Monday, June 25, 2012

Lean Cycle Time Analysis Template

Talk about promising something that doesn't deliver. This document from bills itself as a Cycle Time Loading Chart. But it doesn't give you a chart! You have to draw it yourself. As if we didn't have enough work to do already. . .

Actually, this lean form is a very useful template for analyzing the cycle time of multiple operations. Meant to be filled out with a pencil or pen, it includes all the steps necessary for determining how many people you need in a given process.

This looks like an excellent presentation tool for a kaizen group. After determining the best repeatable cycle time for each process with your trusty stopwatch, you fill out the boxes on the top of the form. The graph paper below is set up so you can plot each cycle time on a bar chart.

Now you can compare the cycle times of each process. The chart's a great visual tool to see how balanced the process is at a glance. I usually draw these charts on a flip chart for comparison, but it's nice to see a template with all the information set up for you.

How does each process compare to takt time? 

The template doesn't let you forget this key information. On the right hand side is a place to calculate the takt time, by figuring out the available time and the demand. Once you have the takt time, you can add it to the chart you've created. If all goes as planned, the cycle times will be less than the takt time and you can do some re-balancing with your lean team.

With your handy chart in hand, the takt time calculated and plotted, you can now get down to some serious cycle time analysis. How many people do you need? Simply look in the bottom corner, enter your total cycle time and divide by the takt time. Voila! Cycle time analyzed.

This Excel cycle time analysis template can be found on the resource page for

Look for the template aptly titled "Cycle Time Loading Chart."

If you're looking for more free lean templates and forms, check out my list of helpful lean tools and downloads. They're free!

By the way, speaking of taking cycle times and using stopwatches, I hope everyone is using a good quality stopwatch. When performing cycle time studies, it's critical that you can store some history on your stopwatch. You don't want to break the cycle every time to record and reset. Believe me, a good quality stop watch goes a long way. 

This Seiko stop watch is the one I use for my cycle time analysis. It's not a Timex, but I've dropped it numerous times and it keeps on ticking. As I mentioned, the main thing to look for in a stop watch is the ability to store multiple readings. This Seiko stopwatch stores up to a hundred readings, but they go up to three hundred if you want to spend more money. It will make your life easier. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Envelope Stuffing - One Piece Flow

To make up for not having a post last week, I've embedded two videos of envelope stuffing below. That's right! Mesmerize yourself with some exciting footage of people stuffing envelopes!

Actually, stuffing envelopes is a perfect lean activity for demonstrating one piece flow. It's simple and cheap. The process consists of multiple steps. And everyone's familiar with the method.

It wasn't too long ago that my wife was preparing for our wedding day. I also was roped into some of these preparations. The table was lined up with wedding invitations, ready to be signed, folded, stamped and mailed. This was in my dark pre-lean days and I assumed the fastest way would be to batch them.

Well, apparently that's not the case. Here follows video evidence that batching is slower than one piece flow.

The first video shows one man taking on the task. He times himself stuffing 10 envelopes, the traditional batch and queue method. After 10 envelopes, he repeats the task, one envelop at a time. The time shows that one piece flow is faster!

Some key things to note. During the batch process, tons of inventory build up. The envelopes by their nature don't stack very well when folded, showing some of the dangers of inventory (messy work place, bad 5S).

Now, what if my wife realized she wrote the wrong name on the wedding invitation? It would be a bit of task sorting through the stack of half opened envelopes to find the right one. The rest would be falling all over the place.

Here's the first video. The second one is below it. For those that can't see the embedded video, you can watch it on youtube here.

The other thing that needs to be remembered when watching these videos is the benefit of one piece flow to the downward processes. With one guy, one process, this benefit is essentially lost. So what if it's a little faster? Sure that's a benefit. But with multiple people doing the envelope stuffing in a row, you can demonstrate the real power of one piece flow. Less inventory through the process and faster cycle time for the first piece through the system.

This brings me to my second video. Here we have two teams competing against each other using two people each. This is the perfect opportunity to how one piece flow is more efficient. One person can be folding and stuffing, while the other is closing and stamping.

Unfortunately, the video disappoints. Both teams seem to be batching the process. I'm only showing the video as an example of how you could use this as a team activity, rather than a single person demonstration.

Here's video number two. You can watch the original on youtube here. 

To do this properly, I would use 4 people in a row. Each person does one step of the process, Person one folds, person two sticks it in the envelope, person 3 seals the envelope and the last person stamps it.

With this pseudo production line, you can control the WIP inbetween. Start with each person passing papers in batches of 5. Time how long it takes to go through the whole system. Nest, get each person to pass after completing one at a time. This way you can illustrate the benefits of reducing inventory between processes.

As demonstrated in both videos, stuffing envelopes can be easily used to illustrate lean processes. Whether as a one person demonstration or as a group activity, finding some envelopes and stuffing them is very cheap and requires basically no set-up.

For a more in-depth paper based lean activity check out the Making Pamphlets game, updated as "We're Having a Party". 

I've added this activity to my list of free lean games and training simulations. 

If after all this fun, stuffing envelopes is still too boring for you, consider stepping it up a notch with these awesome (and more complicated) mechanical paper card designs. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Learn Sorting Techniques with Traditional Folk Dancing

This blog post has nothing to do with lean. I stumbled across this video and after half an hour of mesmerizing folk dancing, I just had to post it.

Like most engineers, I've had some rudimentary computer programming training. But I don't recall ever learning  any sorting methods. After watching these videos, I feel like a sorting expert. I've never even heard of these techniques (merge sort, quick sort, shell sort, etc).

Sorting seems like really dry computational stuff. Unless you add traditional folk dancing!!

Please don't watch this video unless you have half an hour to kill. There's a series of videos and you'll have to watch them all. After a minute or two of tap dancing, you'll be hooked. At first I just watched the dancers, then I needed to figure out the pattern. Then I had to watch it again. Then I had to watch the next one.

Besides learning about computational sorting, there's some merit to these videos. After all, this blog is about training techniques and the following videos are definitely a unique training method. It's something you'll never forget.

What unique teaching methods have you used to teach lean or other things?

Merge-sort with Transylvanian-saxon (German) folk dance:

Click here to watch the video on youtube. 

There's much more!!

Insert-sort with Romanian folk dance
Quick-sort with Hungaria folk dance
Select-sort with Gypsy folk dance
Bubble-sort with Hungarian ("Csángó") folk dance
Shell-sort with Hungarian (Székely) folk dance