Lean principles include keeping tools organized and in designated spaces so they’ll be easy to find every time.
In part 1 of this series, I said making Lean principles stick requires you to promote two seemingly contradictory ideas at the same time: Promoting ideas and responsibility-taking from below while imposing principles and standards from above. Now let’s look at an example.
When working with clients to assemble a kaizen (continuous improvement) team that has been charged with identifying the root causes of a problem, I urge the client to pick people who know the current process but, more importantly, work hard within the process and want to improve it. A yard layout optimization project I did with Curtis Lumber in Plattsburgh, N.Y., illustrates the point.
One key team member was John Lavalley, the yard foreman. Lavalley has worked in the yard for 25-plus years. With some training and coaching, and by going on several walks through the yard, I got Lavalley’s critical input on what prevented trucks from getting out of the yards in a timely manner in the morning and then achieving fast turnarounds during the day.
I worked with Lavalley and the team to couple this information with Lean analytical tools like visual management (clear and precise labeling of inventory, traffic lanes, and storage locations), minimizing waste (placing supplies at point of use based on frequency and volume of usage), and single-piece flow/process smoothing (assigning specific zones for stagers and trucks). By relocating the highest frequency/volume materials and using a centrally located paved apron as the staging/loading area with dedicated zones for trucks, we reduced overall travel distances by 25%.
The Importance of Teamwork
Sometimes the first pass at beginning the 5S/Lean journey stalls. This can occur because the two sides aren’t aligned: Management pushes without confident receipt by the workforce, or the workforce gives 5S/Lean a start without bosses recognizing and reinforcing early effort.
You get improvement from teamwork, then you get improvement from individual effort, then you get improvement from teamwork … and so it continues.