Which is Better…Lean or Six Sigma?

I’ve learned recently that about any search term that includes “Six Sigma” does well.  Regular readers know that I haven’t talked much about Six Sigma over the many months I’ve been involved with this blog.  I’m not a Six Sigma “any-kind-of-belt” but I do know a bit about the statistical tools that Six Sigma advocates.  (Design of Experiments is a bit above my pay grade but I’m betting the number of actual Design of Experiments projects run in any given year by manufacturers is relatively low.)  All to say, it’s not because I don’t like Six Sigma that I don’t talk about it much.  It’s more that Six Sigma and Lean and their relationship are misunderstood by most managers  and I’ve focused on trying to clarify the “lean” part of it.

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Larry Fast, columnist at Industry Week, is One Smart Guy

I don’t know Larry and he doesn’t know me, so this is unsolicited and uncompensated applause for a smart guy who seems to know a lot about lean.  I say that because I always agree with what he writes.  And that’s saying something…I once wrote some guy an email lambasting him for his superficial lean article and he sent one back, calling me every thing but a child of God.  In Larry’s case, I feel almost as if I could just link to his posts rather than writing any of my own!

So…what has me singing Larry’s praises?  Well, all his articles are good and should be read but two in particular perked me up.

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Lean Implementation is Lots of Small Things

5S PlanningA colleague and I are helping a couple of local school districts implement continuous improvement in three areas: Facilities Maintenance, Nutrition Services, and Transportation.  (We and they call it a “Lean Implementation”, but it’s more focused on employee involvement and problem solving that on some of the classical lean methods that most manufacturers would be familiar with.)   Yesterday, I was on my way to a meeting of the Transportation Team, when I got a call from the manager letting me know that he would have to postpone the meeting because of some staffing issues.  The team had held a couple of meetings that I hadn’t been able to attend, so he updated me on those.

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Process Mapping: Lessons I’ve Learned

Over the years, I’ve helped a number of clients with process mapping exercises.  Now, process mapping is one of those things you can read about and look up on the interweb and still not get much help when it comes to actually doing it with a team.  (That said, a good book on the topic is “Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization Chart” by Geary Rummler. )  I’ve learned some things that can help you.

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How to Implement Lean Manufacturing: Simplify and Solve – Value Stream Mapping and Team Problem Solving: Part 7

Six months ago (yikes!) we were talking about how to develop and use Value Stream Maps.  We had gotten to the point where we had put together a pretty good “Current State” map that included performance data.  We said we’d look, in more detail, at the map and the data we had put together before we went on to creating a “Future State” map. And here we are…a mere SIX MONTHS LATER!  So, let’s get going.

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Book Review: The Work of Management

I just got through reading a newly published book, The Work of Management.  It’s written by Jim Lancaster, the owner and CEO of Lantech, a maker  of packaging and material handling machinery, including stretch wrappers, conveyors, and case-forming equipment headquartered in Louisville, KY.

It reads like one of those “lean novels” (An unfortunate trend started by The Goal…I don’t mind the idea of “lean novels” and they have their place, I suppose, but it’s clear that most folks who know about lean can’t write fiction worth a damn.  I read one that actually included a sub-plot about the protagonist’s affair with a co-worker.) but it’s far more interesting given that it’s Lancaster’s story rather than an attempt to wrap a bunch of lean methods up in a fictional account.  As such, the information and messages carry more weight, in my view.

One shouldn’t expect a “how to” treatise; rather, the book represents an engaging memoir of one manager’s efforts to change his company’s culture through the deployment of visual factory and standard work.    That said, the book does a decent job of providing some detail as to what Lancaster did and how he and his team went about it.  As such, it’s a good companion read to Daniel Mann’s Creating A Lean Culture.



“What is 5S?” Video

Here’s my most recent YouTube video, “What Is 5S?”  Yeah, it’s kind of DIY (I used a free screen cast software called “Screen-Cast-O-Matic”, which does a good job of very basic…very basic…screen cast capture, editing, and uploading to YouTube), but the basic message is good.  I’ve come across a V8 powered screencast and video editing software that should up my game so look for future videos coming to your theater soon.

While you’re there, check out my other two videos by searching on Chagrin River Consulting.  And, hey, subscribe to my YouTube Channel, why don’t ya?

Error Proofing

Error proofing

I haven’t written much about error proofing in my several years of blogging about lean manufacturing.  When I teach, I don’t go into error proofing much.  The primary reason is that error proofing is (to my way of thinking, at any rate) very specific to a particular task, activity, or process.  When I’ve looked at literature about error proofing, specific examples relevant to specific equipment or tasks are given.  I always find myself thinking, “That’s great…if one has that type of equipment or is carrying out that particular task.”

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