Sunday, June 12, 2016

Fun Thought: Dealing with a Blizzard of Problems

“Out of every 100 companies who undertake the process, [lean manufacturing] 96 either fail or quit within 18 months”....Pat Begin, President of Aerofil Technologies

Strap on your protective helmets my friends. The chaos is about to start.

One of the reasons many organizations "punt" on 2nd down in the game of lean is because if you are doing it right, and not just striping your floors or certifying people, get ready for a tsunami of problems.

The 4 tenets of the Toyota Production System are (P4):
  • Make decisions based on a long term philosophy/purpose, sometimes even at the expense of short-term goals.
  • Continuously develop your people and partners.
  • The right process will produce the right results.
  • Make problems visible and the curriculum for your learning organization.
Like so many things "lean", little item #4 just rolls off the tongue. Like "respect for people" or "continuous improvement" or "flow" or "gain agreement" or "level loading" and on and on. Sounds great, but you can spend the rest of your life working to achieve it.

Let's uncork that bottle of problems:

Kaizen first, right? A good way to start is to solicit some employee suggestions by showing up at GEMBA, asking questions, etc. The problem is, if you do this well, get ready for an avalanche of suggestions from every corner of your business. The only reason you didn't get them before is because they didn't think you listened or cared. Soon your A3 board will be an avalanche of problems that you didn't know existed. People will go after them, for sure. But lots more will percolate to the surface. Think you want to work toward flow, eh?

Let's next turn our attention to heijunka, the cute little idea that we will work to level load our customer demand. Like a drum beat. Takt. Every day will become like the last, every hour the same. Suddenly machine down time, absentee-ism, tardiness and other things we lived with suddenly stop the presses. A whole blizzard of little toothaches start popping up. If you haven't gotten an improvement kata going (A3), have fun laying in bed with your head swimming in problems.  

Once kaizen starts making life miserable and heijunka has you up to your hip boots in headaches,, then comes the monsoon of problems when the attention gets turned toward PULL-the piles of inventory everywhere. Kanban? Supermarkets? The only reason you keep inventory is because you either can't make what your customer wants fast enough, or your supplier can't get it to you fast enough for you to satisfy your customer. More God-forsaken problems to put on the A3 board.

The part that might wear you out is that the problems never stop surfacing. The part that will make you smile is that you've developed an entire roster of people capable of problem solving....by solving problems.

It takes a leather-like lizard skin and an ego that gets checked at the door to remember that once problems become visible, we can attack them to the delight of our customers. 

"No problem is problem".......Lean Oath




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