Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Toast Kaizen Video with a Twist! Peanut butter and bananas make any sandwich better.

Perhaps you've heard of that Toast Kaizen Video? You know the one with that guy with the monotone voice, making toast in his kitchen for his wife while we watch and try to improve his process? A great video, perfect for teaching the 7 Wastes.

Well, here's a new twist. Rather than kaizen the toast making process, the video below uses that same sandwich-making process we're all familiar with to teach standard work. With analogies to football play-books and casino dealers, the content is fresh and relevant.

But the real content is the sandwich! Peanut butter, bananas and honey. . . the perfect midnight snack. And no need to struggle in the dark for all your equipment, because everything is labeled so nicely.

One thing this video addresses very clearly is Standard Work in Process. Don't tie the operator to the machine. Rather than waiting with bated breath for the toaster to pop, the operator is working on the follow-up processes of spreading, and cutting.

Two slices toasting, two slices being made into a sandwich, and repeat, until the loaf is done!

I hope none of us will be working the sandwich assembly line soon, but the concept of Standard Work in Process is something that is important for any work cell with machines that do stuff. Here's another example of Standard Work in Process. 

Be sure to check out the entire Standard Work video series at You'll learn how to fill out a Standard Work Chart, a Capacity Sheet and a Combination Table, all useful skills. If you're interested in the banana sandwich only, it starts at around 6:30 (or just make your own sandwich).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What is takt time? Zero to coffee in 60 seconds.

Ah, the subtle nuances of takt time. So many questions.

What does takt mean? Why are you teaching us German? Isn't Lean a Japanese philosophy?

In traditional manufacturing, factories make parts as fast as possible. Output is king, as long as quality is queen. It can be hard to fathom actually slowing down a work cell and being more productive (assuming you’re using less people).

The benefits of levelling production and timing work cells to takt time are enormous. Steady production is easy production!

Wikipedia has a decent explanation of takt time.

I try to keep it simple when explaining takt time. Here's a typical conversation:

Me: How fast can you make a part?

Worker: 60 seconds

Me: That's the cycle time.

Worker: I know that. I've been doing this for 20 years.

Me: Okay. How fast does the customer want the part?

Worker: Well. . . It's complicated. Some days they want more than other days. And sometimes it's just crazy. Like yesterday. . .

Me: I know what you mean. Yesterday was crazy. But if you take the average demand of the customer and you know how much time you have, you can figure out how many seconds you need per part.

Worker: Sounds a little complicated. You do the math and tell me.

Me: Just divide your time by their demand. That's the takt time. This is how often the customer wants a part. Let's figure it out together.

Takt Time Training Video:

This video takes you to the coffee shop to demonstrate the difference. The author also briefly touches on work balancing to match the takt time. A quick little video to clarify the takt time mystery, perfect for training.

Created by Graham Ross at Check out his site for more Lean Resources.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lean Lego Game - 4 Rounds to Successful Lean Training

Watch your senior management scramble to sort Lego against the clock in this Lean Lego Game, designed to illustrate how Lean and Agile techniques can make your process more efficient. This proven Lego game was designed by Danilo Sato and Francisco Trindade and presented at Agile 2008 and 2009.

The large pack of files includes clear instructions and professional presentation material. Everything you need to run your own version of the game is included, except the bricks.

Covering many Lean concepts including waste (the seven wastes), inventory buffers and kanban, kaizen and workcells, it’s perfect for facilitating your own Lego session, whether you’re implementing Lean in software development or on a manufacturing shop floor.

This game runs for 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on whether you want to run the long or short version. The long version includes an extra iteration of the game.

In short:  Professional. Clear. Comprehensive. Adaptable.

Key Files:

  • Facilitator Guide
  • Slides (Long and Short Version)
  • Building Instructions
  • Team Instructions

The production quality of the game material is top notch. The facilitator's guide is easy to follow and the slides are approaching Steve Jobs-like quality (i.e. excellent).

With the emphasis on software development, it will fit right into your Agile training session, while some minor massaging of the material will be necessary for a manufacturing or other Lean environment.

The Game:

The game is played with 4 teams of operators who work different stations.

  1. First team sorts the Lego bricks into colours
  2. Second team sorts the bricks into different sizes (keeping colours separated)
  3. Third team sorts the bricks into specific lots required to build a Lego house
  4. Fourth team takes specified bricks and builds a house according to the instructions
Round 1 - Push System

Teams sort and build as fast as possible. Inventory piles up. Chaos ensues. Debrief. Discuss waste, inventory, 7 wastes, push vs pull, kanban.

Make sure you motivate your team with the included posters!

Round 2 - Pull system

Install buffer limits between stations and only build when buffers empty. Debrief. Discuss solving unleveled process and the concept of a work cell.

Round 3 - Work Cell

Simultaneous house construction in work cells. Debrief. Discuss concept of kaizen.

Round 4 - Kaizen

Kaizen. Teams allowed to change what they want to improve process. Conclusion and final debrief.

Here’s a video of the Lean Lego game in action:


Overall, this is a very well presented game. It has clear instructions and appears to be easy to teach people due to the simplicity. I love the push vs. pull approach between rounds 1 and 2. It clearly illustrates the benefits of Lean and reducing WIP.

Also, since the game can become quite frantic and fast-paced, it's actually an excellent form of stress management and could help people manage similar situations in the actual workplace.

In Round 3, the work cell concept is discussed and demonstrated clearly. I would have liked to see a break-up of the building of the house to level the process, rather than building 4 identical structures at the same time. Perhaps a 2 person work cell for building, each doing half a house would work better.

But I come from a manufacturing background, so perhaps that’s my own preconceptions bubbling to the surface! I’d be interested if anyone separated the building aspect into two parts as a kaizen during any of the sessions run at the Agile conferences.

You can request all the material to run your own session of this game from Danilo Sato or Francisco Trindade.

Here’s a photoset of the Lean Lego game being played on Flickr.

As always, please comment if you’ve had any experience playing this game or running a session. Also hop on over to the creators’ blogs and share your comments there.

I’ve added this game to my growing list of Lean games and simulations.