Monday, August 27, 2012

The Perfect Transaction - A perfect Powerpoint presentation

How do you define the perfect lean process? Is there one? What does the perfect process look like? 

It's easy to look at an existing scenario and say, "Let's eliminate waste!" 

This Powerpoint is no longer available. But maybe you can make your own with a little effort?

We organize work areas, we get rid of unnecessary items, we move things closer together, we create work cells, we level production, we cut back on work-in-process, we figure out what information's important and track it visually, we use simple pull systems, we develop complicated pull systems, we respect our people, we create a culture of continuous improvement, but what's the goal? Are we ever going to reach it?

It's clear that no process is ever perfect and there's always room for improvement, but sometimes we can just get so caught up in the incremental improvements, the "kaizens", that we lose focus on the big picture. 

I came across this useful Powerpoint presentation that describes the perfect transaction. In a transactional environment like a bank or insurance company (or any large business for that matter), the processes that make and lose money for the business are transactions. So what does a perfect process look like?

Let's look at each point individually

Completed by one person:

Completed by one person means no hand-offs to another person. This is counter intuitive to the manufacturing environment. When the cycle time of a process exceeds the takt time, we need to add a person. In a physical process, we would divide up the work like an assembly line, however, in a transactional world, the information hand-off can take longer than the work involved. In these cases it's better to work in parallel rather than in series.

Completed one at a time (no batching):

Although it may be easier to store up like bunches of material to do at all at once, this slows down the over all cycle time creates inventory.

Completed as soon as the request is made:

No waiting. This one's obvious!

Completed without interruption:

This one seems obvious too, but how many times are you interrupted while at your desk? You're going to be in the middle of something. The perfect transaction has no interruptions, since they lead to defects and waiting.

Completed with the information provided:

If you have to ask for more information, than something's wrong. Accurate and complete data leads to less interruptions, less waiting, less defects.

Completed correctly:

I hope so! Yet so hard to accomplish. Check out this article on how there are errors in 84% of San Francisco house foreclosures!

It never returns:

Wonderfully stated. No errors, no rework. 

So have you experienced the perfect transaction? It's highly unlikely. Although with today's automated systems we're getting closer. And that's what kaizen is all about. We may not be able to get to the perfect process right now, but these small steps are meant to get us closer to the goal of a perfect transaction.

This very useful transactional lean Powerpoint presentation is available from the same place as the Standard Pig exercise and a great paperwork simulation.  Not only do we get the above description of the Perfect Transaction, you also get deeper discussion points about barriers to good information flow and specific tips to reduce inaccuracies. I'm not an expert on information flow, but it makes sense to me to use drop down menus instead of typing information into boxes.

If you're working on lean in a place where information is the process, than you need to see this presentation. Simple, yet effective. You can no longer download this, since the link is broken.But still feel free to head on over to the Minnesota State Lean page to view all the available resources.

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

Do you have anything to add to the Perfect Transaction? Feel free to comment below!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lean Office Simulation - Because we all love to fill out paperwork!

A lean office simulation gets analyzed.

A Lean Office Simulation 

Disclaimer: This post describes a paper written about a lean office game. As such, there are some neat and interesting techniques presented that can be used in a lean simulation, but no full-fledged lean office simulation. Too bad. For a simpler, but complete lean office game, check out the Paperwork Simulation

I found this paper on the website. ASEE stands for the American Society for Engineering Education. Apparently there'a a whole society dedicated to training engineers. As an engineer myself, this surprised me, since I figured we already knew everything. . . All jokes aside, apparently they have plenty of experience creating and tweaking lean games and simulations. This particular paper was presented at their 119th annual conference and can be found here, titled "Redesigning a Lean Simulation Game for More Flexibility and Higher Efficiency." 

For those that are into dry, analytic reading, this paper is wonderful! Believe me, people like me do enjoy reading this stuff. It's actually not too dry. The authors explore an existing lean game and try to improve it using a Six Sigma approach. It's a great one-two punch. Not only do we get some insight into a lean office game, but we get to follow a six sigma problem solving process.

The Lean Office Simulation:

Unfortunately, we don't get to see the full fledged game in this paper, or get access to the files. However, the paper describes some details of the game, allowing us to get a general picture of how to run a paper-based lean office simulation.

Eight participants are employees at a consulting business. These eight people are in charge of setting up consulting appointments for new customers.

There are two types of customers (red and blue). The consultant has limited time and customers cannot be overbooked. Each process step involves either bubble form filling, rolling dice, writing, signing off, or communicating for scheduling. All typical office activities (except for the dice). I'm guessing the dice rolling have to do with generating a new customer.

Although we don't get to see the whole simulation, we do get to see the bubble form that's used.

In the first and second phase of the game, the form above is filled out by the first two processors (Registrar and Data Processor 1). The bubbles need to be filled out, so the form can be "read" by a computer. I remember these from my university exam days. Easy to make a mistake? You bet! This is a great, cumbersome form to be used for any lean office type of simulation.

How does the rest of the lean office game play out?

We don't know. However, if you're working in a lean office environment, you may be able to come up with some additional processes to add onto this one. Scheduling, multiple sign-offs and recording additional information are all things to consider for next steps. Consider the following improvement the authors make to the bubble form:

More information is added to the form, including salary level, phone number and job. Perhaps this is a combination of multiple forms. In addition, the bubbles are replaced with "digital" number fields. An effort at standardization?

The authors also describe how to make the game flexible across different participant counts. This is key to prevent handing out too many "observer" roles to your group. Their approach is to add or remove different processes depending on the different number of participants. They also concluded that it's generally better to have two teams competing against each other, instead of running only one game.

Once again, you can access this paper on the ASEE website here. 

For those of you looking for some interesting techniques on running a lean office simulation game, the paper is worth reading. If you're looking for a more polished and complete lean office game, check out the Paperwork Simulation game.

Does anyone out there have any experience with this or a similar office game? Please share your thoughts in the comments. I'd love to hear them!