Monday, October 22, 2012

What is Lean Manufacturing?

There have been many attempts to define exactly what lean manufacturing is. Some call it TPS, after the Toyota Production System, while others attempt to define it by what it does.

Lean reduces waste. Lean creates more efficient operations. Lean improves flow. Lean creates an improvement culture. Lean is about respect for people. Lean is a tower in Italy. Lean identifies value. Lean makes problems visible.

How do you concisely describe something that many authors have written multiple books about? Lean's very simple and at the same time extremely complex. You'll recognize it when you see it. It's true that lean is about reducing time to the customer, improving the value-added portion of manufacturing and reducing waste. But when you get right down to looking at your process, lean is common sense. Reduce the number of touches. Reduce redundant work. Basic steps that make sense, yet for some reason, no one's gotten around to doing it yet.

What is lean manufacturing?

Here's a short little video that might be useful for your next training session. A three minute video from SME that introduces lean in simple terms. It's a bit of an older video, but lean concepts are universal, not dependent on silly things like age. Although time is critical to determining efficient processes and calculating customer demand, but I digress. . . watch the video:

There's a little bit of fluff in the video. . . It's just a basic introduction to lean manufacturing. However, the part that stands out for me is the graphic showing the coin divided into value added and non value added work. Anyone that's done value stream mapping will understand this ratio. Traditional manufacturing tends to grow the coin to increase value added content and make more money.  Lean turns that around by maintaining the size of the coin, but only growing the value-added portion. By focusing on reducing non value added activities, there's more room for money making processes, without adding more labour.

This coin graphic is a clear way to explain how efficient lean operations are not focused on reducing labour, but rather making more money with existing overhead. A work force worried about their jobs will never be engaged. I'll be using this graphic in my next explanation of lean, even if I have to sketch it out on a napkin.

I've added this video to my list of free lean training videos. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Standard Work Instructions - The T-shirt Folding Exercise

Many lean trainers use a folding t-shirt game to teach standard work. I posted a video before showing some ninja t-shirt folding which I've seen used for lean training.

T-shirt folding is great exercise for lean training. It's simple and doesn't require any special material besides a t-shirt. Everyone's familiar with this basic article of clothing and, in general, most people hate to fold laundry. Why not show everyone a more efficient way to perform this mundane task?

And if you want to reward your team, let them keep the t-shirt at the end of the training. Heck, why not splurge and buy some real lean t-shirts with incredibly witty slogans on them!
(Disclaimer: I designed that shirt, so only positive comments, please).

Recently I found a few other videos on t-shirt folding and I wanted to update the whole t-shirt folding phenomenon.

The first one is a simple demonstration of the classic folding technique:

Watch it directly on youtube here.

The second one gives more details, including precisely where to draw the line with your hand, instructions on where to pinch the shirt and how to cross your arms and shake it.

If you can't see the above video, you'll have to head over to youtube and watch it there.

So what do you do with these videos?

After having a few laughs and struggling with your group's terrible folding techniques, use a stop watch and time everyone folding their t-shirts simultaneously.

Develop a standard work for t-shirt folding. Isolate each of the job elements and go through the instructions step by step. Then time your group again. The results will clearly show the benefits of standard work. You can't argue with data! Well, you can, but you'll probably lose.

There's a few additional standard work examples on my previous post on the subject, but I've also found this comprehensive presentation on standardized work and TWI. The presentation includes a job breakdown sheet for the t-shirt folding exercise on page 47.

So, get your people together, head for the laundromat (or boardroom) and get folding! And then tell us about it in the comments below!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lean Paper Airplane Game Instructions

About 2 weeks ago I posted a video of a lean simulation using a paper airplane folding process. Far from unique, making paper airplanes is a very common technique to teach lean processes. Paper is cheap and available. Folding is easy. Look on youtube and you'll find tons of lean paper airplane videos. I've posted links to a few in the past.

What I liked about the last lean game I posted, was how they used scissors to add an extra step to the process. Introducing a tool creates a different type of work technique, which is more common in the real world.

How often do we have a process where each step is a variation of the previous step? Not likely. In most manufacturing processes, we have different machines that do different things for a reason. Welding, driving screws, assembling components of differing geometry and complexity, paint, glue, curing. The list could go on forever.

That's why having a lean simulation with differing process steps is a better way to simulate a real process, in my opinion.

I looked long and hard for paper airplane folding instructions that incorporated a scissor cut and came up empty handed. So I decided to examine the video closely and come up with the steps myself.

After watching the video replay, the decision is final. It's good!

Lean Paper Airplane Folding Game from leansimulations

If you can't see the embedded page above, you can download the file directly from Slideshare.

Has anyone else used a paper airplane simulation for lean training? What paper airplane model did you use?

Monday, October 1, 2012

6 Thinking Hats - Keep that brainstorming under your hat!

Time to put on your thinking caps! In my last post I highlighted a paper airplane folding lean simulation. At one point during the video the team had a humourous problem solving adventure. In fact, they were using a parallel problem solving method called, Six Thinking Hats. This problem solving method was created by Edward de Bono and described in his book by the same name, Six Thinking Hats.

What is the Six Thinking Hats problem solving technique?

Wikipedia describes the Six Thinking Hats method as an exercise in parallel thinking. Since my computer has a dual core processor, I know exactly what this means. Both cores working at the same time, in parallel? Right? Sort of.

Parallel thinking is a way of approaching the problem from different points of view at the same time. Ok, this is not making things any clearer. . .

When you have a typical brainstorming session, you gather a cross-functional team together to ensure that every point of view is represented. You have a person from production, quality, finance, engineering etc.. A great cross-functional team to make sure that nothing is forgotten.

Even with a motivated team trying to succeed, you have an inherent problem. While someone is putting forward their view, others are formulating their own response based on their background and expertise. Each person has their own linear view of the problem and thinks independently.

Even if everyone came from the same process area, and shared the same point of view, the conversation can be disjointed. While one person is explaining the facts, another is thinking about the benefits and a third person is thinking about the negative aspects.

The Six Thinking Hats problem solving method tries to solve this by making the whole group think of the same part of the problem at the same time. . .using coloured hats as a physical, visual cue.

Each hat represents a distinct direction of challenging the problem.
  • White Hat - Information - during the white hat discussion, only the facts are presented. 
  • Red Hat - Emotions - everyone shares their gut feelings without any justification for them. 
  • Black Hat - Discernment - cautious thinking, what could go wrong.
  • Yellow Hat - Optimism - discuss the benefits.
  • Green Hat - Creativity - time to present the oddball ideas, with little criticism. 
  • Blue Hat - Direction - The chairperson wears the blue hat and can direct the discussion into a different mode. 
The Six Thinking Hat is a formalized approach to problem solving. By forcing everyone in the group to focus on one aspect at a time, the group is not moving in different directions or ignoring specific issues. By addressing all the different "hats," nothing is missed. It's a simple technique, even silly, perhaps, but when used in a structured fashion it can be a powerful decision making process, especially if used iteratively.  

Don't take my word for it, check out the video below that explains the process in more detail.

Is this too hard for you? Guess what. . . even kids do it! Check out the children in the video below: 

And finally here's a slideshare summary:

Interested in learning more about Six Thinking Hats? Read the source:

Who's used the Six Thinking Hat method? Please comment below. Was it effective?

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