Five S, Lean Tools, Visual Management

Making Problems Visible

Recently we have an external audit at our plant and while the results were good, they were not as good as expected.  The audit results did not match the excellent team work effort and great preparation work done during the whole year.  The auditor managed to see a good amount of non-conformance, most of them were very simple things.

During the staff meetings right after the audit we reviewed all the observations, some of us were pretty upset by the results.  At the end of the meeting our general manager pointed out the team work done and how hard we worked during all last year and the current to make the plant visible which helped the auditor to determined what was out of standard.  Of all people, I failed to noticed that our plant is so visible that basically we made the auditor job easier!

Lesson learned, this story is now part of our Five S and Visual Management trainings.  These programs work, the audit was proof of that.  Visual standards make easier to understand when situations are out of standard.  The next step after detection is to fix the situation, that is where we need to work more.  Daily follow-up is important, training for new employees and why not? Maybe we need to revise the standards and go back to the drawing table, after all the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle never ends!

Lean Tools, The Beginning

Be careful!

Not everything that shines is gold, and not everybody that claims being a Lean consultant is.  One day, a group from our corporate office came to visit accompanied with a Lean Manufacturing consultant that they hire.  Their experienced consultant came to see our operations and my boss asked me to create a short presentation of our lean journey.

I think that the best presentation ever is the one our employees will do while walking the gemba, but my boss still thinks is good to have power point presentations before going to see.  The day and time indicated I present the highlights of our journey.  I showed how we design our construction blocks to build our Lean Operations.  I showed the VSM we created with our door to door operations, I highlighted the kaizen bursts we identified.  Later I talked about our trainings, Lean Introduction, 5S, POUS, Visual Management, TPM, Kanban and others.  Then I showed examples of how we applied these tools at different areas from receiving to packaging, including the maintenance shops, laboratory, materials warehouse and the chemicals room.  Finally I presented a four panels slide with the PDCA of all the kaizen we “finished” or have in progress.

Our corporate visitors were impressed by all the progress showed, especially in terms of dollars and cents but the lean expert was utterly quiet.  He did not say too much at the end of the meeting either.  At the end of the day, my boss told me that after I left the consultant was saying that he doesn’t believe in VSM and much less on TPM, SMED, 5S trainings or any kind of visual management.  The only thing he recommended to continue working with was kanbans through the whole plant, this will create flow; he said.

I don’t have a lot of experience with Lean, but my humble experience has been enough to know that working with the basic tools of lean helps to prepare the plant for the stabilization, standardization and quick change-over we need to create the flow needed for supply to our customers what they need when they need at the expected quality or better.

Be careful, there are a lot of people out there trying to grab a bunch of money from you saying that they are lean experts.  They come, see, talk, talk and talk about what you should do without saying how to do it and left with their pockets full of money leaving you worst than before.

The Beginning

Back to the Basics

In two different companies where I worked I had the pleasure to work with the same VP of Operations.  Along the years we get to know each other pretty well and developed a very good relationship based on mutual respect.  We challenge each other all the time and that makes our work more interesting.  He was old school: push more cases out the door, get them faster, the cost per case is the most important key performance metric! His point of view and my lean thinking were always in a constant battle.

One metric that is very important for us is the yield, how much of the initial raw weight ends up on a can.  From time to time we have occasional issues with low yield and every time I used lean tools to find out the root cause and create new countermeasures.  During one of those seasonal events of low yield, my boss and I had our usual discussion of what the corrective actions will be; this time I was totally blank; not a single idea of how to proceed.  He noticed my hesitation and then he told me:  just need to do one thing, go back to the basics.

On our busy lives, it is pretty easy to overwhelm by so many things going at the same time that we can’t find a tree on a forest.  The most obvious things are in front of us and we can’t see!  If that happen we have to go back to the basics, we have to remember always the ground rules for practicing kaizen in the gemba: housekeeping, muda elimination and standardization.

My old boss was right, in case of doubt; always go back to the basics!

Lean Tools, Value Stream Map

Value Stream Map

I remember the first time I saw a Value Stream Map, I was completely amazed by how simple and at the same time complete that tool was.  As an industrial engineer I was very used to using flow diagrams and layout drawings but never occurred to me to put both concepts together (although on a different way to the traditional one) to map the process.

John Shook and Mike Rother on their book “Learning to See“, defined Value Stream as: all the actions currently required to bring a product through the main flows essential to every product.  Could be the production flow from raw material into the arms of the customer or the design flow from concept to launch.

The main purpose of this mapping process, as the name suggest is to identify the value of every step.  Through the use of this tool we classify every activity as value added or non-value added, it allows you to see the waste and plan to eliminate it.  Also it helps to identify kaizen opportunities along the whole material and information flow.  With the value stream map analysis we see the whole process flow which is great to connect all improvement initiatives.  Normally we tried to improve single process level, but with the value stream map we can connect the dots and see how each level is affected by the previous one or affects the next one.

We always start drawing the current state and then we visualize how the ideal process would be and create this future state value stream map.  How we close the gap between current and future processes is the funny part.  This is where all the different lean manufacturing basic tools comes to our rescue: 5S, visual management, standardize work, Kaizen, brainstorming, 5 Why’s, JIT, kanban, TPM, OEE, PDCA, root cause analysis and others.

In my opinion, we should start the Lean journey creating the value stream map, both current and future state and then draw your road map, how you plan to go from A to B.  Creating a new map with the new current state is always satisfying because that only means that you take another step on your lean journey.  Enjoy the ride!

Five S

Did you meet the 5S?

The 5S Program is a group of principles and activities that seek cleaner, organized, free of clog and safety hazard work areas.  The five steps of housekeeping transform the work areas into easy to work spaces because they contain visual instructions that promotes the organization and make it easy to recognize when standards are not follow.  The program itself is one of the foundations of Lean Manufacturing.

5S ProcessThe following five steps promotes standardization and facilitates continuous improvement:

  1. Sort –  The first step is about sort all materials and tools between necessary and non-necessary to complete the task or work of that area.
  2. Set in Order – After we decided what we need on the area, on the second step a location and quantity is assigned for each one.  We need to have a place for everything and everything should be returned to its place after being used.
  3. Shine – The third step looks for a thorough cleaning and inspection.  The inspection is the more important part, the objective is to identify any possible source for the dirt and fix it.  Leaks, loose bolts, broken belts, previous quick fixes and others are identified and fixed while cleaning.
  4. Standardize – During the fourth step, managers and supervisors needs to create rules, procedures and standards to ensure we keep doing the first three steps constantly.  Within those check lists and procedures, we need to establish what is needed, how is done, who is responsible and how often.  Rules to replenish materials, maximum amount of work in process (WIP) are also determined on this step.
  5. Sustain – The last S is the most difficult one, because involves discipline.  Managers and supervisors needs to be perseverant.  Employees participation is vital, without their ideas, help and participation through every step of the way; the success of this program won’t be possible.

5S Events are one of my favorite Lean events because the steps are easy to follow and the program can be used anywhere, including home.  This program is clearly focus on the employees and their working conditions and as soon as the they start working with it, they understand that.