Monday, November 24, 2014

Shining is to Make Problems Obvious!

This is a guest post by Julien D├ępelteau from Flexpipe, a modular system to build material handling solutions.

With clutter gone and the storage area organized, the next step is to properly and thoroughly clean and paint equipment and work areas. This step is critical as a way of sustaining the improvements begun in the Sort and Set phases.

Initial painting and cleaning requires a blitz task outside regular working hours, but after that a daily routine should be established. The entire team should participate in cleaning - but make sure that every team has adequate cleaning supplies and equipment; this is not a task for a special janitorial crew.

Lean 5S shine

Now that my present work is in an assembly plant, it is much easier to keep the work areas clean compared to my previous job, a welding plant where cutting, welding and painting resulted in dust, grease and sometimes paint powder coating on equipment. In 2010, they were getting very involved in lean manufacturing/5S culture.

Each employee had 10 minutes at every shift (used with a signal) to clean their work area, including sweeping and washing equipment used. Lights were bright and often cleaned from dust; floors were marked with tape and polished and the air system was in proper condition (very important in this industry!). Back then and still to this day, people (suppliers, employees, and clients) talk about how clean the factory is.

When I started working for my previous employer in 2006, we would do everything in our power to avoid a client's visit. Even if our finished products were good quality, a quick visit could wind up going bad.

Four years later, we would do the exact opposite!

A tour would help convince clients that we built good quality products and on time. Clean welding machines and shiny painting equipment gave a good impression. (It was not just an impression.) This was also a selling point when we would attract new welders... and good welders were hard to find! They would tour the plant and leave the interview thinking it was a pleasant, safe and well-run environment. (Again, it was not just perception!)

  • Shining will provide a more comfortable and pleasant environment.
  • Shining will keep a workplace safe and easy to work in.
  • Shining will encourage good quality production.
  • Shining will increase ownership of the organization's goals and vision.
  • Shining will prevent machinery and equipment deterioration.
  • Shining will be used as inspection (leaks, vibrations, breakages, and misalignments).
  • Shining is to make problems obvious!

Flexpipe can build shadow boards and other 5S tools such as custom workstations, roller racks or carts. A modular material handling system made of pipes and joints; Flexpipe helps companies move forward in a lean journey.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Excel Yamazumi Chart - Some serious charting.

I've been thinking a lot about Yamazumi charts lately. After posting about a pretty cool online Yamazumi chart last week, I did some sleuthing. It's true that more and more of my time is spent "connected", so it's refreshing to see people creating web-based tools that we can use without downloading anything.

But I find when it comes to the heavy lifting, I still revert back to good ol' Microsoft.

MS Excel has been around since 1987 according to Wikipedia. That's enough time for people to create all kinds of awesome stuff! Take this amazing Excel Yamazumi chart, for example:

excel yamazumi chart

Is it just me, or does a chart like this make everyone else giddy too?

This Excel Yamazumi chart has all the bells and whistles! 

First, the basics: 
A Yamazumi chart lines up all the operations and charts them side-by-side. Each operation is clearly shown in comparison to the others. In the example above, we have seven operations.

With a single glance, some balance issues are clear. The third operation (Buff Three Parts) is the quickest, at about 23 seconds, while the fifth operation (Attach Bracket) takes the longest. Operator three will have some idle time, while operator five will struggle to keep up. Without inventory limits , parts will build up quickly after 3 and 4.

All this is simple to see within a quick 10 second analysis, showing the power of a simple Yamazumi chart.

Second, the takt time is clearly displayed as a dotted line along the top. Once again, it is clear without any indepth analysis that there are some operations which are greater than the takt time, creating a potential for short shipments.

Actually, upon closer inspection at the actual formulas in the Excel sheet, the dotted line turns out to be mean cycle time, not the takt time. Average cycle time is not quite as useful, but formulas are easy to adjust, and the sheet is not locked, so it's dead easy to change this.

These two things give us the basic Yamazumi features. But there's more...

Let's look at some of the advanced chart features:

excel yamazumi chart breakdown
Operations 3-5

Above is a close-up of Operations 3-5. We can see details of the operation with the least work vs the one with the most work. These details are inside each bar! Each bar in the bar chart contains the entire sequence of steps that make up the process. Voila! This Yamazumi is a "stacked bar" chart.

Why is a stacked bar chart helpful?

A Yamazumi chart is also called a work balance chart for a reason. When it's time to balance this inefficient process, we can easily see how long the individual steps for each process take. Looking at the chart, we can propose taking some steps from #5 and adding them to # 3, to give us a much more balanced process.

Realistically, we would need to go to the gemba and verify.

For example, is it possible to "Apply First Label" in a different operation, so that operator # 5 has less work? It all depends on what the label looks like, where on the part it has to be applied, if any other operation depends on it, or if something else needs to happen first.

A Yamazumi chart will highlight potential, but a trip to the gemba will reveal truth. 

Finally, this particular Yamazumi chart has another interesting feature, usually found on Value Stream Maps. Each step has a label applied to it. Is the activity "Value-added", "Non-value added", or simply straight up "Waste?"

value added pie chart

These labels allow us to visualize more nifty things. Underneath each bar, there's a little pie chart that shows the percentage of value added versus non-value added activity. Our job as lean champions is to attack waste, and these small dials make it easy to see where to focus. A nice little kaizen to the Yamazumi chart!

Are you interested in an Excel Yamazumi chart like this? You should be!

I'm sad to say that I didn't make this Excel file, but the good news is that it's free and available for download at Someone put a lot of work into this sheet, so why recreate it?

Also, you can find a whole range of other Excel templates on the adaptivebms tools page, including a 5S audit sheet, a red tag template, ishikawa diagram and tons of statistical tools!

I've added this tool to my list of free lean tools and downloads.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Online Yamazumi Charts - Find Balance in Your Work

I love Yamazumi charts! I'm a geek, so I think all charts are pretty cool, but Yamazumi charts are awesome because they have the best sounding name! Yamazumi charts are often called work balance charts, but come on. . . this is one time where the Japanese name wins, hands down!

awesome yamazumi chart

What the heck is a Yamazumi Chart?

A yamazumi chart takes the entire process and breaks down the individual work tasks by station. It's essentially a bar graph, where each bar represents an operation. By visualizing all the tasks side by side, it's easy to identify bottlenecks and look for balancing opportunities.

The vertical axis is a time measurement, usually in seconds. A standard time, generally takt time, is also plotted on the graph. While yamazumi charts can be used for training, they're most often used during process design, line balancing activities and waste elimination kaizens.

A standard bar chart is a great illustrative tool to show the state of the entire process. But often a stacked bar chart is used to show the work elements within each step. Yamazumi is Japanese for "stack up," and when you're digging deeper into the process, a stacked bar chart is helpful to see what elements can be moved to create a better balance.

Online Yamazumi Chart

Lean Lab has developed an online version of a Yamazumi chart. It's pretty neat! If you're tired of Excel charts and want a little different look, the graphics are cool. And if your computer is an Internet-enabled tablet, you can just bring this up on the web and enter the times right at the gemba!

On the left side is the input table, with a place for naming each operation and the takt time. I created a fictitious process to generate the chart below. As you can see, I'm in danger of shorting the customer!

yamazumi chart
My sample process is NOT good enough. Gluing takes too long!

Lean Lab has put together a few other lean tools, including a web-based Takt Time Calculator, I posted about before. They also have an excel version of the Yamazumi chart:  Excel Yamazumi Chart

If you're looking for more lean tools like this, check out my full list of free lean resources in the sidebar.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Lean Project Management - Pen and Paper Game

Ever get the feeling that you're juggling too many things at once? Sometimes I feel like I'm getting a lot done, but at the end of the day, I've just done a little bit of everything, and not completed a single thing.

Certainly, when we all do our piece, it makes big jobs smaller and we can eventually get everything done. 

But is breaking up tasks and multitasking the most efficient way to manage projects?

According to the Multitasking Name Game, focusing on one thing at a time is more efficient. Or you can try your odds at the Multitasking Test, if you think you're an expert at juggling multiple things! 

But first, you can check out the simulation below.

I found this simulation on Slideshare that illustrates the inefficiencies in managing multiple projects at the same time. It's actually a simple pen and paper lean simulation that you can do yourself, or with a group. 

lean pen and paper game

There are three projects in this game, indicated by three columns written on one page:
  1. Writing letters in blue marker.
  2. Writing Roman numerals in red marker.
  3. Writing numbers in black marker. 
  • Step One: Complete one row at a time, writing one letter from each column. This simulates working on all three projects simultaneously. With a stopwatch, time how long it takes to complete all three columns and each one.
  • Step Two: Write each column at a time, completing the blue first, then the red and finally the black. Again, time how long it takes to complete each column and the entire page.

I think you can see where this is going. . .

The slide show below simulates the whole activity, without you having to lift a marker or three! Just click the arrow to go from slide to slide.

Numbers simulation - less is more! from Marcus Hammarberg

I think this little simulation is perfect to show how transactional work or office work can be made more efficient. It's also perfect for design activities, where specific steps need to be completed before the whole project can move forward. Everyone can focus to get that next step completed, like the way kanban is used  in software development.

And here's a youtube video showing the same game in action:

For more lean games and simulations like this, check my large collection of lean simulations!