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.
So, at this point, you have a pretty good value stream map of your current state. I doubt if it looks as neat as the one I included in my last post. In fact, it probably looks more like this:
Example Value Stream Map (Sorry it’s a link instead of an actual diagram. It’s a PDF, as you’ll see, and this is the only way I could include it.)
You’ll see the addition of the Tool Room and Purchasing, lots of places that material sits, lots of people who need to see the Production Schedule, and a “contingency routing” which was used when the equipment in the “preferred routing” was down. (You’ll also see a Future State VSM but don’t pay any attention to that for now.) That’s how these things go…they can get messy. This VSM team met twice a week for about six weeks to get just the current state map completed. Again, that’s how these things go.
We ended up last time with a simple map that showed, basically, where stuff gets moved, where stuff gets something done to it, and where stuff sits waiting to be moved or have something done to it. So, we’re off to a good start. Now, we need to add some boxes and arrows that show where information moves or sits or is acted on.
OK, so enough talk about boxes and arrows and lets put something on paper. We have a couple of decisions to make before we get started. First, we need to decide just which process to map. It might be that all the products in your operation go through the same process; that makes it easy to decide which process to map doesn’t it? In most cases, though, different products go through different processes. So, you have to pick one to map. (In many cases, you’ll have groups of products that go through a similar processes. If that’s your case, think of creating a process map for a group of products.) Now, I’ve read books that recommended an approach to picking a product or product group to map that involved lots of data gathering and calculations before making a decision. I don’t think it’s that hard. All you have to do is carry on a discussion that addresses these questions:
- Which products/product groups are high volume?
- Which products/product groups are high margin?
- Which products/product groups are important for some other reason, e.g., important new product?
- Which products/product groups are giving us the most problems?
If you have a product/product group that hits two or three of these criteria, go with that one. If none of your products hit more than one criterion, pick whichever product you want to start with, then move on to the others. Then do like we said last time, start with the customer and discuss their needs and the outputs that meet those needs. Then talk about the suppliers and your standards for what they provide.
OK, now you’re ready to connect those boxes and arrows.
Take a look at this example of 5S. What do you think….good example or not? It sure looks good, doesn’t it? I found this example on LinkedIn, along with some comments as to whether or not it’s a good example. Some of the commenters felt it was a good example given that…well, how orderly everthing is. Others felt that it’s not such a good example and it’s not the lack of labeling that they mentioned. Those others asked if five colors of highlighters are really needed. And two different kinds of Post-Its. And two blue and red pens. After all the first S is “Sort”.
I would agree that the Sort is key here but we can’t use circumstantial evidence to assume it wasn’t done. If the user really does need and regularly uses all those highlighters, then it’s a good example of 5S. On the other hand, if the user generally just takes out the yellow one and keeps the others “just in case”, it’s just an exercise in tidiness. Same with the pens and Post-Its.
The moral of the story is, it’s not just the good organization that makes this a good example. It’s the deliberation that went into the effort along the way
This is a PR video but check it out and catch the reference to Visual Management.
So far, we have a process map with boxes and arrows. There is one more symbol I should have mentioned: triangles. We use triangles as the symbol for inventory. Any place in the process where stuff sits, put a triangle there.
In our last post, we talked about getting started on creating a value stream map. We said that creating a simple process map was a good place to start. Now, I could go through the steps of creating a process map but you and I both know that such instruction are…everywhere. Do a websearch for “how to create a process map” and you’ll get a few million hits. Essentially, you just draw boxes and arrows. Or put the process steps on Post-Its that you place on a sheet of newsprint you’ve taped to the wall. Rather than provide detailed instructions, I’ll just pass along a few hints and recommendations that I’ve found helpful.
I was conducting a short workshop on behalf of an agency I work with and the question came up: What do we do after 5S? The quick answer to this question is that you start to implement pull scheduling and production. The longer answer is that you start to simplify/streamline/improve all your processes, both operations and administrative, and you implement team problem solving.
A tool that ties those two answers together is value stream mapping, so let’s talk about that for a bit.
I just came across a term I wasn’t familiar with: obeya. (I think it’s pronounced o-bay-a, but I’m not certain.) It’s used most often in the term “obeya room”, which is a bit redundant given that “obeya” is Japanese for “big room”. I became acquainted with the term in this Industry Week article…you should read it because it provides several examples as to just what an obeya is and how it works.
Turns out that obeya combines a couple of ideas that we’ve all been on board with: collaboration and visual management. The concept is that you put your most important visual indicators together in one room…then you talk about them every day. Several times a day, in fact.
From the article:
“[The plant manager’s] first stop is the command center. “I can quickly — very quickly — determine if I’m on schedule everywhere or, if I’m not on schedule, where am I not on schedule and why am I not on schedule,” he says. Stop two is any place there is a deviation.”
Now, I’m going to pat myself on the back a bit here. This is, nearly verbatim, what I’ve told all my clients is the primary goal of 5S and Visual Management: to be able to tell, at a glance, whether or not a process or several processes are in control or not.
The real benefit of obeya, though, comes through deliberation and discussion of the data displayed by the visuals. Again, from the article:
“What we try to do is let the management team at the manager level lead the meeting,” Redelman says. “We want to encourage direct dialog between the managers so they take ownership of the condition.” The meeting is most effective, he adds, “when the managers and SMEs are gathered, speaking to each other, and the executive team has faded to the back and just offers suggestion when necessary or helps to prioritize the focus to wrap up the meeting.”
Discussions about lean and obeya frequently emphasize the human element, the need for individuals to physically interact with the data to take full advantage of an obeya’s promise. It’s a point Toyota emphasizes as well.”
Did you catch that? It’s not so much that a company simply posts a bunch of visuals around the walls of a room. It’s that managers and associates actually take time to look at and talk about the information on the charts. And the conversations lead to actions. This is a good example of the needed culture change that goes along with all lean methods. My experience has been that it’s actually pretty difficult to create such straightforward change. We’re just talking about regular, frequent, short meetings, after all. Some companies start them, then they fizzle out for a variety of reasons. Other companies never bother. Both types of companies end up wondering why lean methods never really worked for them. I guess they just figured that charts on the walls would, somehow, magically improve their operations.