Showing posts with label lean tool. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lean tool. Show all posts

Monday, August 29, 2011

Why Value Stream Mapping? - A Power Point Review

And now I shall continue my exposé on Value Stream Mapping. The secrets held within the VSM are slowly being revealed for all to see in this third in my series of posts. Some of the greatest science fiction masterpieces are series, such as Battlestar Galactica or The Wheel of Time, so perhaps some day value stream mapping will make it up there.

Today I bring you the "Why" of Value Stream Mapping.

This value stream mapping presentation provides a brief history of value stream mapping, a comparison to simple process mapping and an excellent description of the process. It's a comprehensive presentation, perfect for a group training session.

Apart from the nuts and bolts of value stream mapping, however, this presentation delivers the reason for using the tool. Many times we get caught up in the mechanics of our lean tools. We expect some kind of improvement just by doing value stream mapping.

But value stream mapping is a higher level tool. The improvements that we derive from VSM are system level goals, that generally require a lot of work and perhaps significant capital investment. You can't just do a value stream map and expect to be 50 percent improved the next day.

Sure, you can get some quick gains during a value stream mapping session. Just like any kind of analysis of a process, you'll readily see all kinds of small things that could be improved in each process. But since value stream mapping approaches the whole value stream, the focus is on improving the whole, not just the parts.

Value stream mapping provides a blueprint for further continuous improvement activities. The presentation describes the future state value stream map as a "Vision". And that's the Why! The goal is to provide some direction for your company. Where shall we start? Let's do a Value Stream Map and figure it out.

The presentation also includes an addendum that describes all of the symbols used in a value stream map. If you ever want to do your value stream map in Powerpoint, then these symbols are handy to copy and put into your own presentation.

Update: The site hosting this file is no longer active and the file isn't available anymore..

Find more lean tools like this on the  free lean tools and downloads page.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lean Examples - Pictures Tell the Story

They say a picture's worth a thousand words. If that's the case, then the following lean site is like a library of stuffy Russian literature. A lot of pictures = a ton of words. is a blog featuring pictures of actual lean practices in different work areas.

 "Photos of lean enterprise examples, concepts, ideas, and critiques."

Recent posts include:

  • Replenishment bins with visible markings indicating refill points. 
  • Stand-up meeting board with colour coded cards indicating staus of different equipment. 
  • Tool storage shadow boards
  • Visual suggestion box
  • Colour-coded tool status board.
Pictures are the best way to show visual management practices. Have you ever tried to describe a shadow board without drawing one? People don't always get it until they see it. And when they see pictures of a whole tool crib set up with shadow boards, then they really start to understand the practical applications.

I usually like to pull up a few of these pictures during a training session to show people what types of things are being done at other places. It gets the juices flowing and starts everyone thinking about how it would work in their situation.

And the best part is that you can challenge everyone to come up with ways to improve on the example. We love to critique other people's solutions and that can easily be flipped back to our own processes. If we did something similar, we could improve on it by changing this or adding that. And now we're talking about our own process, so let's just go and do it. is an excellent resource for all kinds of lean visual examples. Head on over and use the photographic evidence in your next training session.

Unfortunately, the site is down now, maybe discontinued, but you can find more useful info on my list of Lean Tools and Downloads.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tons of Quality Templates - Six sigma meets Excel and spawns a monster!

Amazing collection of Six Sigma and quality Excel templates. Someone has put some serious effort into making some full-featured forms.

Let's say you don't want to shell out for the latest version of Minitab. You're sure to find a simple Excel hypothesis test that you can download from the internet. And then you come across this site:

In the side bar list of Excel quality templates, you will find not just one simple T test, but the T test, the F test, Chi squared test and Mann Whitney Rank sum test!

Four! hypothesis testing templates for your six sigma projects.

As a six sigma blackbelt, I once learned the formulas for calculating these tests. Then I promptly forgot them and depended on Minitab to do all the number crunching for me. I'm more of a results guy, then a theoretical numbers man. But someone put a lot of work into these templates and I commend them for that.

And there's more. A lot more.

Not only do we have the aforementioned hypothesis tests, there's gauge R & R templates (variable and attribute), a 3 factor DOE form, probability analysis templates (z tables etc), capability studies, regression analysis and much more.

Really. This is definitely a one stop shop for your quality forms and calculations.

My only disclaimer is that there's so much here that I haven't checked to see if all the calculations are accurate. And as long as I still have a day job and a life in general, I'm not going to be able to spend a few years doing that. So use at your own risk and post here if you have the energy and time to verify the forms for accuracy.  

Update: All these forms have been migrated to:

This site has been added to the Lean Tools and Downloads page.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lean Accounting - The value stream wins!

I guess I've been doing a series on Lean Accounting. After the last two posts, I decided to look for some more in depth information on Lean Accounting.

The site gives a plethora of information on the nitty gritty numbers. I'm not an accountant, so most of the higher level number crunching goes beyond me. But even I can understand a lean P&L statement.

At the bottom of this article about Lean Accounting methods, there is a side by side comparison of a Lean vs Traditional profit and loss statement. It is completely clear in the lean statement how much is being spent on procurement vs conversion, so any improvement activities are immediately evident on the bottom line. Whereas the traditional statement has "adjustments," "margins" and "other costs." Only a finance guy knows what that means (refer to subsection blah blah, part 3A for further details...).

I love this quote:
The lean accounting movement was born of frustration. 
It's true that many Lean initiatives don't directly hit the bottom line. And that's where the challenge lies with accounting. Where's the immediate payoff?

By looking at the entire value stream, costs are captured across different products. I.e. if an existing machine has capacity, you can factor that into the lean accounting method, while in traditional accounting, you would still capture the entire burden of the machine.

On, there's a huge amount of information. I especially like the examples showing lean accounting at work. There's a series of articles called Stories from the Field, which give real lean accounting examples including making pricing decisions, value stream analysis in retail and manufacturing, quoting, and accounts payable value streams. This is where the gold is, learning with real examples.

There's also a larger Powerpoint presentation on Lean accounting, as well as video interviews and many other articles.

If you're interested in more Lean Accounting training tools, check out my other posts including this video series and this slideshare presentation. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lean Accounting - Simple Measures Produce Simple Presentations.

This short Lean Accounting presentation embedded below is a good summary of the key Lean Accounting principles.  As a  follow-up to the video I posted earlier this week, I went searching for more information to post on Lean Accounting.

Breaking up your training session with videos, presentations and games, is necessary to hold your audiences interest, especially with a topic as exciting as accounting. I like this eight slide presentation because it identifies the key points and doesn't over expand on them.

Keep slides simple, like Lean Accounting measurements

Presentation slides should be kept simple, so you can talk about them, not read from them.

Since there are minimal details in the slides, it's your job to describe how traditional accounting drives non-lean behaviour, like excess inventory and large batch sizes.

And as a bonus, there's absolutely no advertising or consultant watermarks hidden within these slides, so you can watch without being sold someone else's products.

Slide number 6 in particular gives a great explanation of which lean measurements should be used at each level of the organization, from the high level strategic measures, to the value stream measurements and the process measurements.

Lean Accounting Presentation: 

I've added this post to my list of Lean Tools and Resources. Post in the comments if you know of any other resources or links to Lean Accounting tools or training aids.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lean Tool: Fishbone Diagram. . . Add some fish to your diet!

A Fishbone Diagram is an extremely useful problem solving tool. After smoothing out your flow with the Spaghetti Diagram, it's time to use the Fishbone diagram to do some root cause analysis.

First reduce the carbs, then add some seafood to your Lean diet!

Having the Fishbone diagram in Powerpoint may actually be more helpful then the Spaghetti diagram, since it's more likely you'll be in a meeting room setting when filling out a fishbone with your group.

Also called the Ishikawa diagram or "cause and affect diagram," this Lean tool will assist you in your problem solving and brainstorming sessions. Using a structured approach, the fishbone diagram forces the group to focus on all aspects of the process.

The Fishbone Diagram takes a burning question and looks for all things that could possibly contribute to that issue. When trying to determine the root cause of a technical issue, the team needs to think of everything. The structure of a Fishbone Diagram standardizes your approach to ensure you consider all the possibilities.

And we all like standards!

The diagram is designed with the "Effect" located at the head of the fish, and each bone or branch containing a family of potential "Causes".

There are 6 main bones in the standard Fishbone diagram skeleton. Different terminologies are sometimes used, but they represent the common major influences in any process.

  1. Man - How can a person contribute to the effect (training, mistakes, non-standard work)?
  2. Method - How the design of the process can cause the effect (job design, process steps)?
  3. Machine - What equipment contributions are there (process settings, machine malfunctions, equipment variability)?
  4. Material - Any raw material influences (differences in lots, traceability)?
  5. Metrics - How are we measuring this (gauge r&r, capability)?
  6. Mother Nature - What environmental impacts are there (weather, air quality, heat)?
On each branch of the fishbone diagram, you begin to write all the specific potential causes that could influence your effect. For example, in the Machine branch, you might have several causes related to the equipment, such as machine breakdown, start-up, differences between machines.  

Depending on the process, you may have a lot of information on one branch and very little on another. It's ok. The purpose of the fishbone diagram is to guide your team, using a structured approach, not to make a pretty picture. 

After you've completed the fishbone diagram, you'll have a list of things to investigate. Just assign priorities to each and go after the big ones first. 

There's a good summary of how to fill out an Ishikawa diagram here:

I've added this to my list of Lean tools and resources.

What other names have you seen or used for labeling the branches in a Fishbone Diagram?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lean Tool: The Spaghetti Diagram. . .or How to Switch to a Lean Low Carb Diet.

When I eat spaghetti my tools of choice are a fork and spoon, but the spaghetti itself can also be an excellent tool in its own right, a Lean Tool.

Spaghetti Diagram is a good way to visualize the flow in your process. The "plate" for your spaghetti is a top view of your process, whether a layout of the shop floor or your office. The "spaghetti" in a spaghetti diagram is the route taken by the part or operator through the process. Perhaps it's a product being made in a manufacturing cell or the flow of a document through the accounting department.

The resulting flow forms a tangled mess of lines, that resembles a plate of spaghetti.

Any comprehensive lean tool box should include a spaghetti diagram. It's not hard to make your own. Just follow someone around and trace their path on a map of the process. In fact, it's generally preferable to use pencil and paper when drawing your lines. People don't walk in straight lines, so your spaghetti should look cooked, not raw. And don't lift the pencil!

Obviously, the more messy the spaghetti, the more messy and inefficient your process is. After drawing out the path, it's often surprising to discover how the flow deviates from what the team thought. What makes sense theoretically can fall apart in the real world.

The key is to reduce those carbohydrates!

Introduce your process to Dr. Atkins and get rid of that spaghetti. Once you see the mess, look at how you can improve it. By moving stations closer together, restructuring the workflow, balancing the work elements and reducing movement, you'll be left with only the proteins. No fatty waste, just the value-added steps, the Lean meat.

Occasionally you might want a cleaner look for a presentation or digital document. The image above is from a pre-made Powerpoint form that can help you transfer your work environment to the electronic page. You just have to move around the boxes to match your process. All the formatting's been completed for you.

I think physically dragging your pencil around a layout of the process is the best way to really understand the flow through the system. But for presentations, the above Powerpoint technique is a good way to present your improvements to top brass, who may be less than impressed with a pencil sketch.

There's a good summary of how to fill out or perform a spaghetti diagram here:

Next time we'll talk about adding some fish to your diet!

Update: Unfortunately this Powerpoint template is no longer available so I've removed all the old links.

I've added this post to my Helpful Lean Tools and Downloads page.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Takt time Calculator - Web-based tool makes it easy

A simple interface and clean design make this little Takt Time Calculator useful in my book. It's important to know the basics while you're taking your time studies and creating standard work. The Takt Time calculator from was created by some Italian engineers with a passion for Lean.

takt time calculator

Now, I know what you're thinking. I can just calculate my takt time on a sheet of blank paper, in the margins of my work sheet. True. But does your handwriting look this good?

You can see from the interface that some thought was put into the presentation. This takt time calculator is smooth. Just plug in your information and it spits out the takt time. 

Naturally, anyone can make a little Excel spreadsheet to do the same. But this one's web based! We're living in the cloud now. Get with the times. It's always available when you have access to the internet. You can email the link to your Facebook friends and become more popular. And all those new friends won't wreck your Excel calculations. The drop down menu provides defined choices, so it's pretty hard to mess it up. 

Plus, it works on my iPhone!

I gave the takt time calculator a whirl and it does what it should. Personally, I like having more options to play with, but I'm a tinkerer. The standard options for shift time and breaks are probably enough for most processes. 

Here's the direct English language link:

I've added this takt time calculator to my list of helpful Lean tools and downloads.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How do you pronounce OEE? Excel Templates

All you ever wanted to know about OEE or Overall Equipment Effectiveness.

Wikipedia calls OEE a hierarchy of metrics, with the top level being the OEE and TEEP (Total Effective Equipment Performance). The underlying measurements on the second level are Loading, Availability, Performance and Quality.

A real bucket full of measurements. When you combine them all, you get one clean number, a percentage.

What exactly is it? OEE is a measurement of the efficiency of a machine.

It's a useful metric for comparing similar machines. For example, a manufacturing plant may have 30 presses all hammering out similar products. By measuring OEE on each machine, you can benchmark them against each other and highlight under-performing machines that may need some special attention. has a series of free Excel templates that drill down into the depths of OEE. Starting with a basic tutorial of OEE, then an example with one machine, and finally with multiple machines, including cost and quality.

The basic equation for OEE is Availability x Performance x Quality (all in percentages).

Availability = Operating Time / Available Time

  • How much of the available time is this machine running? 

Performance = (Parts produced x ideal cycle time) / Operating Time

  • Is the machine running as designed?

Quality = Good parts produced / Total parts produced

  • How much scrap are we making? 
Now multiply them all together and you get Overall Equipment Effectiveness. One simple number.

For a much more thorough explanation of OEE, go to the "Getting Started with OEE at

You don't have to worry about the calculations if you have a free Excel template that takes care of everything. The templates will do it all for you, just enter the data. Of course, in order to understand it make sure you look at "How to Calculate OEE - Tutorial.xls" first. This template is listed in the downloads section.

Sometimes my eyes glaze over when I see a spreadsheet with a whole lot of cells, but this tutorial template  walks you through the basics of OEE with a real life example. And none of the cells are locked or protected, so you can play around with it and tune it to your own needs. 

Calculating OEE can be done differently since there's no definitive standard, but the basics are the always the same. Availability, performance and quality. Used primarily as a comparison tool, the fine details don't matter if you are consistent with your measuring. 

These free Excel templates have been added to my list of helpful Lean resources.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Writing's on the Wall - Lean in Pictures

These comics are no longer available online. If anyone finds them posted elsewhere, let me know so I can update the links!  

Lean gurus have been preaching the benefits of a Visual Workplace for years. Take your critical information and put it up on the wall for everyone to see. If you can see it sooner, you'll act on it sooner.

Whether the writing's on the wall or on a big screen or encoded in stacks of inventory, it seems like people are taking their media in any form. TV, podcasts, blogs, video blogs, websites, smoke signals. Borders is going bankrupt, video killed the radio star, newspapers are folding and now television is on the way out. Wasn't it only a few thousand years ago that joining Columbia House gave you 11 free scrolls?

Did you know that ancient cave dwellers were actually the forefathers of Lean?  Not letting a small thing like language get in the way, they used pictures on the walls of their caves to get their message through. And they didn't build obsolescence in, either!

BC . . . make it visual!

Now BC's back with some visual teaching. Actually, not BC, the stone unicyclist, but the province of British Columbia, Canada. The website, Pull Ahead BC, has a series of comic strips covering basic Lean concepts.

While the comics aren't LOL funny, people are visual beings and pictures are great teaching tools. Covering such topics as 5S and the 8 Wastes, people in the comics struggle with a terrible "Current Condition," then show the benefits of the Lean "Target Condition."

I like the 8 Wastes comic. Starting with a one waste per panel strip, the 8 Wastes are expanded with an individual strip written for each.

I think these would make good handouts for a kaizen event or workshop. Or you can post them on a board in your workplace. People are naturally drawn in to pictures. And once you hook them with the comics, you can reel them in with your kanban calculations!

Update: Unfortunately, the site and the comics are no longer available.

I've added this post to the list of Helpful Lean Tools and Downloads, even though it's not really a tool, just a great resource!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gain xp in the A3 Dojo - Get input on your problem

Time to level up your Lean skills in the A3 Dojo.
Need some advice on your thinking process? No problem. has started a new resource called MTL A3 Dojo. You submit your A3 to the world and people comment on how great a job you're doing!

What's an A3?

An A3 is a one page document summarizing a project or problem you're working on. The name A3 comes from the size of the paper, which to us North Americans converts roughly to 11 x 17.

As someone once described an A3 to me: "The Japanese have no patience for flipping through 80 page reports. They want to see the critical information on one page."

There's a certain technique for creating this one-pager. It's not just a sheet of paper. It's a whole way of thinking. And many books have been written about it.

You could almost say it's a Standardized Work for problem solving.

I can't clearly describe an A3 in one blog post. That's why the A3 Dojo is perfect for learning. You can view real-life A3's that people are working on. You can see how other people think. You can see how they put their thoughts to paper.

Lean games and simulations are great for demonstrating Lean techniques. But nothing beats the real thing!

I've added the A3 Dojo to my Helpful Lean Tools and Downloads page.

Update: The A3 Dojo is no longer available. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Helpful Lean Tools: Changeover Analysis Template

I'm starting a new feature called "Helpful Lean Tools". In this section, I'll highlight useful Lean templates and downloads available for free.

The first of these is the Changeover Analysis Template, available at gemba academy.

Carry it with you while you're watching a tool change. The Excel template comes complete with rows for each task, and columns to enter your stopwatch recording and comments.

I've used a similar form during set-up analysis, but I had to create it myself. Note to self: Check online first.

Jon Miller emphasizes the importance of separating the external work from the internal work. This is extremely important in changeover analysis.

Always question if it's possible to do part of the changeover when the machine is running. Any work that takes the set-up people away from the task at hand while the machine is idle, could potentially be done before or after the changeover.

Using a combination table is also a useful way to easily visualize when an operator is working, walking or waiting and when they're away from the machine.

Be sure to check out the F1 pit stop video for a great demonstration of a quick changeover in action!

This post has been added to the Helpful Lean Tools page, where you'll find links to a growing list of free Lean resources and templates.