Last time, we laid out the five steps to implementing lean manufacturing and gave a bit of an overview as to the whole program. Let’s work on that a bit more. We’ll jump into the specifics of the five phases next post.
Over the years, I’ve found that clients often know about the various concepts and tools surrounding lean. I rarely get asked, “What’s this ‘heijunka’ thing I’ve heard about?” or “I don’t know much about 5S. Can you explain it to me?” Rather, the more common questions are “How do I get started?” and “What do I do next?”
To tell you the truth, the best answer to those questions is, “We can’t really be sure where to start or what to do next until we dig in and talk more about your specific circumstances.” I’ve found, though, that answer doesn’t do much to comfort prospective (or existing) clients. They’re eager to hear the program. Mind you, they’re often very willing to be flexible once the program gets started. Heck, they are the ones that generate the need for flexibility once it gets started. But, at the front end, they need to hear that the implementation has a beginning, an end, and a finite number of steps to get between the two.
Just as if you were building a house. You wouldn’t be comforted if the contractor said, “We’ll start talking about your needs and interests and see what develops.” You’d want to see a blueprint. That’s what the five steps represent: a blueprint for implementing lean methods and tools.
Here’s a Youtube video that I think you’ll enjoy. Truth be told, I don’t see a lot of lean manufacturing videos (I need to look for more good ones) but I stumbled across this one and have shown it to a few clients.
It does a very good job of illustrating the value and benefit of work place organization and visual factory.
In looking back to find this video, I see there are several others by Fast Cap about lean. I need to check those out, as well. In the meantime, enjoy this one.
OK, let’s get started…again.
The five, not so easy, steps to implement lean manufacturing are:
- Strategy and Spread the Word
- Sort and Shine
- Straighten and See
- Simplify and Solve
- Standardize and Sustain
You’ll notice the alliteration around the S’s…that’s to make it all easier to remember. I hope.
Truth be told, they aren’t really steps so much as they are stages or phases. And they don’t have to be done in the order listed. Except for Strategy and Spread the Word, That one has to go first.
I’ve been using this model for a few years now. Here’s why I like it:
- It’s an approach that’s easy to use to explain to others what we’ll do and how we’ll do it. It also facilitates keeping track of where we’ve made progress and what’s left to accomplish.
- The approach is flexible and customizable just about any situation I run into. I’ve used this in small and large settings.
- It provides appropriate “buckets” to put all the tools and tactics I use. By that I mean, each tool, each tactic has “someplace to go”. 5S? Phases 2 and 3. Visual Factory? Phase 3. Value Stream Mapping? Phase 4. Leader Standard Work? Phase 5. You get the idea, I think.
- And, finally, it formats nicely for a series of blog posts!
A few days ago, I wrote about the use (or non-use) of value stream maps and, upon re-reading that post, I’m thinking I might have been a bit tough on value stream map users. Don’t get me wrong…I do see many VSM’s that aren’t being put to use. But perhaps I put a bit much blame into my message.
Here’s the thing…making good use of a value stream map takes lots of work. And most of that work is discussion and data gathering. I recently facilitated a series of meetings with one client’s leadership team wherein we updated old current state and future state value stream maps. In other words, the maps were there, we just had to make any adjustments and modifications. The meetings took place over several months. It would have been easy for the leadership team to say, “This is just taking too long and it’s tough to see the end point. Let’s move on to something more ‘productive’.”
As it happened, the work on updating the VSM actually raised energy within the team. They’ve promulgated a series of initiatives and my problem now is making sure the leaders don’t spread themselves too thin….they all want to participate in all the initiatives.
My point is that it’s not so very hard to make a value stream map. Heck, as I mentioned in the previous post, you can get your lean consultant to put one together for you and it will be pretty good. The hard part (and it is hard) is the hours of discussion and deliberation needed to turn the map into action.
A number of places I’ve been to have a value stream map hanging somewhere already. Often the map has been hanging there for a good while…several years in some cases. Now, I’m a big fan of VSM’s, so I wonder how so many get made up but so few get put to use. I’ll often ask about the map and generally get a vague answer about “not getting around to doing anything with it”.
I think there are several reasons why this happens. First, I think at least a few of those maps were developed by a consultant or, maybe, the local “resident expert” and handed to the client. And, so…no buy in. The folks who are managing the value stream have to participate in developing the map. In my experience, the development of a VSM is “labor intensive” and takes lots of consideration and discussion. This discussion leads to insights and ideas about improvements to the value stream that can’t be obtained any other way.
Second, whether the VSM was developed by an “expert” or by the management team, there isn’t enough discussion of the transition plan: How are we going to get from the value stream we have to the value stream we want? Again, this takes a good deal of discussion.
Third, there’s often a lack of follow through. The changes that might be portrayed on a future state VSM just don’t get implemented.
The value of the value stream map, then, isn’t so much the map itself as it is the process for getting it. The discussions that take place to develop the maps (current state and future state) and to develop the transition plan provides the energy and impetus to get things done.