We all know that an important part of sustaining 5S is auditing or assessing the status of 5S at any given point in time. The internet is full of 5S audit forms. In many cases, audits are carried out by “outsiders”…folks from outside the department that’s being audited. It’s kind of like being back at school where we turned our test in and got back a grade. If the grade was good, we were relieved. If the grade was bad, we huffed indignantly, sure that the teacher had it in for us. 5S audits shouldn’t be like that.
I just got another article posted on Industry Week’s website. Here it is:
Hope you like it.
OK, so apparently a big mistake was made at the Oscars last night…a really, really big mistake. The wrong film was announced as Best Picture. Not Best Sound Editing, not Best Costumes, not Best Foreign Short Animation. Best Picture. That’s a REALLY BIG mistake.
To add insult to injury, the mistake wasn’t caught and corrected until the folks representing the wrong movie (LaLaLand) were on stage and had been thanking everyone in their extended families for their love and support.
So, what’s all this have to do with lean methods?
OK, first I want you to watch ten seconds of this video.
One of my favorite lean videos was produced and put on YouTube a couple of years ago by a company in Washington state, FastCap. The video is about 14 minutes long and it’s a tour of the FastCap plant, conducted by the President. It’s the best portrayal of workplace organization and visual factory that I’ve come across.
I always start any project with a few days of information gathering about the operations so that I’ll know a bit of the culture and local language when I get to the leadership planning steps. The info gathering phase is always enjoyable as I get to know the folks within the client organization and tell them what I have in mind. During the info gathering I always come across conditions and situations that, on the one hand, are easily addressed but, on the other, I fear that the client will think, “Is that all you’ve got?” when I bring it up.
I had the latter experience a few years ago. I was strongly encouraging a client to implement workplace organization and visual factory methods in the plant. The thing was, the plant was reasonably clean and organized but just in the usual “decent housekeeping” way that plants sometimes are. The managers didn’t refuse to take me up on my suggestions but didn’t seem to have much energy in implementing 5S. They seemed primarily interested in “cost savings kaizens”. (They couldn’t tell me what savings had come from past kaizens, or even how “cost savings” were to be measured, but that’s another story.)
I’ve said any number of times that one of the problems with lean is alleged “experts” who say stuff that just ain’t so. I just ran across an article that crams a lot of “just ain’t so” stuff into a few paragraphs. Here’s the article: Next Generation Lean: Why Lean Too Often Requires a Leap of Faith. (I’m going to quote some of the most egregious statements (and there are a lot of them) so you might want to just stay here.) Right off the bat, you know the article is likely to be pretty off track…lean NEVER requires a leap of faith. It’s benefits are proven many times over. But, let’s dig in, anyway, to see what other nonsense we can uncover.
A few posts ago, I mentioned I was reading (or was about to read) a book I’d come across, The Lean Farm, authored by Ben Hartman. Well, I’m about two-thirds the way through and I’d recommend it even for (maybe, especially for) folks who are applying lean concepts and methods in other industries. (Sometimes, examples and illustrations hit home better when they are just a bit outside our intellectual comfort range.)
The book is very nicely organized. The author does a good job of breaking lean down into its most important elements. Further, Hartman provides lots of illustrations and examples of his own application of lean tools and methods on his small farm. Readers familiar with lean won’t learn much that’s new but will be interested in how an astute practitioner has been able to apply lean tools in an agricultural setting. “Newbies” will get as good an introduction to lean ideas and methods as there is.
I like to read the comments under articles that I read online. I was just checking comments under this very good IndustryWeek article, Next Generation Lean: Lean Processes Need to Continuously Improve. Down in the comments section, “Lone Star” had this to say:
Flawed implementations occur when companies rollout Lean as a project or program that measures activity such as, number of Kaizen events, 5S audit scores, A3’s completed, Process Maps produced etc.
I once had a client whose business was very capital intensive. I asked if I could get measures of machine downtime. The plant manager told me that they didn’t measure downtime. Or scrap (the company had a budget variance figure that it referred to as “scrap” but no one could tell me what part of the number was bad product and what part was just adjustment for counting errors).
My point is that a management team that doesn’t bother to measure track the most basic measures of operational performance might not have the intellectual wherewithal to implement lean. Lean methods are straightforward but their successful implementation does require a fundamental desire for and vision of operational excellence. Effective continual improvement is supported by managers and associates who show an interest in the many variables that affect their work and how those variables might be controlled. Mind you, one doesn’t have to be an engineer or a wizard in operations research to successfully implement lean methods. But one does need to be intellectually curious and have a certain amount of cognitive agility and a sense of appreciative wonder about how processes work. This might be another way of saying, managers have to be pretty smart to implement lean.
A manager who doesn’t bother to track downtime in his capital-intensive shop probably isn’t smart enough to effectively implement lean and, perhaps, never will be. Nor is a manager who doesn’t track scrap. Nor is a manager who can’t tell you what the rate of on-time shipments to best customers are.
But can’t managers learn that such data is important and come to have motivation to gather and analyze the appropriate data? Sure, I suppose so. Transformation is always possible. But the odds are against it, in most cases, I think. Managers who haven’t been smart enough or curious enough to gather the most basic info about their operations during careers that might have lasted decades aren’t likely to suddenly change their ways when a new “Lean Program” comes along. Not voluntarily, at any rate.
What’s to be done, then, when managers just aren’t smart enough to effectively implement lean? Well, the plant I mentioned at the outset of this post didn’t really start implementing lean effectively until the plant manager in question left and a new one, a much smarter one, replaced him. Sometimes you just need to have the right people in the right seats on the bus.