infrastructure as well including, but not limited to:  materials planning and logistics, purchasing, scheduling, inventory controls, part storage, preventive maintenance, redefined and refined process controls, all supported by documented work instructions as required.  We also evaluated key performance indicators.  Some were eliminated while new ones, such as Overall Equipment Effectiveness, were introduced.

Summary

Some of the tooling changes to achieve the planned / desired results were extensive.  One new tool was required while major and minor changes were required on others.  The real tangible cost savings were very significant and offset the investment / expense many times over.  In this case, we were fortunate that new jobs being launched at the plant could absorb the displaced labor resulting from the improvements made.

Every aspect of the process demonstrated improved performance and ultimately increased throughput.  The final proof of success was also reflected on the bottom line.  In time, other key performance indicators reflected major improvements as well, including quality (low single digit defective parts per million, significantly reduced scrap and rework), increased Overall Equipment Effectiveness (Availability, Performance, and Quality), increased inventory turns, improved delivery performance (100% on time – in full), reduced overtime,  and more importantly – improved morale.

Conclusion

I have managed many successful turnarounds in manufacturing over the course of my career and, although the problems we face are often unique, the challenge remains the same:  to continually improve throughput by eliminating non-value added waste.  Of course, none of this is possible without the support of senior management and full cooperation of the team.

While it is great to see plants that are clean and organized, be forewarned that looks can be deceiving.  What we perceive may be far from efficient or effective.  In the end, the proof of wisdom is in the result.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence Analytics
Twitter:  @Versalytics
Posted in Advanced Lean Manufacturing, Execution, Lean, Problem Solving Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
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