Lean Trainings

Are you still thinking that training is not important?

Not much time ago, I visited a packaging plant that used to be the best of all their company facilities.  The plant performance, from quality to on-time delivery, from safety to operating costs was excellent.  This was possible thanks to their workforce stability.  Most of the employees had more than 15 years of experience, very committed with the company and very knowledgeable of their procedures and policies.

One day for reasons out of their control, they lost almost 50% of their hourly team and was necessary to replace them with temporary employees.  The people coming, apparently with no reasons or desire to stay; walk out the door almost as fast as they come in.  The turnover rate grows exponentially from less than 1% to way more than 100%.  Why they leave?

Have you tried to assemble a piece of furniture? You start putting the thing together with great difficulty.  You scream you curse, you are really aggravated, frustrated.  The instructions provided may help or not; most probably every time you read them you become more frustrated.  Out of frustration, you want to quit and most probably you will and let somebody else deal with the problem.  Most probably, that is what happened on the plant I mentioned before.  There is no formal training program, new people come in and start working with some training, after several supervisors intervention for defects or downtime, frustrated employees walk out.

Everything starts with the hiring process, identifying the right candidates, people with values and beliefs that match those of the company.  If the candidate is not a match with these or the company culture, it will not stay long.  But even if the candidate is a match, no training, proper instructions and follow-up can frustrate the person up to a point where it feels neglected.

Training is highly important, especially during the first ninety days.  If things go wrong during the probation period, most probably it will not be any better later.  During this time, companies are also on probation, employees are also checking on how they are treated, how well they like the environment, how they feel being part of it.  Are we giving them any reason to stay or commit to the company?  What are we doing to attract and retain the best employees?  Are we doing anything to understand their needs?  If not, we better start soon, companies can gain or lose World Class Employees during that time.

Continuous Improvement, Kaizen, Lean Trainings

Keep it simple!

One continuous improvement task that I do very often is the standards or procedures revision. Every time we finish a kaizen event we have to revise the standards and our work instructions or procedures.

The fact is that not everybody knows how to write instructions, some people want to include too much information – background, scope, definitions, flowcharts, and many other things.  Some others are minimalistic, they think less is best.  The detail is that regardless our personal preference,  procedures are instructions that everyone that read them should understand the same way.

Complex Things

The right format to write instructions has to be decided based on who the audience is. Written instructions need to be simple enough for a fifth grader to understand them, straight to the point with no unnecessary information that will bore the reader.  Some people learn easily by reading instructions but some others are more visual, pictures or drawings are the best way for them.  There are others that prefer to see how an expert complete the task and then do it themselves, with practice they reach perfection.

Simple thingsRegardless of what way you want to go, just remember to keep it simple.  Most of the time, simple things are better.  My opinion is that we should start with the simple to be able to master the most difficult.

Lean Trainings, Motivation, Training Program

Is your training program effective?

When every root cause analysis we complete points out lack of training as the cause of the non-conformance situation, we have a problem.  I am not talking only about traditional supervisors and managers blaming on the people instead of focusing on the process.  I refer to the case on which a thorough root cause analysis with multi-department participation and honest deep discussion identify training as the main problem, but no just lack of training but the effectiveness of the training.

Why training is not effective?  Perhaps we are using the wrong method.  People can learn in different ways, each person has a preferred style of learning: auditory, visual or tactile.  If we design our training in such a way that we only provide methods that cover one style, we left out part of all our employees.  Not effective training led to frustration which is a cause of high turnover rate.

Depending on the size of our company we can go different routes: we can either prepare a training that accommodates to different styles or we can get to know our employees better by doing some kind of test to determine their preferred way of learning.  This information can help to design the training knowing on what learning type we should focus more or if possible divide the audience by learning type If it is possible to have different versions of the same training, an individual can choose their training method based on their style.

Learning Types

Effective training help to reduce the stress of our employees and increase their level of confidence in their skills which help to empower and motivate them.  Effective training will also impact directly employee retention and turnover.  Show respect to your people by providing them the right tools to do their job, practice being humble by accepting that maybe they know more than you what would be the best way to do their job.



Lean Trainings, Waste

What is Lean Thinking?

Right after we started with the Lean trainings and early stages of implementation, I was very glad to recognize between some of our employees strong signals of lean thinking.  One of the hot topics at our plant is waste, but the waste management talk about is ingredients or materials wastage.  After our trainings the employees start to talked about how to improve certain parts of the operation.  They gave very good examples of waste as per the seven categories of waste by Taiichi Ohno that we discussed on our trainings. One think that we stressed a lot during our Introduction to Lean is the lean thinking, how important is to change our mind from the traditional thinking to the lean thinking.  This part of the presentation is always an eyes opener.  People amaze by this “new” point of view.  That curiosity is also full of doubts: Is it for real?  Would the bosses really going to leave their offices and come to the work area?

Lean Thinking

Lean is about respecting the people, in the name of that respect we can’t lie.  The words of Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho, “Go see, ask why, show respect” are basic lean principles. If we say that we are going to do something, we have to do it.  We have to go to Gemba and see!  Once we are there and see, we need to ask with respect why.  Questioning the right way is an art, people needs to feel comfortable, the focus is on the problem not the people.

We have to lead by example, the lean thinking is not just information is way of life, is a philosophy.  Living that philosophy we put together the stones to build a culture that makes people want to take ownership of their workplace.  When people shows that they care we as leaders needs to show them respect, listening their ideas and guide them through the PDCA cycle.  We can not let them down, after all, lean is about respecting the people”

Five S, Lean Trainings

How to do a 5S Training?

Being 5S the foundation for Lean Manufacturing, it is really important to design good training that captures employees attention and motivate them to learn and support the program.  After a lot of trial and error, I came up with two different ways to do this training.  Which one I choose, depending on how much time we want to dedicate for training, the target area and the employee’s availability.

The Two Steps Training takes two days, the first day is for all the theory plus the first S, including the kick off of the Red Tag Campaign.  Between both training days usually, we have one to two weeks that use to decide what to do with all the stuff that ends up on the Red Tag Area.  The second day is to complete the next four S.  We dedicate a good amount of time to select the permanent location for all the equipment, tools and materials needed in the target area.  The whole group works moving things around, labeling, cleaning, and painting.  We can not set standards too fast, we always have a one-hour session about two weeks after the second training day to go over the procedures and standards established to check the status.  Are they working?  Do we need to change something?  Can we make everything official?

The Step by Step training takes between four to five days but is really through because literally take the employees by the hand and walk them through the whole process.

I mostly use Two Steps Training for small areas that are easy to tackle.  Step by step is my favorite by far, although it is slower it is a complete learning experience.  This one is really good when you want to develop employees and give them nice tools to empower them to take their own decisions. Also, we have plenty of time to practice Lean Thinking.

How do you do your 5S training?  Which way proves more successful for you?