Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Lean Start-up Snowflake Game

Snowflake Game
Imagine a beautiful winter wonderland with snowflakes silently falling all around you. Now look out the window. . . we can dream, can't we?

I know we all can't wait for winter, so here's a little game to get you out of those summer blahs.

I found the lean Snowflake Game posted on tastycupcakes.org. It's not a "batch vs single piece flow" kind of lean game, but more of a customer oriented lean game.

We've learned from an early age that "the customer's always right", but do we know what the customer wants to begin with? We could save ourselves a lot of frustration if we can nail down the customer requirements up front. The Snowflake Game would be ideal for a service oriented lean roll-out, where the customer's desires are not always quantifiable.

Starting with a simple piece of paper, teams fold paper and cut out snowflakes to satisfy a fickle customer. The acceptance criteria is tough, and not only will the customer reject poor quality snowflakes, but your customer assigns a value to each one, where more intricate snowflakes are rewarded with more money.


Minimum acceptance criteria: snowflake must have a general sense of being round, it must have 3 axes of symmetry, and must have even, precise cuts. Torn paper, squares/rectangles, lots of overcuts on the snowflake, paper that the audience supplied–will all be rejected. Every time a snowflake is presented to you, give simple and direct feedback, e.g., I can’t buy this because these edges are torn–the quality isn’t high enough; this one doesn’t say “round” to me, can’t buy it; this is beautiful–I’ll give you $1 for it! Don’t haggle, just move on to the next vendor.
Valuation of snowflakes: Intricate, unique, symmetrical, beautiful snowflakes will be bought for $1-$5. In the first round, I never see anything worth more than $1. I rarely pay as much as $3. Encourage innovation by telling people “this is the first time I’ve seen a signed snowflake! $2!” or some such comment. Encourage intricacy–”wow–lots of space cut out, I like that”.  Size matters–small snowflakes often can be purchased only two for a dollar unless they’re particularly ornate. As you buy snowflakes, either attach them to the wall or arrange them on the table in order of low value to high value. We’re not stating it in an obvious way, but hint at the valuation scheme every once in a while by hovering a new snowflake over the spectrum and say that this one “fits right about here, ok, $2″.

Of course, none of the teams know the customer's acceptance criteria up front. Only through successive iterations of the game, do they slowly learn the customer's needs and wants.

All this snowflake craziness is done in three minute sprints. Three minutes to make snowflakes, three minutes to debrief, three minutes to make snowflakes, three minutes to debrief, etc.

The Snowflake Game is a different sort of lean game. Designed for lean start-ups, it excels when your company produces a creative product, such as software development or an industry with a heavy focus on customer satisfaction.

The Snowflake game can be played as a demonstration of "getting what we measure." In this other example, the Snowflake game is run first with the target of making as many snowflakes as possible. After a debrief, the game is played again with the target changed to "Produce as many snowflakes that are beautiful enough to sell." Different targets produce different results.

Learn more about the Snowflake Game at the game page on tastycupcakes.org 

I've added this game to my huge list of lean games and simulations.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lean Waste Walk Template - Can You Walk and Write?

Waste Walk
After writing a detailed post about waste walks, I decided to use a template in one of my kaizen events. While we had a goal to focus on in our specific process, I thought a short waste walk would be a good way to review the 8 wastes and introduce the team to the process. Normally we have a keen eye for waste, but I haven't used a waste walk template before.

I dutifully looked at the informative slide show from last week and picked up the audit sheet at the end. We used a similar sheet, but I fine-tuned my own version in Excel.

What I found was that the waste audit form was comprehensive, covering all the 8 Wastes. Excellent!

Lean Waste Audit
Waste Audit from Previous Post
However, there wasn't enough room to write down all the wastes. In particular, if there was different types of the same waste identified, there was only room for one to be written down. And the opposite applied if there wasn't a specific waste. No Waiting? Leave it blank. . .

At the end of the walk, everyone's sheet had lots of tiny writing crammed into some of the boxes and blank spaces in the other ones. The audit sheet wasn't balanced!

But guess what? We reviewed the information and came up with a great list of wastes and resolutions. Ultimately, the entry sheet doesn't matter. The actions do. 

Of course I couldn't just leave it. After the kaizen event wrapped up and I summarized our data, I thought about ways to make it smoother for next time. How could I balance the waste walk and kaizen the kaizen event?

Tonight I put together this new waste walk template. Rather than having a line for each waste, I listed all the wastes across the top. Now each line can be any type of waste you find. After writing down the issue, just identify which of the 8 Wastes describes it best and write it in the "Type" column.

When you review the waste walk results as a team, you can still go through all the wastes and check if any were missed.

So, here it is! My improvement of the improvement process. I tried to keep it as simple as possible, since simple works for me.

By the way, the best tool to use while walking and writing is a clipboard. Any notebook that opens into a book is terrible for writing while walking. Just remember to look up every once in awhile!

Lean Waste Walk Template


The waste walk template file is embedded into the post just above this sentence. If you can't see it, you can access the file on Scribd here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/100883467/Lean-Waste-Walk-Template

Try it out and leave some feedback in the comments!


I've added this post to my continuously growing list of lean tools and downloads!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Worlds Collide! How a Waste Walk Helps You Trim the Fat

If you're not careful when searching for lean information, a simple typo will take you in a completely different direction. The word "lean" is a catch phrase in the health and dieting world. And if you are looking for information on reducing waste, be sure you don't spell waste with an "ai"!

However, there is one instance where the world of continuous improvement overlaps with the health and wellness sector. 

The Waste Walk!

Found on a Waist Walk?
Like any good exercise regime, the waste walk will help you and your team get out of your chair and become active, but the main focus is on identifying and reducing waste. A waste walk is designed to look for fat in your operations, and if done regularly, a waste walk may help you reduce inches off your waist as well! Worlds collide!

How Do You Conduct a Waste Walk?

Waste Walk Tool?
First, you need to know what you're looking for. What is waste? Before going on a waste walk, make sure your team knows what the 8 Wastes are. A waste walk is an improvement tool, but also a training opportunity.

Just remember the TIM WOOD acronym and you'll never forget the 8 wastes. One letter for each waste and you're off to the waste walk races. Well, you might forget the eighth one, since our friend TIM WOOD only covers 7 of them. But the 8th is easy to remember, the waste of talent!

  1. Transportation
  2. Inventory
  3. Motion
  4. Waiting
  5. Overproduction
  6. Overprocessing
  7. Defects 
  8. Talent or Skills

Review each waste with you team, perhaps using a short video, like the toast kaizen video.

Once you have the wastes memorized, get out there and start looking for them!

Choose a specific process area to focus on and dedicate a block of time for the review. An hour should be enough depending on how complex the process is.

Now, watch the process run. Is there waste of motion? Is there excess inventory? What about waiting? Are defects being generated? Discuss with your team and write down everything. Just write them down first, don't fix them.

Make sure you bring a checklist, so no waste is being neglected. Everyone should have a place to write their observations.

I've embedded a presentation from Slideshare outlining the 7 wastes and providing an audit sheet to use on your waste walk.

Waste Walk ~ Audit


After collecting all the raw information, you need to come up with an action plan. Some of the fixes will be easy, while others will be impossible. Sit down with your team and make a list of actionable items with implementation dates. The walking is over, but the plan is just beginning.

Just remember, even though you are making an action plan, there's nothing stopping you from doing small things right away. If you can improve it now, then do it!

Now Standardize It!

Unlike a kaizen event, you won't have 5 days to implement your changes. The purpose of a waste walk is identifying the waste. By keeping it short, you can schedule them regularly. One hour a week, or perhaps once a month, get a team to review their own process. Make sure management and supervisors are involved. They will be responsible for implementation.

The action item list is key to sustaining the changes. Management needs to audit and ensure the identified changes are put in place.  


Regular waste walks are good for the organization and great for your waist!

Need some more tips? Check out the following video of a waste walk being performed in a hospital.




Here's the direct link to the video on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=146Yn5MV85U

I've added this post to my list of lean tools. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Takt Time Calculator for Demanding Customers

Fine-toothed comb?
After two posts on cycle time analysis, a cycle time element chart and a cycle time tracking chart, it's time to figure out what the customer wants. It's nice to sit down and look at our own process with a fine toothed comb, but what are we measuring against? We need to know the takt time!

And since I seem to be on an Excel kick the last few posts, I've decided to find an Excel-based takt time calculator to join the team!

I've posted links to an online takt time calculator before, but the calculator below is downloadable if you want to add it to your Excel arsenal.

What's the difference between takt time and cycle time?


customer demand
A demanding customer!
Quite simply, cycle time is how fast our process is currently running and the takt time is how often the customer wants parts. In an optimized factory, the takt time and cycle time are very close.

Here's a handy video that explains takt time if you haven't had your morning coffee yet.

If Darth Vader is ordering 10,000 tie fighters per year and your space ship company is contracted for the job, how fast are you going to make them?

If you build them all year, then deliver them at the end of the year, two bad things will happen:

First, you'll have invested all your money in tie fighter raw material and you won't get paid until you deliver them. This money will be tied up and you'll be paying a tremendous amount of interest on it.

Secondly, Darth Vader will be wanting these tie fighters ASAP and will not wait for the end of the year when you'll give him 10,000 all at once. He wants the deliveries spread out, so he can start using them to replace those destroyed by the rebel alliance.

Your goal as a manufacturer is to make what the customer wants, when the customer wants it. No more, no less. Now we just enter the critical information into our Excel takt time calculator:

excel takt time calculator


If you need to make 10,000 per year, this works out to about 41.7 tie fighters per week, based on a 5 day work week and a few weeks of holidays. At three 8-hour shifts, you'll need to  pump out a tie fighter every 1899 seconds!

Now that you know the customer requirements, you can match your own process cycle time to the customer takt time and minimize inventories. If you build faster, you'll have to hold extra tie fighters in inventory and you won't get paid for them. If you build slower. . . well. . . would you want to miss a shipment to the Sith lord?

Check out the handy excel takt time calculator at www.gembapantarei.com 


Of course, there's always the non-evil option. You could build X-wing fighters for the rebel alliance, since we know how this story ends. I imagine you would want your business to survive the impending fall of the empire! 

I've added this post to my list of handy lean tools and downloads.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cycle Time Analysis Version two

lean excel charting
After posting the cycle time analysis template last week, I decided to look for an Excel file that charts itself. The time study chart is designed for pen and paper analysis on the shop floor, which is perfect when you're out there with your stop watch doing a time study. Or perhaps when you regroup with your team to go over the results together.

It's a clear method for comparing the different elements of the cycle time.

But now that the computer age has arrived (a few decades ago), I want more! In this exciting time of rapid technological advancement how about a sweet, computerized graph for tracking the process over a period of time? How does the cycle time fluctuate? If you take twenty cycles what's the variance?

Excel isn't necessarily the best tool for looking at statistics. For more in depth study, you should really be firing up Minitab or some other statistical software. However, if you simply want to chart a number of cycles and show them visually, then it's easy to put together a quick chart in Excel.

excel cycle time tracking

At driveyoursuccess.com, this excel work's been done for you. As a cycle time analysis tool, it works on a macro level. Instead of digging in to each element of the cycle, this chart tracks different cycles over time.

I wouldn't call this a lean tool so much, since it doesn't deal with best repeatable cycle times, customer demand and takt time, but it does give you an easy way to see the cycle time fluctuation.

And once you enter the numbers, the graph charts itself! Splendid.

Now you can ask the difficult questions! Why is the cycle time fluctuating and what can we due to reduce fluctuations. Variability is a productivity killer. Each spike represents a non-standard cycle that can indicate a problem. Once the information's visible, it's time to attack those problems.

Of course, you could quite easily make a little graph yourself in Excel, but if you're in a hurry, just download this one which is already created for you.


You can find the direct link here:
http://www.driveyoursuccess.com/2012/01/cycle-time-tracking-variance-analysis-in-excel-for-small-manufacturers.html


I've added this post to my page of helpful lean tools and free downloads. 

Want more Excel lean goodness? Check out Metrics-Based Process Mapping: An Excel-Based Solution.