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November 15, 2011

Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes

By jcrosswell November 15, 2011
Change sign

Are you open to change?

When implementing Lean transformation projects one concept that I have always included in the training material is R=Q X A:

(R)esults = the (Q)uality of the solution times the (A)cceptance.

Recently I have worked on a large transformation project that includes a significant quantity of classroom training and Rapid Improvement Events (RIE) over several months. In the past there have been some disappointing experiences with companies that seem to want to implement Lean  only to go through the motions - and ending up in a place where they could not sustain the improvements they made. The culture of the company that I am currently working with is very traditional and relatively resistant to change. The management is knowledgeable of the benefits that can be achieved by using Lean practices but they are reluctant to make significant changes. My working partner and I are helping the RIE teams develop Lean processes. We agree the changes the teams have come up are low risk and are very doable. In fact, since we began working with this company we have always agreed that common Lean techniques such as cellular flow could be applied to almost all the customer’s value-streams.

However my partner and I do disagree significantly on our approach.

Since this organization has proven to be very conservative, I have taken the approach of supporting the limited changes they approve whereas my colleague continues to try and persuade them to embrace larger changes. In some cases his approach has intensified their resistance. I see it as a “human relations” issue. I agree that the company will get better results with more significant changes, but since management is very conservative I support their limited approvals. So far this has worked well and is continuing to improve. Once the employees gain experience with the limited changes they are taking more initiative to continue improving their processes. The teams have actually continued the changes to some processes to the point we originally estimated could have been achieved by making the larger change initially. I think either approach could be the most appropriate depending of the situation. I would like to hear from others who have had similar experiences and your success using one or the other approach:

A)     Accepting a limited amount of change to begin with, relying that the small successes will help continuous change become part of the culture

B)      Pushing for higher expectations and risk that larger changes will be resisted or not approved.

Which has worked better for you?

Related Post:
How to get Results: R=Q x A

November 3, 2011

What is Value?

By raikman November 3, 2011

Does that activity add value?  The answer can provoke friendly debates, heated arguments, tears, hurt feelings, and the occasional fist fight.  And that’s just among lean project team members!  It can be even worse between lean practitioners and front-line workers, whether they are in a factory, warehouse, retail store, or office. 

Think about it from this perspective:  How would you feel if someone told you ‘What you do all day long is not a value-add activity’?  That is the reason it is important to make a"Value Added" distinction between the person performing an activity, and the activity itself

Yet despite the difficulty of defining value, it is a key skill for any successful lean practitioner.  In the book Lean Thinking by Womack & Jones (1996) they proposed a basic approach to implementing lean that consisted of a five step process.  The authors stated that “Specifying value accurately is the critical first step in defining lean thinking”. 

In other words, before you can move forward in applying various lean concepts it is important to begin with a clear understanding of what constitutes a value-add – and non-value-add – activity.  In the book mentioned above the authors address this topic further by noting that:

“Value can only be defined by the ultimate customer.   And it’s only meaningful when expressed in terms of a specific product (a good or a service, and often both at once) which meets a customer’s needs at a specific price at a specific time.”

Several years ago I investigated the topic of value in order to make a presentation at an engineering conference.  What I discovered was that different writers had different explanations of value-add.  Consider these definitions from that research:

Value is added by changing the form of something or by moving it closer to the customer

 Activities that must be performed to meet customer requirements

Value-added time may be thought of as any time spent on actually transforming the product toward its final configuration.

Value-added steps (or activities) are those that matter to the customer (external or internal); all others are nonvalue added.   If there is disagreement over whether a step is value or nonvalue-added, it is best to err on the side of calling it value-added.

  •   Patrick Shannon “The Value-Added Ratio”  Quality Progress, [March 1997]

Any activity that increases the market form or function of the product or service.  (These are things the customer is willing to pay for.)

  •   MEP Principles of Lean Manufacturing  [1999]

The overarching themes seen in these definitions are two-fold:

1)      Change to materials OR information

2)      Something for which a customer will pay

In other words, if an activity results in a change to materials OR information AND if a customer would be willing to pay for that activity, then said activity should be classified as value-add.  Examples in the world of manufacturing include tasks such as cutting, welding, assembling, and painting.  In terms of service processes, examples include checking in a person at a hotel, answering technical questions via a helpdesk, mowing a lawn, and assisting a customer with the use of a new product. In the world of transactional processes, examples of value-add activities include capturing customer requirements, analyzing data, writing reports, making key decisions, and communicating needed information. 

Of course, there are always some activities that fall into a ‘grey zone’ in terms of value-add.  In the manufacturing arena two examples are tooling costs and setup charges.  Many firms routinely charge fees associated with activities associated with these two process steps.  Yet neither of them result in a physical change to materials. 

Another such example is inspection.  In some industries a supplier is required by contract to inspect their product before sending it to the customer.  So in essence the customer is willing to pay for this activity.  Yet inspection does not result in a physical change to a product.  In office processes inspection or review activities are very common.  Such steps are often put in place due to some problem that may have occurred months or years ago.

So should these tasks that fall into the ‘grey zone’ be classified as value-add activities?  From a lean purist standpoint, I would say no.  But from a practical standpoint I would be willing to accept that they are value-add.  At the end of the day, it is more important that you agree on a definition of value-add at your firm, and are consistent in how it is used.

In Part 2 of Defining Value we will explain a fundamental lean measure to use when examining the level of value-add in a process: Process Cycle Efficiency.  Also covered is an explanation of this measure in terms of both typical and world-class firms for various types of business processes.  Finally, Part 2 will include a discussion of how to categorize activities performed due to regulatory and similar requirements.

November 1, 2011

Slips and Trips and Falls – Oh MY!

By Esteban Pedraza November 1, 2011

According to OSHA slips, trips, and falls constitute the majority of general industry accidents. They cause 15% of all accidental deaths, and are second only to motor vehicles as a cause of fatalities. It’s no secret that slip, trip and fall accidents increase substantially during the winter months. However, Slip, Trips and Fall incidents during inclement weather are preventable if we have a system in place to assess and manage the risks.

Caution: Wet Floor Sign

The system should identify the outdoor areas used by employees/ pedestrians most likely to be affected by water and ice, for example: – building entrances, parking lots, walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade or wet.

The following are recommendations to help guard against Slips, Trips and Falls during inclement weather:

Always try and wear the best non-skid shoe possible, especially paying attention to the type of weather you will be exposed to. Shoes that have worn, slick soles should not be worn. Avoid high heels during inclement weather. Select something that has a large surface area, which has good traction. If you work in an area where there is a lot of water, then pay special attention to brands that have superior anti-skid properties.

Action should be taken whenever wet/freezing temperatures are forecasted. Local weather stations and their web sites are a great source of information.

  • Designate a Weather Team
  • Encourage employees to monitor weather reports to help prepare the workplace.
  • Increase awareness by posting daily weather briefings.
  • Distribute sand, salt or ice melt before employees are scheduled to arrive.
  • Use salt, sand, ice melt or similar on areas prone to be slippery in frosty, icy conditions.
  • Put a procedure in place to prevent an icy surface from forming and/or keep pedestrians off the slippery surface
  • Divert pedestrians to less slippery walkways and barrier off existing ones.
  • If warning cones are used, remember to remove them once the hazard has passed or they will eventually be ignored.
  • Institute frequent floor surface monitoring by designated staff throughout a weather event.
  • Have dry mops and wet floor signs readily available.
  • Consider closing side entrances if you lack the resources for frequent inspection and maintenance.
  • Post an employee at entrances during peak hours to encourage wiping feet on mats. You can also post a sign to get attention.
  • Purchase entry walk-off mats and make sure that they are not so thick as to block the swing of entry doors.
  • Extend mats 8 to 12 feet into the entrance to allow for the removal of moisture from shoes. A rule of the thumb is to have the mat long enough so that each footsteps on the mat three times.
  • Be sure walkways are clear before releasing staff early from work during storms.
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