Continuous Improvement, Lean Tools

Quality at the Source

I have seen it multiple times, there are problems in the production floor; a situation that happen very often and everybody is looking for a solution.  Very recently during a routine cycle count somebody read the label very carefully and realize the label did not match the product.  After verification of the product we found that the last three times we packed that product the wrong description was used on the label.  How it is possible that during four different production days the product had wrong information on the label and nobody picked up the problem.

Maybe we need to add an inspection point to verify the label, wait; we have quality inspectors coming once every hour to inspect some information of the label, not all of it.  Do we need more inspection? The question is, can the same person who changes the coder information, inspect the label right after choosing the new code?

Quality at the Source is a concept or tool where product quality is measured or inspected every step of the process.  If the operator of every step treats the next step operator as his/her customer, then they aim to deliver the customer the product they need, with the quality and quantity desired on time.  The use of specialized tools or technology help the operator to accomplish the quality expectations.  We can combine quality at the source with the use of Poka-yoke or “mistake-proofing” devices.

With employees participation the process of selecting the best process to ensure quality will be a good first step towards a problem solving and continuous improvement mentality.  After selection of the right process, training to all affected employees on who, when, where, what and how to perform the inspection is the second step.  Then we go to the plan execution and the subsequent analysis to determine if additional changes are necessary.  If no changes are necessary then the new process becomes the standard and quality at the source has been implemented.

 

 

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Kaizen, Lean Tools

Respect the Standards

The benefits of standardized work include reductions in variability, injuries and strain.  Standards are perfect for new operators training and provides a baseline for improvement activities.  Standardize work is a powerful lean tool; it is the baseline for kaizen or continuous improvement.   There are different standardization techniques: poka-yoke, visual management, SWIS, checking and auditing.  I like visual standards because they are easy to follow but the downside is that once you post a standard we need to follow it.

When we post standards, is to use them as reference, to know what is in compliance and what is not.  Visual standards are ment to highlight out of compliance situations. If the standard is no longer good, then change it first. Never ask an employee to do something different from the current standard.   As soon as you break the rule, you give the wrong signal and show no respect for the people who work to create the standard.  As the standard is improved, the new standard becomes the baseline for further improvements, and so on. Improve the standard, change the visual and start the continuous process again, this part is a never-ending process.

 

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.

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!