Starting is Easy...
Initiating an improvement program seems straightforward, just define the problem, create a plan, assign people, set dates, and watch the metrics move. Easy or not really? You might have seen (or done) this before: A program is kicked-off and communicated top-down with high expectations, but not so well received by the frontline people who are supposed to understand and execute the change. As a result, the program stalls and underdelivers, destroys rather than adds value. If such scenario sounds familiar, more like a rule than an exception, then we should ask: Why?
Getting Everyone Involved is Key
I clearly remember the words of a Brazilian plant manager: “People support what they have helped to create”. For any transformation program to gain broad support, it means to get people involved by creating small, frequent improvements at all areas and levels. Consider this: 1000 projects x $1000/each = $1 million benefit is more valuable in the context of continuous learning and improvement than one “big bang” project contributing $1 million. Developing and implementing many small projects (“Spot Kaizen”) builds skills and confidence, helping people get on board and drive larger changes.
3 Keys Make the Difference
There are three simple concepts that you (probably) have heard many times before. Nothing new. Those concepts might appear boring but are still very relevant to start and sustain a Lean Program by getting people involved, skilled, and excited. Those three concepts are Workplace Organization (5S), Efficiency Improvement by Reducing Wastes (8W), and Systematic Problem Solving (PDCA). Let’s review those enablers of continuous improvement in more detail.
5S Workplace Organization
5S is about good housekeeping – at work, at home, and where you play (e.g. think football field or tennis court). It starts by sorting everything, structuring the place to improve safety and efficiency, deep-cleaning end-end, performing maintenance to systems and equipment, standardizing the improved conditions, and making sure those standards are followed and continuously improved. That’s 5S in a nutshell. Will it generate massive savings? Probably not. Will it be useful? Absolutely yes. Why? It will improve skills and conditions, reduce wastes and inefficiencies, and make people proud of their workplace. What else? By implementing 5S in factory, lab, shop, store, office, home, etc. – people learn how apply a systematic improvement, score conditions, measure progress using a 5S-checklist, and standardize the desired condition. It’s “Project Management” and “Performance Management” at a miniature scale. It builds foundational skills, the confidence to take control, and motivates people to get involved in larger programs. And that’s what we want.
8W Efficiency Improvement
Taiichi Ohno from Toyota identified The 7 Deadly Wastes, which evolved over time into The Eight Wastes of Lean, easy to remember as “D-O-W-N-T-I-M-E”: Defects – failures and rework, Overproduction – making too early or too many, Waiting – for resources to become available, Non-utilized talent – unused skills or not listening, Transportation – moving items not requested by the customer, Inventory – keeping more than absolutely required to cover demand-supply variability, Motion – walking-stretching-bending-reaching forced by the process, Extra processing – activities and features not requested by the customer. Applying the DOWNTIME concept, people learn to see the wastes and inefficiencies in their process. And what can be seen, can be improved. Progress is measured by Value-Add (VA) percentage or, more accurately, by the Total Activity Ratio (TAR) = Total Process Time (TPT) / Total Lead Time (TLT). Any increase in VA or TAR improves speed and efficiency.
Another evergreen concept is the Shewhart cycle or Deming wheel. The four-step method, Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) is considered the mother of today’s performance-management and problem-solving processes: Plan – define a target or analyze the problem and create a plan, Do – implement the plan, Check – track progress and evaluate effectiveness, Act – standardize the solution (if successful) or learn from failure and start another cycle (if unsuccessful at the first round). But there are many other processes, such as 8D, DMAIC, DFSS, 7PS – so why should you use PDCA? In essence, it does not matter which method you decide to apply, important is that you have a concept that can be easily explained, broadly understood, and effectively applied. For us at Leanmap we use PDCA to get people started and then build additional skills over time (part of Green Belt and Black Belt), using Failure Tree Analysis (FTA), Reality Tree Analysis (RTA), and also the Eight Disciplines (8D) of Problem Solving. But it all starts with PDCA.
White Belt in Lean Six Sigma
Back to our improvement program. To succeed, we need to get everyone skilled and involved. Involvement builds skills and skill-building creates involvement. Because those skills are so fundamental, we packed those 3 lessons (5S, 8W, PDCA) into an online training program, so you can become a certified Lean Six Sigma White Belt from the comfort of your own home or office. The program is for everyone to learn and immediately apply those skills, while earning the White Belt Certificate. Nothing to lose but all to gain. The program available in English and 25 machine-translated languages: AR, ZH, CS, DA, NL, EN, FI, FR, DE, EL, HI, HU, IT, JA, KO, NO, PL, PT, RO, RU, SK, ES, SV, TK, UK. Get ready, enrol in the course, and become a White Belt in Lean Six Sigma!