Friday, August 10, 2007

Book Review: "Creating a Lean Culture"

I just finished reading "Creating a Lean Culture" by David Mann. I thought it was an excellent addition to the Lean library. Here's a quick recap of the highlights:
  • Lean processes need Lean management. As technical changes are made to the flow of work, we should concurrently make changes to our management system. A focus on PROCESSES (not just making the numbers) is a must. Changing the management system will eventually change the culture.
  • Lean management system consists of four principal elements: 1) leader standard work, 2) visual controls, 3) daily accountability process, and 4) leadership discipline
  • Leader standard work is the first element. Leader standard work consists of routine checks of many aspects of work (productivity, cleanliness, safety, quality, etc.). Redundancy is built in between management levels (team leads check on associates, supervisors check on team leads, production manager checks on supervisors, etc.).
  • Visual controls are the second element. Visual controls make it easy for front-line leaders to compare expected versus actual. They can be any type of visual communication that allows us to see the status of something at a glance. Visual controls are the link between the leader standard work and a daily accountability process (discussed next). Without visuals, it becomes nearly impossible to anticipate problems ahead of time.
  • A daily accountability process is the third element. This process takes the information that is gathered from the routine checks of front-line leaders and displays it in a visual way. Then, the information is assessed by the next level of leadership and any problems are addressed. There are three tiers of meetings: 1) associates w/ team leader, 2) team leaders w/ supervisor, 3) supervisors w/ production manager. Meetings should be brief (less than 15 minutes), held on the shopfloor with everyone standing, and centered around a visual display board. These meetings result in many follow-up assignments, which are tracked until completion. This allows front-line leaders to develop skills as project coordinators.
  • A visual improvement suggestion process supports Lean management. Basically, you just create a board with four sections: 1) Ideas, 2) To Do, 3) Doing, and 4) Done. Associates can easily suggest any idea, and then the board pretty much manages the information. As part of their leader standard work, Team Leaders follow-up on suggestions from their associates. This process allows everybody to have a voice, which goes a long way in gaining buy-in for Lean.

Most of these highlights come from the first half of the book. The second half deals with supporting elements of Lean management (the role of a sensei, gemba walks, leadership qualities, etc.). These are valid ideas as well, but I've often seen the same material in other books. The first half of the book has material that you don't see in too many other Lean books, and this is what makes this book an invaluable part of my reading list.

So, how does this all fit into our Lean initiative? Well, some locations are already implementing certain aspects of Lean management. I've seen a few examples of leader standard work, visual controls, daily accountability, and visual suggestion boards. They're all terrific tools, but only if accompanied by real Lean improvements (specifically improvements that contribute to the stability of our processes). Basic Workplace Organization (BWO) is designed to be an initiative that will create immediate improvement, that doesn't require any Lean expertise, and that will build discipline among our front-line leaders.

The key to BWO is the auditing process, which is a form of leader standard work (an element of Lean management). So, as the book suggests, we make real improvements while simultaneously implementing aspects of a Lean management system. That is the best way to sustain Lean improvements and build a Lean culture. That is what I learned from Mr. Mann's book.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Toyota Way Fieldbook (Part 4)

I need to catch up on some old blogging material. Way back in June, I began posting on the "continuous improvement spiral" from The Toyota Way Fieldbook. Here are the previous posts:

Now, better late than never, is the continuation of the series. This one deals with the 3rd phase of the spiral, "standardize."

Before reading this chapter of the Fieldbook, I had a totally inaccurate perception of standard work. I thought that standard work was for the operator (the installer). I figured that we were supposed to create "job processes" and post them visually in the work area for the installers to use. These charts would essentially be reminders of how to perform the work. Wrong. According to the Fieldbook,

"At Toyota operations, standardized work faces out toward the aisle, where the operator cannot easily see it. It is for the benefit of the team leader and group leader who are responsible for auditing the standard work."

Well that's not what I expected. Turns out that standard work isn't some sort of training substitute for the installers. Training at Toyota is an in-depth process in its own right, and is completely separate from standard work. You can't expect an operator to know how to perform a process simply by looking at a visual. Skilled work requires skills, and skills only come through training and experience.

So, what is the purpose of standardized work? According to the author,

"Quite simply, standardized work and other work standards are the baseline for continuous improvement."

Only by having a starting point can we begin to improve. Standardization provides an official version of how the work should be done. The operator is supposed to find small ways to improve upon the official standard. Then, the improved process becomes the standard. Without standard work, any improvements will be lost as soon as the operator moves to a different position.

Standard work is also a problem-solving tool. If a process is not meeting its production targets or if quality is out of control, we can observe the process and compare it to the standard. This will tell us whether non-compliance is the problem or whether the standard itself needs improvement. Without standard work, the temptation is to immediately blame the person for not getting the job done correctly.

So, what exactly is standard work? Standardization occurs in many forms at Toyota. Examples of different types of standard work include:
  • Work Standards: standards for quality, safety, environmental, etc. ("the right way to do things")
  • Process Standards: technical information about the process (for us this would be related to our DAPIA or architectural prints)
  • Standard Procedures: rules about how the production line should operate (allowed inventory levels, pace of production, agreements between upstream & downstream processes, etc.)
Standard work is fairly complex at Toyota. Initially, we won't be able to standardize our work to the same extent. From what I've seen, work happens sporadically in many different locations in our plants. Our construction methods vary from plant to plant, and from installer to installer. Standardization is minimal.

So, should we assign all of our Lean Advocates to developing job processes? I don't think so. I always go back to the continuous improvement spiral. Before you can create and standardize the work flow, you have to create stability. That's where we're at right now in our initiative. If we can create conditions that are conducive to consistent, reliable work flow, then we can begin to standardize and improve the work.

Monday, August 06, 2007

"Cornhole" & Lean

Cornhole is big in Ohio. I spent last week in Sabina, so I know firsthand the splendor of playing this game. Some people (Blake Johnson) are natural masters of Cornhole, while others (Greg Brophy) can never quite get the beaner in the basket. Either way, it's a fun time for all.

During my time in the heartland, I also did a little bit of work. The Lean Advocate in Sabina, Dan Bashaw, showed me all around their facilities. I saw some interesting things for sure:
  • They have a daily accountability meeting every morning with the team leads and supervisors. They use a large board (pictured below) with a grid to show how many times they hit or miss their production schedules. Nobody gets beat up for the results; the board is just a measurement tool for surfacing problems day-to-day.
  • They are experimenting with a form of visual management. They have a system in place by which a two-sided sign (one side red, other side green) is placed on the front endwall of each floor. If the floor is ready to roll, the sign is green; if it's not, the sign is red. The status of all the floors on the line is shown on a visual board (pictured below) that they use to get a snapshot of the overall situation.

  • In each department, they have "idea boards" (pictured below) that are used to VISUALLY manage their employee idea process (TQI). These boards make it so easy for an associate to suggest an idea. The progression from one step to the next is visual and easy to understand.

Sabina's approach is to create a Lean management system. By creating transparency through the use of visuals, they will bring problems to the surface. By focusing on solving these problems, a culture of problem-solving will be developed. By creating a problem-solving culture, they will be in a good position to aggressively pursue Lean improvements.

Creating a Lean management system is an effective Lean strategy (as confirmed by Creating a Lean Culture by David Mann), especially when accompanied by rapid process improvement (6S, BWO, etc.). I hope to see Sabina be as aggressive with rapid process improvement as they are with improving their management system. If they can achieve this, they will be way ahead of the game.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Toyota as Educators

Check out this post from the Evolving Excellence blog: "Toyota Training the World...sort of."

They talk about Toyota investing in education and training for potential future employees in India. The term "strengthening the human supply chain" is used, and this makes a lot of sense to me. Having a stable workforce capable of thinking and learning is a HUGE part of having a stable production process. The 4M's (man, machine, material, method) are potential sources of instability, and first among them is "man." You can't really problem-solve the other 3M's without spending time on the first one.

When we went to Toyota Georgetown recently, the company's investment in people was obvious. They have a huge training facility adjacent to the factory. They offer college courses in their training facility. They offer employee day care services. They offer employee pharmacy services. They give away dozens and dozens of cars every year for perfect attendance. They have ping-pong tables and basketball goals right on the production line. The impression one gets is that Toyota really considers their employees to be their most valuable asset, an asset that must be kept in prime condition physically and mentally. An unstable workforce isn't a value-adding continuously improving workforce.